An American moves to Europe.

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Have you ever considered moving to Europe? Or wondered if it’s even possible to make the move as an American? I’m here to tell you that it is. I did it!

Below is my guide on moving to Europe. I’ll answer the most frequently asked questions and provide my own personal insight.

How I Made My European Dream a Reality

Originally from Houston, Texas, I have been traveling abroad for more than 20 years. I fell in love with Spain over a decade ago and finally moved to Madrid in 2015.

Live vibrantly by moving to Europe
Live vibrantly by moving to Europe. Photo by Cepee Tabibian

I’ve lived here on various visas—student, work and non-lucrative—and plan to stay here for the long haul. I’ve created an incredible life abroad, and along the way, I’ve helped many people make the leap from the U.S. to Europe.

Can Americans Move to Europe?

The simple answer is yes! U.S. citizens can travel to most European countries for up to 90 days (within 180 days) as a tourist. However, for those who want to live there, acquiring a long-term visa and/or residency permit is your ticket to calling Europe home. 

Best Tips & Tools to Plan Your Trip

Many Americans assume that they either need to be rich or work for a company that will transfer them abroad in order to make their European dream a reality. This couldn’t be further from the truth! There are multiple visa options—more than you think— available to people of all ages, income levels and interests.  

With the right long-term visa, Americans can move to Europe to study, work remotely, get hired, start a business, retire and more! It’s simply a matter of knowing which visa options you have and finding the one that is right for you!

Read More: NOAD, the Digital Nomad’s Dream Housing Swap Service

Living Abroad: How Americans Can Move to Europe

What Countries in Europe Can Americans Move to?

Only a fraction of the 44 countries in Europe have viable options for the average American. Most European countries have difficult paths to residency but don’t worry, there are still plenty of countries with long-term living options. There are 16 European countries that are easiest for U.S. citizens to move to, including popular destinations like Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany and Estonia. 

Spain and Portugal are attractive for a variety of reasons: low cost of living, high quality of life and captivating cultures! But more importantly, both countries offer extremely friendly visa options for Americans that are renewable and lead to permanent residency. Spain also has an attractive option for Americans to teach English there.

If you’re an entrepreneurial type, then the Netherlands could be an excellent fit for you. They have a special treaty with the U.S. that allows American entrepreneurs and freelancers to gain Dutch residency for two years (which can be renewed) by starting a business in their country. 

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While there are a few hoops to jump through, this is a great “in” for anyone who wants to make a life in the Netherlands. 

Germany has a similar visa for freelancers and current or future business owners, which allows you to qualify for residency and renew your visa if your business is successful. 

Estonia’s new Digital Nomad Visa is joining a growing list of countries that allow location-independent workers to live there while working remotely. In Estonia, you can live there for up to one year while working for an employer—or your own company—registered abroad. 

While these are just some of the spots beloved by American ex-pats, there are other countries with viable visa options too. Learn more about the 16 easiest European countries to move to and their visa requirements in I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe

With over 50 visa options, you’re sure to find one that suits you.

Read More: Best Capital Cities in Europe to Live While Working Abroad

Make the move to Madrid
Make the move to Madrid. Photo by Cepee Tabibian

What You Should Know About Moving to Europe

Moving to another country requires a lot of paperwork and patience. While the process might not always be smooth sailing, moving to Europe is possible and worth it! Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Finances. Can you afford to make the move? You don’t need to have a fortune saved up, but you do need to understand your financial situation and what something like this will cost—both the move and the cost of living in your desired country. Try to pay off any debt, increase your savings and make a plan for earning income when you move. Don’t count on finding a job abroad from the get-go. Obtaining a European work permit is very difficult for non-Europeans. 
  • Visa application. Applying for a visa requires gathering a variety of documents. While each country’s application requirements are different, getting everything together will probably take more time than you think. Some might need to be translated or require an Apostille. Patience is key. 
  • Downsizing. It’s a good idea to declutter and downsize before your big move. Don’t underestimate how much time this can take. Give yourself a few months to go through your belongings so you can decide what to take, sell, donate or store. 
  • Research. Do as much research as you can about your future country and city. The more educated you are on the ins and outs of the local culture, what a move will entail and how to get set up once you arrive, the fewer surprises you will encounter. If you can, I highly recommend visiting a city at least once before moving to spend some time in your new home. If you can start learning a few basic phrases in the local language, even better.
  • Community. Connect with fellow ex-pats and locals online before moving. There are numerous online communities, especially on Facebook, for just about every city and country in the world. Use these groups to ask questions, connect with people who already live there and make virtual friends before you move. You can also find niche communities for women, LGBTQ+ and Black ex-pats.
Outdoor cafes in Europe
Outdoor cafes in Europe

