Are you one of many Americans (or Brits) considering a move to Europe in the near future?
If that’s you, then you’re probably wondering how to move to Europe in the easiest way possible.
More Americans than ever before are relocating to Europe, driven partly by the strong US dollar, and partly by unstable political conditions at home.
Brits are dealing with similar issues in the wake of Brexit, with skyrocketing inflation and a growing cost of living crisis.
I’ve lived abroad for most of my adult life (currently based in Portugal). I’m a seasoned international expat with years of first-hand experience in the subject.
In this guide, I’ll give you my 11 essential tips for an easy move to Europe, from choosing the right visa route to shipping all your stuff across the Atlantic Ocean.
Let’s dive in!
How to Move to Europe EASILY
#1. Define Your Goals
The process of how to move to Europe starts with narrowing down exactly which European country you’re aiming for.
Each European country has its own rules and regulations for foreigners who want to live there.
As a US citizen, you can enter the Schengen area with just your passport and spend 90 days there as a tourist. During this time, you can travel to any of the countries in Schengen.
Doing this is a great first step to get a feel for the different countries and cultures. Hopefully, at the end of your trip, you’ll have a good idea about which ones would suit you best.
Another important factor is deciding how long you want to stay in Europe. Do you want to spend a year working remotely from sidewalk cafés in Paris? Or do you want to relocate your entire life to one of the countries in Europe?
The answer to this question is essential, as it will decide which residency visa route you choose.
For example, if you’re looking for a short-term stay, you should check out the European countries that currently offer digital nomad visas.
On the other hand, if you want to move to Europe permanently, you’ll need a long-term residency permit.
And if EU citizenship is one of your long-term goals, you should choose one of Europe’s easiest countries to get citizenship.
Defining your goals early on will guide you to the European country that fits you best.
#2. Choose Your Residency Route
Hopefully, the first step has helped you narrow down your target country.
Next, you need to decide on the best way to get residency there. All US passport holders can enter the Schengen area and stay for 90 days. But for longer stays, you’ll need a residency visa.
In general, countries in Europe offer several ways for Americans to get residency. One way is to get hired by an employer in your target country, then get them to sponsor your work permit.
But this way is full of challenges. Not only do you need to get hired in the first place, but also handle the complexities of applying for a work permit.
Fortunately, many countries in Europe offer routes to residency designed for those who can already support themselves financially.
That could be through existing passive income sources, such as pensions, rental income, investments, or dividends. These routes are often known as retirement visas, but you don’t have to be a pensioner to use them.
A second way to get residency is using remote work for an overseas employer, such as one back home in the US. This is usually covered by the growing range of digital nomad visas in Europe.
Lastly, another residency route involves making an investment in the target country, for example in real estate or investment funds. You can then use the investment as a means to get residency.
Some of these programs, such as the Portugal Golden Visa, give you a lot of flexibility. They allow you to come and go whenever you want, without being restricted by the usual minimum physical stay requirement of 183 days.
In fact, with the Portugal Golden Visa, you only need to be in-country for seven days per year to maintain your residency rights.
Once you’ve chosen the best residency route, make sure to check the application requirements carefully.
And make sure you leave plenty of time to submit the application and get it approved before booking your travel. Depending on country, the process can take several months.
#3. Understand Tax Implications
Moving to Europe long-term is likely to have certain tax implications for you. It’s vital to be fully aware of these before going ahead with your move.
In most European countries, applying for residency and staying over 183 days in-country will automatically make you tax resident there.
Several countries – most notably Portugal with its NHR program – have special tax treatment for new residents. Depending on your situation, you may end up paying a preferential rate of tax.
You should always consult a local tax advisor in your new country, preferably before applying for residency.
Because of citizenship-based taxation in the US, you’ll still need to file an annual tax return to the IRS. We recommend consulting a US tax advisor to see if you can benefit from any exemptions on your foreign income.
#4. Prepare Your Finances
First, make sure you’ve set up online banking for all your US bank accounts.
As part of moving to Europe, you’ll also have to handle money in more than one currency.
Perhaps you get paid in US dollars but pay your living expenses in euros. Or perhaps you get paid in euros but still have to pay tax in the US.
Whatever your situation, you’ll probably need a cross-border bank account.
Best cross-border accounts for moving to Europe :
Most of these are app-based, free to open, and offer local accounts in a range of different currencies.
What’s more, these accounts are great if you’re working remotely with clients around the world. They can pay you “like a local” in their home currency.
