The idea of working from anywhere in the world is one of the key attractions of the freelance lifestyle. If you’re a freelancer wondering whether you can move to Europe, the answer is – in most cases – yes! However, there are some crucial legal and practical implications of working abroad you need to know about.
In this article, we’ll explore the various essentials of moving to Europe as a freelancer, from visa requirements to taxes, insurance, and more. If you’re convinced you want to move to the EU specifically, it’s worth checking out the best EU countries for freelancers to find the top options for you.
Europe – Quick Overview
where history meets modernity
- Europe is a continent located next to Asia in the east, the Atlantic Ocean in the west, and the Mediterranean Sea in the south.
- It’s the second-smallest continent in the world.
- There are approximately 50 sovereign countries that are recognized internationally and are considered to be part of Europe, either in whole or in part, based on common geographical or political definitions.
- The Schengen Area is a zone of 27 countries in Europe that have abolished passport and border controls at their common borders. Their nationals can travel freely within this area without having to go through immigration checks or apply for visas.
- 27 countries with territory located within the common definition of Europe are member states of the European Union. EU citizens can live, work, and do business freely in any of the EU countries.
Find out more about the European Union and the benefits of starting your freelance business in the EU.
One of the first and key steps towards relocating to Europe is to determine your eligibility to live and work there. Depending on your nationality, the purpose of relocation, and your profession, different countries in Europe can have varying eligibility criteria.
Visa Requirements for Freelancers in Europe
The key consideration for freelancers moving to Europe is visa requirements. Depending on your nationality, you may need a visa to enter and work in Europe. The type of visa you need will also depend on the country you’re moving to and your specific circumstances.
As a rule, you don’t need a visa to enter and work in the European Union if you’re an EU citizen. In this case, you and your family members have the right to live, move, study, work, trade, do business and retire freely in any of the EU countries.
If you’re an EU citizen, you can live in another EU country for up to 3 months without any requirements (other than holding a valid identity card or passport).
To stay for more than 3 months, you may have to comply with some administrative formalities depending on your status in that particular EU country.
If you’re an EU citizen, you’re also entitled to set up your own freelance business (including as a sole trader) in any EU country, plus Iceland, Norway, or Liechtenstein.
Moreover, if you’re an EU citizen, you have the right to permanent residence in another EU country after legally residing there for 5 continuous years.
Non-EU/EEA citizens who wish to enter and stay in Europe may need to apply for various visas, permits, or work permits to do so legally, depending on the duration and purpose of their stay.
The requirements and procedures for obtaining visas or permits may vary depending on the destination country and the purpose of your relocation. Whether you plan to travel, work, study, or start a business, there are visas/permits available to meet your needs.
It’s important to note that the Schengen visa doesn’t allow you to work (or study) in the Schengen area.
The Schengen visa isn’t appropriate if you want to remain in a Schengen country for longer than 90 days, take up employment, or establish a business, trade, or profession there.
If you plan to stay in Europe for longer than 90 days or work or study during your stay, you’ll need to obtain a different type of visa. For example, the EU Blue Card for highly-qualified workers who want to work in an EU country.
You need to check with your chosen country’s authorities on the exact process and specific documents and requirements you need to meet.
Digital Nomad Visas & Visas for Freelancers
With the rise of remote work and the increasing popularity of the digital nomad lifestyle, more and more countries in Europe are offering digital nomad and freelancer visas. These visas are designed to attract location-independent workers, digital entrepreneurs, and freelancers who can contribute to the local economy.
In general, these visas allow digital nomads, remote workers, and/or freelancers to live and work in a foreign country for an extended period of time, often up to a year.
Currently, there are several countries in Europe with digital nomad visas, including in particular:
Each country has its own requirements for the digital nomad visa, and application processes can vary significantly. Importantly, some digital nomad visas come with tax benefits and other advantages.
You’ll need to be able to support yourself financially while living and working abroad. Some countries require proof of income and/or savings to cover your living expenses, as well as proof of business activity, health insurance, a business plan, a clean criminal record, and of course a valid passport.
Taxes for Freelancers in Europe
Taxes are another critical consideration for freelancers moving to Europe. In general, as a freelancer, you’ll need to register with the tax authorities in your new country and file regular tax returns. You may also be required to pay social security contributions or other taxes, depending on the country.
Each country has its own tax laws and regulations that can change quickly. Always consult with a qualified tax professional specializing in cross-border taxation regarding your specific situation before you move.
Even within the EU, there aren’t EU-wide rules that regulate how EU nationals who live, work, or spend time outside their home countries are to be taxed on their income (i.e. wages, pensions, benefits, property, successions, donations, or other).
There are only national laws and bilateral tax treaties between specific countries. However, tax treaties don’t cover all eventualities and vary greatly. The conditions that trigger tax residency also vary in each country, which is important to keep in mind.
This means that your status for tax purposes depends on the national laws of your home country as well as the new country, plus any double-taxation agreement between them.
However, there are some basic principles that apply to individuals who spend time in EU countries (that aren’t their home country), including the following:
In general, if you live and work in a country that isn’t your home country for more than 6 months in a year, you’ll likely become a tax resident there.
In the case of living and working in a country that isn’t your home country for more than 6 months in a year, your new home nation will likely be able to tax your total income. Total income (i.e. global income) will include both income earned within and outside of your home country.
However, if you have strong family and economic ties with your home country, you can still be considered a tax resident there, even if you spend less than 6 months a year there.
This is so-called residence-based taxation – something that most countries around the world have introduced. However, in a few countries including the United States, there are citizenship-based tax rules.
If you’re a U.S. citizen or a resident alien living outside the United States, your worldwide income is subject to U.S. income tax, regardless of where you live.
However, you may qualify for certain limited foreign earned income exclusions and/or foreign income tax credits.
This also means that you have to file a U.S. income tax return while working and living abroad unless you abandon your green card holder status, or completely renounce your U.S. citizenship under certain circumstances.
FAQs – Moving to Europe as a Freelancer
Whether you need a visa to move to Europe as a freelancer will depend on your nationality and the country you’re moving to. In general, you don’t need a visa to enter and work in the European Union if you’re an EU citizen. Additionally, some countries offer special visas for digital nomads and freelancers, especially if they’re non-EU citizens. Read more about visa requirements for freelancers in Europe.
Moving to Europe as a freelancer can offer a high quality of life, a lower cost of living, access to a diverse range of cultures and languages, and opportunities for better work-life balance. Many European countries grant social benefits, including public healthcare, paid leaves, and unemployment benefits, which can provide freelancers with a safety net in case of emergencies.
Yes, but you should keep in mind potential tax obligations in both your home country and your destination country. Your tax obligations will depend on the national laws of your home nation and the new country, and any double-taxation agreement between them. Find out more about taxes for freelancers in Europe.
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