010 Staying in Europe past 90 days
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Hello ladies and welcome to episode number 10! In this episode we are going to chat all about staying in Europe past than 90 days.
So if you have dreams to take that business abroad and wander some beautiful old streets on your lunch break, maybe fall in love with an Italian Lizzy McGuire-style, or you really want to drink wine overlooking the Med, then this is the episode for you!
I’ve been living in Europe and running my online business for 3 years now, Europe it is my home base and I plan to stay here quite a few more years in the future too.
I’ve been living in Germany in this time, so it’s the country which I know the most about, but I have picked up a thing or two about staying in other European countries longer than the normally allowed 90 days as well while I’ve been here.
So we’re going to discuss a few options you have to stay in Europe longer than 90 days in this episode, and we’re going to go through the options in order of easiest and least paper work to the most.
So here’s the options we’ll discuss:
1st is country-hopping in non-Schengen countries to kill some time to legally work with the 90 day rule.
2nd is work and travel visas and/or the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty.
3rd is the freelance visas.
And 4th is “Studying” (I say that with air quotes btw).
Okay, so before we get into our options for you to stay longer than the 90 days, I want you to understand the 90 day rule first, so let’s first go through what you’re allowed normally visa-free.
+ full transcript
If you’re from a Western country - which from looking at the stats on this podcasts listeners, that is indeed most of y’all, then you can stay in the Schengen area for 90 days without first applying for a visa.
Now you might be asking, what the heck is Schengen? Schengen is a bunch of countries which you can travel through as if there were no border between them all. Countries in the Schengen area include:
- Czech Republic
- The Netherlands
Basically, you can just rock up to whatever of those Schengen countries I just listed, get your passport stamped, and you will have 90 days within a 180 period to stay in those countries.
Let me explain the 90 days in a 180 day period thing for a moment.
Say on January 1st you go to France and you stay for 2 months or 60 days. You then fly out somewhere outside Schengen for a conference and then head back again. You still have 30 days you can use, and because you flew in on January 1st, you can use those 30 days up until the end of June. Your 90 days don’t need to be in a row, they just need to be at some point within that 180 day, or 6 month, period. Then it resets, and you’ve got another 90 days.
So that brings me to our first options for staying past 90 days and that is number
1 - KILLING TIME IN NON-SCHENGEN COUNTRIES
You’ll notice that there’s a few other countries not on the list which are in Europe, including for example England, Scotland, Ireland, the Ukraine and Croatia. The easiest way to stay past 90 days is to go enjoy 90 days in a country in the Schengen zone, hop over to England, Scotland, Ireland, the Ukraine, or Croatia, chill in them for 90 days and then head back to the Schengen area again. If you continually do this, technically you could stay on the continent of Europe indefinitely by using your 90 days in a 180 period in Schengen countries, then spending the remaining 90 in that 180 period in non-Schengen countries, and then just switching back and forth every 90 days.
This is by far the easiest way to stay longer. You just need to make sure that you calculate your days correctly and get in and get out on time. I’ve heard that if you stay a day or two longer, it’s generally not a big deal, but a week or more, you could get in some hot water and have restrictions on future Schengen travel.
Now if you’re not loving that option and you want to stay somewhere a bit more permanently and put down roots, get a lon-term apartment, etc., then option 2 might be more down your alley.
Number 2 - WORK AND TRAVEL VISAS
Work and travel visas are by far the easiest visa you could hope to get for another country. Basically, work and travel visas are agreements between two countries that young citizens of their countries may go and travel to the other country and take up work once they’re there. You do not need to already have a job locked down before going, or a contract with a company which most work visas require.
Your options for countries you can go to and how long you can stay depends a lot on where you’re from. Each country has different requirements and intricacies, so it’s definitely worth Googling specifics about your situation, but I’ll let you know some general things which usually will apply to you when you get a work and travel visa.
The visa is normally for 1 year, sometimes you can renew them and get 2 years in the same country, or you can country hop and say get a 1 year visa in Germany, then the next year get one in the Netherlands, then the next in France, etc.