Which cross-border account is best for you? Check out our guide to Wise vs Revolut
Once you move to Europe and become resident in your target country, you should also consider opening a local bank account with one of the national banks.
#5. Sort Out Your Belongings
Another key part in the process of how to move to Europe is what to do with your belongings.
For some, an international move is a good opportunity to downsize. You could hold a garage sale, sell your possessions on eBay or Facebook Marketplace, or simply give them away to friends or to Goodwill.
For others, it’s important to keep your belongings with you when you start your new life in Europe. If you want to do this, I recommend finding a good quality storage unit to keep them in while you arrange accommodation in your new country.
Customs regulations in most of Europe will let you import one container without paying duties, but you’ll need to prove your residency status to get this benefit.
We recommend working with a reliable global shipping company, as they’ll be familiar with the details of European customs.
#6. Decide Whether to Sell or Rent Out Your Property
If you’re a homeowner in the US, you should make a plan for dealing with your property when you move to Europe. If you’re planning a long-term or permanent move to Europe, then selling your US property is probably the best way forward.
In some cases, you may want to rent it out instead. You can do this with long-term tenants, or on a shorter term basis using a platform such as Airbnb or Flatio.
If you’re going for the latter option, then we recommend hiring a property management service to handle all the complexities while you’re living in Europe.
For those with tenancy agreements, check your contract to see how much notice you need to give before moving out. If you have a break clause, now might be the time to use it.
#7. Buy Suitable Travel Insurance
Most European residency visas require travel insurance as part of the application.
The insurance policy needs to cover you anywhere in the Schengen zone. It should iinclude emergency medical treatment and repatriation of the body in case of death.
In many European countries, such as Portugal, you can access state healthcare once you have your official residence permit.
If you’re going for a 90 day European tourist trip to explore various countries, then having insurance isn’t essential. But it’s a good idea to get it anyway, just for additional peace of mind.
These providers offer suitable travel insurance for moving to Europe:
#8. Set Up a Virtual Mailbox
Even after you’ve moved to Europe, you may need to receive some physical mail from organizations and services in your home country.
For example, student loan letters, letters from the IRS, and other kinds of bills.
To make sure you don’t miss any important mail, you’ll need a way of receiving physical mail while you’re living abroad.
One way to do this is by setting up a virtual mailbox service. These give you an address in your home country to use for receiving mail. They then scan and upload each letter so you can easily read it online.
Alternatively, you could ask a helpful relative or friend to receive your physical mail while you’re away.
#9. Renew Your Bank Cards
When renewing your bank cards and credit cards back home, you’ll probably find that your US bank will only send new ones out by post to your home address in the US.
That’s why it’s worth trying to renew as many as possible before you move to Europe, especially if they’re due to expire soon.
In the worst case scenario, you may be able to switch your US banking address to the home of a friend or family member. They can then receive important mail for you, including new bank cards.
#10. Renew Your Driver’s Licence
Your driver’s licence is another important thing to renew before moving to Europe.
Once you become resident in a European country, you usually need to exchange your US licence for a local one within a certain number of days from the date when you officially become resident. For example, it’s 90 days in Portugal.
If your driver’s licence expires during this window, before you’ve had chance to exchange it, you may have to retake your driving test in your new country. Be aware of this, and do the necessary research for your target country before moving.
#11. Find Groups and Activities in Your New City
Moving abroad can be a lonely endeavor.
It helps if you’re moving to Europe with a partner or other family members. But even then, you can’t underestimate the power of forging new human connections.
That’s why you should make sure your new city or town has a healthy community of like-minded people.
To settle in quickly and reduce the risk of culture shock, do so, it’ s important to find time for enjoyable activities when you’re not working.
Check out Facebook and Meetup.com groups for your target country or city, to see what sort of things are going on. Internations is also good. If you’re single and consider yourself a digital nomad, then Nomad Soulmates is worth a look.
Are there particular hobbies that you’ve done for a while, or would like to start doing? Make sure your new destination offers you the opportunity to get involved in these.
Moving to Europe is a major step that will revolutionize your life.
But as with most big life changes, there are lots of things to juggle.
In this article, I’ve walked you through 11 essential tips on how to move to Europe with ease.
Start by narrowing down your target country based on the type of residency routes it offers (and whether you’re eligible for them).
After that, it comes down to your level of comfort in that country.
To figure that out, I highly recommend using your 90 day tourist allowance to visit Europe and see which countries suit you best – before launching into your big move.