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Global Mobility Basics
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Team Localyze

The Ultimate Guide on Work Permits Across Europe

The Ultimate Guide on Work Permits Across Europe

Are you currently defining your Global Mobility strategy or thinking about growing your international team? If yes, one factor that will play a part in enabling your international hiring strategy is being on top of visa and work permit questions for international hires, especially if these are from outside of the EU.There are many open questions regarding planning the international hiring strategy, e.g. the time frame and the visa and work permit regulations. Suppose you decide to hire international talent from abroad and support the relocation process. In that case, it's essential to understand the options available to you.

This blog post will provide you with a simple overview of different work permit options in Austria, the Netherlands, Spain, Ireland and the UK. If you’re hiring in Germany, don’t forget to check out our Blue Card for Germany blog post.  


1. The Red-White-Red Card in Austria

Austria issues both the Blue Card and the Red-White Card. Whereas 336 Blue Cards have been issued in Austria in 2019, the most common work permit in Austria is the Red-White-Red card. There are different Red-White-Red Card work permit categories:

  • Red-White-Red Card for Very Highly Qualified Workers
  • Other Key Workers
  • Graduates of Austrian Universities and Colleges of Higher Education
  • Self-employed Key Workers
  • Start-up Founders

If you are looking to build your tech team, one of the most common work permits is the Skilled Workers in Shortage Occupations. For this work permit, your future employee will need to fulfil the following criteria:

  • The proof of completed training in a shortage occupation under the regulation (as e.g. university degree)
  • A binding job offer in Austria. You will need to remunerate your potential employee with the minimum pay stipulated by law, regulation, or collective agreement
  • The employee needs to reach a minimum of 55 points according to the list of criteria

It's also possible to request the Blue Card for your potential employee, e.g., when the employee relocates on a Blue Card from another EU country to Austria. The point system is not relevant for the Blue Card.

However, the following criteria need to be fulfilled by the applicant:

  • A completed university degree with a minimum duration of three years
  • A binding job offer for at least one year in Austria, the employment needs to correspond to their training
  • The annual salary for employment is at least 1.5 times the average gross annual salary of full-time employees (2021: € 65,579 gross annual salary; annual salary plus special payments)
  • The Public Employment Service (AMS) cannot provide the company with equally qualified workers (labor market test)


2. The Highly Skilled Migrant Visa in the Netherlands

Compared to Germany, the Netherlands issued far fewer Blue Cards - 191 Blue Cards in total (in the year 2019). The most commonly issued work permit in the Netherlands is the Highly Skilled Migrant Permit. The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) defines a Highly Skilled Migrant as an employee who works for a recognised sponsor in the Netherlands based on a work contract. The employee has to fulfil certain criteria, as specific age, salary, and experience requirements.

Both the EU Blue Card and the Highly Skilled Migrant Program require an employment contract with a company in the Netherlands. Whereas the EU Blue Card requires an employment contract of at least a year, the Highly Skilled Migrant permit requires a three-month contract.

Besides, the highly skilled migrant needs to meet the following salary criteria (the year 2021):

  • Highly skilled migrants 30 years or older: €4,752 gross per month
  • Highly skilled migrants younger than 30 years: € 3,484 gross per month
  • Reduced salary criterion: € 2,497 gross per month
  • Blue Card: € 5,567 gross per month

  • If you want to hire your employee as a Highly Skilled Migrant in the Netherlands, you need to become a recognised sponsor by the IND. For becoming a sponsor you need to fulfil specific criteria and qualifications, as e.g. being reliable and financially healthy. After the recognition process, your company will be included in the Public Register for Recognised Sponsors. It is vital to bear in mind that only organisations can become recognised sponsors - not people.

    What are the benefits if your company becomes a sponsor?

    • The IND handles the applications more quickly - usually, the decision process takes around two weeks
    • You, as the employer, need to provide fewer supporting documents with the application. A declaration from you that your new employee meets the conditions is usually sufficient
    • You can submit online applications in the Business Portal

    Keep in mind that the process of becoming a sponsor might take from 30 to 90 days. Once you receive the positive sponsorship confirmation, you can start hiring internationally. You don’t need to become a sponsor if your employee applies for the Blue Card.

    3. Work permit options in Spain

    Besides the Blue Card (*Spain issued 79 Blue Cards in 2019), there are other, more frequently used options for work permit employment options in Spain. One of the most popular and issued ones is the one for Highly Skilled Talent called “Ley 14/2013, de 27 de septiembre, de apoyo a los emprendedores y su internacionalización”, which pretends to support entrepreneurs and their internationalisation.

    There are different requirements for this permit and companies usually need to either have

    1. Strategic sector certificate
    2. More than 250 employees or
    3. A certain amount of stock or foreign investment

    Furthermore, it might also be enough to hire people with a university degree.


    Highly Qualified Foreign professionals

    Suppose you have a candidate who qualifies as a highly qualified professional (HQP) or graduates/postgraduates or postgraduate from a prestigious business school/university. In that case, the Highly Qualified Foreign Professional Work Permit might be the right option.

    Your company needs to fulfil the following criteria:

    • It has to be a large business or corporate group
    • Has to be a SME in a strategic sector
    • Has to develop a business project of general interest

    One of the main benefits of these work permits is the streamlined processing. The visa decisions are made and notified within ten working days. The residence permit decisions are normally completed within 20 days.


    4. Work Permits in the UK

    The UK does not participate in the Blue Card scheme, but other work permit options are available for your talent. Especially post-Brexit, hiring internationally within the UK is a very relevant, but also complex topic.

    Skilled Worker Visa (UK)

    One common option if you want to employ someone in the UK is the Skilled Worker Visa. In this case, you, as the employer, will need to obtain a sponsorship license first. You can check out here if your business is eligible. After becoming a sponsor, all visa applications are handled through the Sponsorship Management System for which you need to assign users respectively.


    Your employee needs to meet the following criteria to be eligible for the skilled worker visa:

    1. Have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from you, the employer, with information about the role offered in the UK.
    2. Have a job that’s on the list of eligible occupations.
    3. Be paid a minimum salary, which can vary depending on the occupation.
    4. Prove knowledge of the English language when applying.

    Different fees are usually charged when applying for the skilled worker visa, including the Certificate of Sponsorship fee, the immigration skills charge, the visa application fee as well as the healthcare surcharge.

    5. The Critical Skills Employment Permit (Ireland)

    The Critical Skills Employment Permit is for skilled workers qualified in professions where there is a shortage of skills in Ireland. To apply for a Critical Skills Employment Permit or support your employee with the permit, you need to check the following criteria:

    • The employee must have the relevant qualifications, skills, and experience required for the job.
    • An annual salary of at least €32,000 a year in an occupation that is on the Critical Skills Occupation List
    • A yearly wage of €64,000 year in a domain that is not on the list of ineligible occupations
    • The job offer must be valid for two years or more.

    It's essential to consider that you cannot get a work permit for a company where more than 50% are non-EEA nationals. This requirement can be waived, though, if your company is a start-up supported by Enterprise Ireland.


    You want to know more about work permits in Europe? Keep in mind that there are more work permit options available - we only listed a few of them. If you are looking for more information on how to support your future employee with the visa process, you can get in touch with us. We are happy to tell you more about our services.

    The contents of our website, specifically the articles discussing legal topics, are researched with the utmost care. However, we cannot assume any liability for the correctness, completeness, and topicality of the information provided. In particular, the information is of a general nature and does not contain legal advice in individual cases. For the solution of specific legal matters, please consult a lawyer.

    Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash