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How to Get A European Self-Employment Residency Permit

How can I get European self-employment residency permit? Although most of the countries in Europe are part of larger political/ immigration federations (such as the EU and Schengen) residency of foreign nationals is still a matter of each individual country’s jurisdiction. Likewise, the difficulty scale of obtaining residency between each country varies: some are vastly easier [...]

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How can I get European self-employment residency permit?

Although most of the countries in Europe are part of larger political/ immigration federations (such as the EU and Schengen) residency of foreign nationals is still a matter of each individual country’s jurisdiction. Likewise, the difficulty scale of obtaining residency between each country varies: some are vastly easier than others. So, if you are not particular to any single country in Europe to apply for residency to, it may be a good idea to make a short list, do research, then actively feel out the process for each with the respective consulates, choosing the apparent path of least resistance first. From the information I have acquired on this, I would suggest Germany, Spain, and Bulgaria may be good first options.

Keep in mind that there are few hard rules when it comes to European immigration policy in action, and the challenges that you will face when attempting to gain residency will not only vary from country to county but also from consulate to consulate of the same country. So don’t treat any dead ends that you may come to as being the end of the mission, but as an indication that you should try a new path or a new way of approach: there are many roads to European residency, and if you are tenacious you will get there.

As you mentioned in your question, many European countries do offer residency permits to self-employed applicants. Having a foreign business that is large enough to completely sustain you in Europe should serve as a big advantage when trying to seek residency, as you are not applying to work in the region and therefore are not proposing to compete in the local job market. Ultimately, it is often desired that your self-employment endeavor will invest money in the local economy, hire local workers, and purchase local goods and services, but demonstrating that this is your plan is not always essential. The major determinant here as to the success of your application for self-employment residency will be how much money your business makes. Hands down, this is what they care most about. Europe more than welcomes wealthy immigrants, but the doors are often closed shut for those less economically endowed. In point, if your business nets you six figures annually then you should not have any difficulty waltzing into any European country, but if you only make $20 – $50,000 or so per year then obtaining residency on the grounds of self-employment will be more of a challenge. Be prepared to show documentation of how much money you make from your self-employment ventures, as this will be one of the prime determinants of your success at obtaining residency.

I have recently received several reports from foreigners who have somewhat easily gotten residency in Germany, but they were all in country employment permits, not for self-emplyment, but this is still a good indication that the walls here are not as thick as elsewhere. It is also rumored that Germany does not do an income check on self-employed applicants seeking residency, but I have yet to confirm this. Keep in mind here that the Germany consulates are notorious for telling people in search of residency or longer term visas to just show up on a tourist visa and apply from inside the country. We have received reports of this working for some (usually applied for in Berlin) but for many others it did not: they applied for residency and were promptly denied and told that they have to go back to their home country to apply. I would only recommend this course of action as a last ditch move after all other options have been expended. Ultimately, you want to have that long term, residency track, visa in hand before entering Europe.

As far as Spain goes, their requirements for self-employed residency is less than in some of the other countries in the region. To apply, you fill out a Visados Nacionales form, and select the box “Residence – Self-employed,” provide a criminal background check, medical records etc . . . and that is about it.  Though one of the requirements of Spain is that you prove you have adequate funds to support yourself. Their idea of adequate funding is no less than 60,000 Euro in the bank. Part of their criteria for granting a self-employment residency permit is also whether your operation has the potential to stimulate the Spanish economy and hire local workers. If your endeavor cannot claim to do this and you do not have a large amount of money in the bank it may be difficult to get residency on these grounds.

The hype is out about Bulgaria and the visa stooges are cashing in. Bulgaria is being highlighted as an easy country to gain residency in within the EU. I have recieved information that says all you need to do is apply for a long term visa, show up and request a residency card, but I highly suspect that it is vastly more difficult than this. I have received no reports from someone who actually accomplished getting Bulgarian residency, so my advice here is based on hearsay, but this may be something to look into.

[adsense]Keep in mind that the process of applying for a self-employment residency permit in Europe you will very often not only need to prove how much money you have and how much earnings your company makes, but also have a clean police record and successfully pass a medical examination. I would recommend getting documentation for all four parameters prepared and notorized before begining any application procedure. Be aware that the waiting time for a self-employment residency permit decision of some European countries can be extremely long: sometimes exceeding 10 months or even more. So do your homework before applying and choose the best country to apply to, least you may still be trying to move to Europe years from now.

If your self employment does not net you a relatively large amount of money, you may want to look into other options for obtaining European residency, such as studying or working for a local company.

Also be aware that visa information is always changing and is a tricky topic to full gauge. In point, from running this travel help site that has taken a big European visa focus it has become clear to me that visa issues, requirements, and rules are things that MANY people misunderstand and misinterpret (even the authorities themselves). European immigration appears to work efficiently, but it is full of loopholes, inconsistencies, and is at the mercy of  the interpretation and misinterpretation of various officials charged with knowing the rules.  It is a mess, there are few hard rules anywhere and the requirements (especially for long term visas and residency) changes regularly. So the experience of one person when going for European residency my differ greatly from another. What I am saying is, collect as much information as you can and then try to assemble it in a way that shows you the best course of action. It is my impression that each person applying for residency in Europe is treading their own path.