Once you get a work and travel visa for one country in the Schengen zone, you can travel to all the others as you please, and you don’t need to be counting days or anything like when you’re on the 90 day Schengen tourist visa
You can do any job in the country that’s legal, so you know, don’t run a drug smuggling business and you should be good otherwise with whatever you choose to do
You can only work in the country for which you got the visa (This is a grey area with digital nomads as the laws haven’t caught up with how people actually work these days. Business men are clearly traveling for conferences and visiting clients abroad and doing work from their laptops when they’re traveling abroad, and they don’t need to get new work visas for every country they’re visiting, sooo yeah … grey area on this one in terms of working as a digital nomad online.) Technically you’re only allowed to work in the country for which you get a visa, but I’m quite sure a lot of digital nomads roam around the continent during their visa and work from whichever country they’re in
You have to be under 30 years old
You have to have some savings to show you’re not going to get stuck in the country or claim welfare (a couple thousand is normal)
Some countries require that you are in school (high school or university) or that you’re within 1 year of graduating school. You’ll need to check the requirements for the country you want to go for, because this is not all countries which have this requirement, just a few
When I say these are the easiest visas to get, I really mean it. When I got this type of visa, I put together the paperwork for my work and travel visa in a day, booked myself an appointment at the Embassy in Toronto for the next day, showed up, passed over my paperwork, the guy checked it was all here and told me my visa would be ready to be picked up in 2 weeks.
It’s really super simple, so if you want to go abroad but are nervous about the whole visa thing, this is really your best option as it’s the most simple, while still getting you a legit longer-term visa.
Now, let’s talk about who can get work and travel visas, because that’s kinda important.
Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, you’re set, there’s a ton of countries you can get freelance visas in in Europe. For Americans, you’ve just got one option in Europe and that’s Ireland. But again, once you get the work and travel visa for Ireland, you can hop around and travel through the other European countries no problem.
Now, for Americans there is one other option and that is to go to The Netherlands with the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty. This visa is only for entrepreneurs and the self-employed, so if you’re listening to this podcast, it’s perfect for you. The visa is for 2 years. In order to get it, the requirements are that you have to invest in your company with 4,500 euros, you have to register your company with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce, and open a business bank account in the Netherlands.
One thing that blog post did mention which is interesting is that when you apply, they’ll give you a sticker on your passport allowing you to stay and work for 6 months while your application is being processed.
There’s a similar situation with visas in Germany, that you are allowed to stay as long as your application is being processed. I’ve actually heard of people who just apply for a visa only to get the extension while the decision is made, just to stay a bit longer than the 90 days allowed, without any intention to actually use the visa if they do get it.
Granted, it is a bit of work to apply for a visa, so I’ll let you decide if that’s worth it to you.
3 - FREELANCE VISA
I was so blown away when I found out these freelance visas exists. These are so so key for you if you already run a business and want to live and work in Europe like I did. There’s a few countries which I know for sure offer freelance visas, though honestly I wouldn’t call this a complete list, so def do a Google if you want to find out if there’s a freelance visa in another country in which you wish to stay in.
The countries which definitely have freelance visas include:
- Czech Republic
I got a German freelance visa, so I’ll tell you my experience with it. I got the visa for 2 years, and it can be extended after those 2 years are up. In order to get an extension, you definitely want to have a profitable business, so make sure you make some money in those 2 years.
So for your freelance visa in Germany specifically, you’ll need the following.
1st is proof you’re living in Germany by showing your Anmeldung. This is a piece of paper which states where you live.
2nd is to get a bank account. I use and will literally shout from the rooftops about how fabulous the German startup bank N26 is. You can set up an account from your phone, and can manage everything in English, unlike most German banks.
3rd is 2–3 letters of intent from potential clients. Now I hear that Germany wants these letters from German companies, but I’ll be honest, I only had 1 letter and it was from an American company and I still got the visa, so I hope that gives you some hope too.