FAQ About Moving to Europe

  • Do I have to pay taxes in both the U.S. and Europe?
    As a U.S. citizen, your worldwide income is subject to U.S. income tax, no matter where you live. Depending on which country you live in and how many days of the year you live there, you may be considered a local tax resident. In that case, you will be required to file taxes in both countries. Be sure to find a tax lawyer or accountant who is well-versed in the particularities of ex-pat taxes.
  • Is healthcare in Europe expensive?
    If you are coming from the United States, no! While it varies from country to country, Europe has some of the best healthcare systems in the world. Depending on which visa you obtain, you may or may not qualify for access to the public healthcare system. If you don’t qualify, private health insurance is often available at very affordable rates, some starting as low as €45 a month.
  • Do I need to speak the local language?
    English may be a universal language, but depending on where you move to, the English level can vary widely. In many places, especially those with more tourists, you can get by with English. But I strongly recommend learning the basics of a new language early on (please, thank you, how are you, etc.). It goes a long way with locals and is the best way to immerse yourself in the culture. If you’re staying long-term, it’s a good idea to prioritize learning the local language. Learn the basics and get a strong foundation in any language with Babbel, which has lessons that are both fun and efficient.
  • Do I need travel insurance?
    It’s best to purchase travel insurance for your entire stay. SafetyWing is a good option. They offer insurance for digital nomads.

Read More: Why You Need International Travel Insurance When You Travel

Woman working in Lisbon. Photo by Canva
Woman in Lisbon. Photo by Canva

What Kind of Visa Do I Need to Live in Europe?

Tourist Visa: An opportunity to immerse yourself in the cultural tapestry of Europe for a span of 90 days within a 180-day interval. It’s worth noting that the primary intent of this visa is for leisure and exploration, rather than engaging in employment or academic pursuits.

Work Visa: In the event of securing employment within Europe, a work visa serves as the conduit to lawful engagement. The financial implications, which vary across nations, encompass a range spanning from a modest sum to a more substantial investment.

Student Visa: Aspiring scholars contemplating educational endeavors in Europe will necessitate a student visa. The financial requisites for this category are subject to fluctuations contingent on the chosen destination, demanding a financial commitment commensurate with the pursuit of academic enrichment.

Entrepreneur Visa: For those nurturing entrepreneurial ambitions, select European nations extend entrepreneur visas, affording the latitude to initiate commercial undertakings within their jurisdictions.

Digital Nomad Visa: A novel provision catering to contemporary work dynamics, certain countries such as Estonia and Czechia furnish digital nomad visas. These facilitate a temporally defined tenure, typically ranging from three months to one year, for remote workers collaborating with foreign employers, provided requisite financial provisions are met.

If You Go:

Before committing to a move to Europe, I recommend trying out NOAD, a unique home exchange network, that enables its members to enjoy free stays at homes all over the world by reciprocally opening their homes to fellow members.

Learn more about NOAD here

Read More:

Author’s Bio: Cepee Tabibian is the founder of She Hit Refresh, a global community for women aged 30 and over who want to break free from routine and start a life of travel—specifically moving abroad and traveling long term. She is the author of, I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe, your guide to the 16 easiest countries to move to in Europe, including over 50 viable visa options and detailed information on the 34 most popular cities for American ex-pats.

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5 Comments

  1. Hello Cepee,
    My name is Arsène, I am a 27 American citizen. I used to live in England and I was looking to move from England to the Netherlands/Germany/Austria to set up my own freelance business but my visa in England had expired a and I had no other choice but to return to the USA (thanks to new post-Brexit rules). So far I have been quite unhappy about the recent developments in USA society, increase of crime etc. I would like to return to Europe after next year or by 2024. Can you please tell me what are the immigration procedures for an American citizen setting up a freelance business in the Netherlands, Germany or Austria?

    I will be grateful for your help!

    Many thanks,
    Arsène

  2. Hi Cepee,
    My name is Alanna and I currently live in Minneapolis with my boyfriend. The last year has escalated my desire and, quite frankly, need to move out of the US and fulfill my dream of living in Europe. We are both 27 and have started thinking about “what’s next?”. Being from the Midwest a lot of people around us our starting to get married and buy houses. While that is a beautiful dream, it’s not for us. Our dreams include living in Europe. Your article has been truly inspiring and a glimmer of hope that our dreams could possibly come true. I would love to connect and discuss more about the steps you took to move and live abroad. I would truly really appreciate a reply and the chance to pick your brain. Thanks so much and happy new year!

    1. Hi Alanna,

      Thank you so much for your kind words and for reaching out. I’m happy to hear that my article has given you that glimmer of hope that your dreams are more possible than you think.

      If you’re looking to move to Europe and interested to know which countries you can get a long-term visa for I highly recommend my book I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe. I go into detail about over 50 visas, 16 countries and over 30 cities plus the common questions people have about moving to Europe. https://shehitrefresh.com/move-to-europe-book/

      If there are any other questions I can help you with please let me know!

      Best,

      Cepee

    2. Hi. My name is Stephanie. I just read your article as living abroad has been a dream of mine for so long. I’m a 48 single woman with a small business here in Indiana. I hate the winter and was thinking of moving and working in Spain from December to March. I practice massage therapy here and specialize in cranial sacral work. Would Spain be a place to move and work through the winter months on a massage therapist income? Any cities that you would recommend? I would love to start my own business there as well. Thank you