Hope this helps.


Complete question about moving to Europe on a self-employment residency permit

I am interested in a move to Europe from the US, and have a few questions regarding residency permits.

I have a book on expatriation that says the Czech Republic welcomes self employed individuals to live there (The Passport Book, Robert Bauman). Does this sound familiar at all? I beleive the book was written before the Ch Rep joined Schengen. I am self employed via the internet and am looking for a country to move to that has do-able immigration along with all the other things one would want in a place to live.

I talked to a guy on another website that claims he is a US citizen and has just simply overstayed his visa for a number of years. Ive read many posts on this site and obv thats not advised unless you were to never cross a boarder.

If you know anything else about acquiring residency in any other European country it would be greatly appreciated. I would imagine being self employed gives me some sort of ease when attaining residency, but obv it could be different.

I sent a donation via the same email, but I was not taken to specific form after submitting on paypal. Just making sure you know I sent it.

Do you have a Schengen visa question?

If so, then take a look at our Schengen visa community forum. It is specifically for people who have questions or concerns related to Europe’s Schengen immigration zone.


Filed under: Europe, Schengen Visas, Travel Help, Visas

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3689 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Angela August 17, 2011, 1:13 pm

    I am using a HongKong SAR passport which is visa-free to enter Shangan area, now I am on my second month, I am trying to stay here in Netherlands with my boyfriend (he is a student so he can’t sponsor me) n I have too little money to invest in Netherland so I can get a visa. I am starting a business here and it does require time to show them I can earn enough money to support myself.

    I am planning to go out to England and come back in so I got another 3 months.

    AND…my experience is a bit complicated:
    I was working on the ship till I got fired, when I got fired I was in Copenhagen and I come straight to Netherlands. My passport doesn’t have any stamps of me entering Europe…..so what does that mean? I am afraid to go to the local police and ask bcos they might tell me to go home straight!?

    Please help me!!
    Thank you so much!

    • Wade Shepard August 22, 2011, 9:48 am

      You must stay in England for at least 91 days before you can return for another 90 days in the Schengen zone.

      Did you go to immigration when you entered by sea? This is often YOUR responsibility to make sure you get stamped into a country when entering this way.

      I can’t advise you on how to stay longer in the Schengen zone short of going to university and getting a student visa or trying to get a job that will sponsor you for a work visa (long shot).

      Sorry I can’t help more than this.

      • filmil August 31, 2011, 1:06 am

        The first thing you should do is talk to an immigration lawyer and explain your situation. All of the things I write about below you could in principle do yourself, but not knowing the language, not knowing the regulations and not knowing the legal practice will make this an impossible task. So better leave this to someone who knows what to do.

        What flag did the ship sail under? If it’s a Dutch ship, you may have some rights to stay in the Netherlands based on a grace period for this employment. The attorney may help you figure the most favorable condition for you.

        Do you have an immigration entry stamp? Entering a port by sea you should have cleared immigration so I will assume that you do. In that case, you are in the Netherlands (or, the EU) on a visa waiver program. This means, among other things, that you may NOT look for work while there. You are there as a tourist, which means you are expected to stay a certain maximum number of days, and then go away.

        If you don’t have an immigration stamp, you need to correct that ASAP. Prepare any proof that you have about your entry to the EU, e.g. the ship crew papers, any work permits that apply, pay slips that you received. Talk to an attorney to figure out how to use this to sort your immigration situation out. Do NOT go to the immigration authorities first, because they won’t be interested in helping you and you may miss an opportunity to resolve the situation to your benefit.

        In order to enroll in a school or to start working, you will need to go to your country of origin and get the appropriate visa from the Dutch diplomatic outpost there. You can typically not do this from within the country. There are ways one could do this but these apply in some exceptional conditions.

        Do NOT overstay, that will make your life only more complicated in the future. Especially since from what you describe, you are currently visiting legally. Do NOT be passive and wait out so that you get into legal trouble. Go seek a professional advice.

        Also, check here for your specific visa requirements: http://www.klm.com/travel/nl_en/prepare_for_travel/travel_planning/travel_clinic/visaform.htm

  • SJB May 11, 2012, 11:43 am


    My husband is in Spain on a work visa, and I have a residence only visa. I was offered a job, but it would appear I need to wait a year before I can modify my current residence visa? Is there anyway around this? Can I annul my residence visa and re-apply?

    Thanks for any advice…


    • Wade Shepard May 11, 2012, 11:46 am

      Yes, you could return to your home country, cancel your residence permit and then reapply for a work permit. But this is pretty much the only way to do it.

      Comments are now closed on this page. Go to Ask Schengen Visa Questions to ask a question on this topic.