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Travel jobs in Europe, Work Visas for Europe
By: Leslie Farnsworth (justin) 2011.09.08

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I'm afraid I have to tell you that it's hard for an American to find travel jobs in Europe.They don't want you, and they make no bones about it. It's not impossible, however, if you keep your options open and plan well, or if you're not too concerned with legality. One of the most important decisions before starting a job search in Europe is whether you want a "real" job , or just something fun for a while. The two cases are quite diffrent.

The EU has incredibly tight employment policies, and is not fond of non-EU citizens coming to work, even for short periods. Therefore, if you're planning to work in the EU for a lengthy period of time, perhaps for a year or two after graduation, and would like a resume-enhancing job with a company or an organization, your best bet is to look for employment in the country of your choice while still in the United States. This is ridiculously difficult, but not impossible. Try calling companies with branches in that country and discussing possible opportunities. Call the American Embassy there and see if they have job opportunities or available internships. Plumb every contact you have, and even contacts thrice removed. Search the Web for jobs and call about listed positions aggressively. In conversation with the human resources person on the phone, try to get word of other companies in the field that might be interested in hearing from you, and call them.

Unfortunately, companies cannot easily interview you, and even if you tell them you're willing to pay for your moving expenses, you've still got a lot going against you. A company hiring outside of the EU must prove to the government that no other EU national was available or qualified for the position. As most EU countries are suffering from very high unemployment rates, companies will have a hard time proving that no other EU national can fill the position unless you are qualified for a very specific field. Therefore, even if Max Mara in Italy can prove that no other Italian could fill the position, they still haven't gone far enough-they have to prove that no one in Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, and so forth, can fill the position. This law is taken seriously and enforced. All this is on top of the fact that, as a recent graduate or current college student making plans for a year off, you're probably not likely to have a huge pile of work experience in your suitcase.

For example, let's look at Germany. Before you can receive a work permit in Germany, you must first apply for a residence permit. This is an entirely separate process, and must be done within the country. To apply for residency you must provide proof of health insurance, proof that you have a place to live (meaning that you've secured accommodation beyond a hotel room), proof that you can support yourself (which generally consists of a statement from your employer), a certificate of health filled out by a German doctor. Each state has different exact requirements for all these forms, and some require a certificate of good conduct, as well.

Once you have a residence permit, you may apply for a work permit. However, a residence permit does not guarantee a work permit, and in general it is best for your employer to arrange for the work permit for you. However, like in the rest of the EU, an employer must prove that there is no available German or EU nationals available and qualified for the job. And, as in the rest of the EU, the same hurdles rise up against a company finding it viable to hire you.

Therefore, you have to take a leap here if you want legal employment in Germany. You must move to Germany, get a job without being able to guarantee potential employers that you will be able to live in the country, then apply for a residence permit, and then have your employer apply for the work permit, hoping that they'll get it. If you are planning to work here for a year or more, this process might be worth the results, but it's prohibitive for summer or semester work. I'll say it again: Europe does everything it can to prevent non-EU nationals from working in the EU. So how to get the coveted work visa if you just want a short-term job in the EU? It's not easy. You can apply, six months in advance, to all the appropriate authorities within the country of your choice, but you aren't all that likely to get one. Sure, sometimes someone in authority might feel some level of sympathy and permit you to work for the experience of it if you are a college student, but you can't bet on it.

Lucky for you, there are companies that have taken this problem to the bank. Search the Web, and you'll find them. These companies will secure a six-month, nonrenewable work visa for you (although some offer eighteen-month visas for some countries), if you are a student or that you graduated from college within the last six months. They don't pay for your plane ticket, they don't find you a job or even guarantee you a job, and they in no way arrange or pay for living costs, but they do provide an orientation session during which they give advice about finding work and accommodation in your particular country. These companies charge varying fees, but they are rarely exorbitant: BUNAC, an organization that arranges work permits for Great Britian (and recently Australia and New Zealand) for example, charges $200 for their services.

With a work visa in hand, various short-term positions will be available to you, although they won't be resume-builders. Due to the aforementioned unemployment problem, natives covet even the most menial jobs. However, restaurants and retail establishments are often in need of extra hands, and temporary job placement companies often look for qualified people to fill slots. Searching hard will inevitably produce something, particularly in large cities. In France, Germany, and Spain, au pair work abounds. Au pair work is much more posh than that of a mother's helper-au pairs are asked to perform only five hours of work a day (which includes childcare and light housework), are given free room and board (in a separate, private room) and a stipend, and have one completely free day a week. Mothers' helpers are generally expected to do a great deal of housework, cooking, and childcare, and are required to work longer hours with little or no completely free days to explore.

All US citizens are allowed a three-to-six month legal stay in the EU without a formal visa, provided that they do not work. If you think you might use this easy admission to get into a country, and find a place to work illegally once there, you aren't the first. There are jobs for you, too. You can work as a housekeeper, a babysitter or mother's helper, or a hired-by-the-job handyman. In the German countryside and the Italian south, farm help is often appreciated. However, an unskilled farm worker in southern Italy should have some understanding of the necessary southern Italian dialects. (And women going alone should probably steer clear of this work option.) One of the most common jobs is in the tourist industry, where your knowledge of English becomes an asset. Hostels, pubs catering to backpackers, and many Mediterranean beach resorts have great job opportunities.

Once in the EU, whether you're planning to work legally or illegally, your options for living quarters are only limited by your imagination. Those here for the short term will be glad to know that some people rent out rooms by the week or the month in their homes. It's possible to stay at a hostel the entire time you're working and it's often the cheapest option. Many universities rent out dorm rooms by the week over the summer months. As anywhere in the world, the higher the population, the higher the rent, so your best bet is to stay away from the larger towns, due to the high cost of living. However, the smaller towns will not have as many short-term positions available.

All positions in European Union countries require at least a basic knowledge of the native language. The job you're aiming for will dictate how basic this knowledge may be. At the very, very least, you should be able to manage the basics of taking a customer's order when working as wait staff in a restaurant. Besides, you'll have a richer and more nuanced experience as a semi-fluent to fluent speaker in a foreign country. Sure, a lot of Germans can speak English-but what are you missing from those that can't? At least learn a meager amount before your cross-Atlantic flight, and take a full-blown language course during your stay. The United Kingdom is the one section of Europe that won't require at least a minimal understanding of a foreign language. Naturally, this opens many doors for employment opportunities that are closed in non-English speaking countries.

It is important to realize, when considering whether to work in the EU, that you will most likely need to shell out much more than you will earn for the experience. However, it's a fantastic experience - nothing expands your mind in the same way living in a different country can. If you have the money to survive off if the job search drags on, and if you don't mind creatively attacking the work visa problem, working in Europe is an adventure you shouldn't pass up.


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