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Visas, Residency Permits and Citizenship


Wherever you move to, you are likely to have to deal with a huge amount of paperwork and bureaucracy and no matter how insignificant that old document at the back of the bottom drawer may seem now, the chances are at some stage you’ll have to show it to someone. Moving countries can be a bureaucratic nightmare at the best of times but will be easier if you come prepared.

Immigration and Work Permits

Immigration regulations vary enormously between countries and it is absolutely essential to obtain specific information regarding the country that you are planning to move to, finding out well in advance what types of visas or permits, if any, are required for yourself and any family members accompanying you, and what the procedures and timescales are for obtaining these.

Ensure that you use a reliable source of information to check the up-to-date visa and residency requirements for your chosen destination. Call the consulate in your home country, or check their website. You can also check the website of the country’s immigration department, often part of the Home Affairs Ministry or Ministry of Justice. Make sure that your passport has at least six months validity remaining, otherwise you may be refused entry to the new country.

The citizens of EU and EEA member countries are generally allowed to enter other EU/EEA countries freely to live and work, although there are temporary restrictions on freedom of movement between the countries that joined the EU in 2004, and other EU/EEA countries. Even if you do not need permission to live and work in a particular country, there may be legal requirements to register your presence there and to apply for a residence permit or identity card on arrival.

For relocations outside Europe, or from non-European countries into Europe, you will need to check the visa requirements for entry, as well as the residence and work permit requirements. It is often the case that the citizens of one country can visit another for a temporary period of up to three months without needing a visa, but as a temporary visitor you may not be allowed to seek employment during your stay.

If applying to live and work in a particular country, check what documents are needed to support your application. Some countries require you to undergo a medical examination and to include the medical certificate in your visa application. You are also likely to be required to submit bank statements, your work permit or offer of employment or other evidence of sufficient funding to support yourself and your dependents while in the country.

The types of documents you will almost certainly be asked for at some stage of your move and settlement in the new country include birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce/custody papers (if applicable), educational certificates, medical certificates (including those for your pets!), tax and social insurance records and driver’s licences. You will probably need multiple copies, although it may be cheaper to have the copies made when you arrive in the new country. Some countries will require you to have your important certificates certified, notarized and apostilled while in your home country – check the immigration and employment procedures for the country concerned to find out whether this is necessary. You may also have to get the documents translated into the language of the country that you are moving to.

Most countries require non-nationals who are not covered by a special arrangement such as the EU/EEA agreement to obtain a work permit before they are allowed to enter the country for the purposes of living and working there. In some cases, however, you are allowed to enter on a short-term visitor’s visa to look for work – check the visa regulations on the country’s embassy website to find out what rules apply to you.

Although specific procedures vary, it is normally the responsibility of the employer offering you a job to apply for your work permit to the relevant labour authority in their country, confirming that there are no suitable local applicants for the post. Some countries also operate quota systems for work permits in different employment categories, and applications are not approved once the annual quotas are exceeded. Once a work permit has been obtained, you will have to submit this to the relevant embassy or consulate in your home country to support your application for an employment or residence visa.

In most cases, work permits are not transferable to different employers and jobs – if you want to change your employment once in the country, you will need to obtain a new permit. Permits may be renewable once their initial period of validity has expired, if you are continuing in the same job, but this will vary between countries and will be subject to approval of the relevant labour authority.

Residence and Citizenship

Once you arrive in the new country you may be required to apply for a residence permit and/or an identity card. Find out from the immigration department or the country’s consulate in your home country what the rules and procedures are. Some countries require you to register with your local authority shortly after arrival and to re-register if you subsequently move to a different part of the country.

If you plan to apply for citizenship of your new country, you may have to have to wait for a number of years. Most countries have minimum residency requirements unless you are married to a national of the country or have close relatives who are nationals. If the new country does not recognise dual nationality, you will be required to surrender your original nationality on obtaining citizenship.


Some countries, Malta and Malaysia for example, have special programmes aimed at attracting foreign nationals to retire to their countries. These often offer benefits such as preferential tax rates, but they may also prohibit participants in the programme from taking any paid employment in the country, and may require them to deposit a specified minimum sum of money in a bank account as security. In the case of Malaysia, for example, a minimum fixed deposit is required, but a percentage of this can be withdrawn after a year for the purpose of buying property within the country. There may also be minimum age or income requirements for eligibility for such programmes. Check the immigration department website of the country you are interested in moving to in order to find out if they have a retirement programme for foreign nationals and what the eligibility criteria are.

If you are planning to retire abroad under one of these schemes, make sure that you check all the relevant terms and conditions and consider how these are likely to affect you. For example, if the programme does not provide the security of permanent residence status, it might be particularly important to retain a base in your home country. If you are not allowed to work under the scheme, you will need to ensure that your assets or overseas-generated income will be sufficient to cover your living expenses for the foreseeable future. For anyone retiring overseas, it is crucial to ensure that adequate arrangements are in place for receipt of pensions or other overseas-generated income in the new country of residence, and to consider the potential impact of future changes in their financial situation.


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