I had been doing work for a web design agency and was pretty friendly with the founders, so I had them write me a contract saying I’d do 30k worth of work for them over the next year, but to be honest, the company went under shortly after I received the visa, so I didn’t actually complete most of the work for them. And we had a statement in the contract saying either of us could get out of it at any point by just writing each other, so if the agency didn’t have enough work for me, they wouldn’t be stuck needing to give me 30k worth of work. Apparently the fact that the web design agency went under didn’t matter to Germany much, just having the contract in the first place with someone saying I was skilled enough and they wanted to work with me was good in order to get the visa. One thing to know is that you’re not limited to only working with the companies who give you the letter of intent, you can work with anyone later. So get creative with this, and if you have a few friends with businesses, get them to write you a letter. From my knowledge, no one from the Germany visa office ever contacted the company to check it was a legit company or contract.
4th is your bank statement. I have banks all over, so I took screenshots of the balances in them all. I had pretty decent savings, but I wanted to be sure I’d get the visa, so I also had my mom send me 10k to sit in my account while the visa was being processed, and then sent it back to her after I got the visa.
5th is the application form and 6th is a revenue forecast. Revenue forecasts are pretty nonsense in my opinion, you can technically write anything on them, so make yourself look good with a sweet revenue forecast.
You’ll also want a cover letter, resume, and a printed portfolio. I made my website designs look all fancy by sticking them into laptops with something called mock u phone and then I printed them on fancy glossy paper and stuck them in a binder.
Lastly you’ll want some biometric photos, the same ones you would get for a passport.
I should mention, we did do my application, cover letter and resume in both German and English, though I don’t know if this was necessary. We even made a table of contents to organize everything within my binder. Again, probably unnecessary, but I treated the visa application like a job interview and wanted to look as legit and put together as possible.
One thing to know about freelance visas is that you’re not allowed to create a corporation with them you can only freelance for clients. As my business grew and I wanted to separate myself from my company for liability purposes, I eventually switched off the freelance visa so I could create a corporation where I’m separate from my company, in order to make sure that if the business were ever to get into legal issues, my fiance and my assets like our future home, retirements savings, etc. would be safe.
4 - “STUDYING”
Okay I was the word studying with air quotes, because I don’t actually mean you need to go to classes. Many European countries offer free higher education, so that means undergrads, masters and PHDs for free. Sometimes this is limited to only citizens, but often, as is the case with Germany, you can be a citizen of anywhere, having never paid a cent of tax to Germany in the past and still enroll in a free degree. Pretty mind blowing I know. So if you’re worried that you’ll need to fork out a ton of money to enroll in a degree in Europe, don’t be, just choose a country which offers degrees for free.
The one thing about this is that, while many European countries offer programs in English, often the paperwork and everything is in the native language of the country, so that will be an extra challenge for you. But I mean, if you want to learn a language, while you’re living abroad, you can start with the paperwork for your “degree”. Again, airquotes with that.
Fake studying is legit a thing in many European countries, so you by no means will be the only person doing this. I’ve met soooo many people who sign up for degrees they never intend to take in Germany, because it gets them a free transit pass in the state they’re “studying” in and cheaper health insurance. So yeah, this is actually a lot more common than I ever would have guessed before getting here.
There are some degrees for which they only allow in a certain number of students, and others where an unlimited number of students are accepted, so in order to not screw someone else out of a spot in a program they actually want to be in, be sure to only apply for programs for which there’s no cap on the number of students accepted.
Student visas vary in length, it often depends on the length of the program you’re registered in. Be sure by the way before you apply to a program in a country that you’d also be allowed to work on the side of your degree in that country before going to the hassle of applying. Most, but not all countries will let you work on the side of your studies.
So there you go, those are 4 options for you to stay in Europe past 90 days!
The 5th option is of course getting married to a European, and if any of you ladies are single and on the market, my fiances German best friend is a very single doctor, so that’s an option too.
Now I would personally start with the easiest option, the one with the least paperwork, and once you get settled in your country of choice and build relationships with the people and other digital nomads there, it’ll become easier to figure out how to stay and learn the intricacies about each country and chat with people who have gotten the visa that you want.
I do have to say that the hardest part of moving abroad by far is working up the courage to book the flight, so I’m wishing you the best of luck with working up the courage on that!
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