Wednesday, June 11

Before you Pack your Bags and Move to the EU...

Drudge Report recently linked to the story 'With U.S. in slump, dual citizenship in EU countries attracts Americans' about Americans hunting out citizenship in an EU Country in order to work in Europe:

The creation of the European Union and its thriving economy is very appealing for Americans in a global economy.

"With an EU passport, I can live and work in 27 countries," said Suzanne Mulvehill of Lake Worth. "With a U.S. passport, I can live and work in one."

Americans can claim citizenship in any of the 27 European countries that are in the EU based on the nationality of their parents, or in some cases, grandparents and great-grandparents. Citizenship in one of those countries allows you to live and work in any EU nation. - Palm Beach Post

Yes, it is true that as a US Citizen, you only have the right to work in the US, but what is left out is that the US is an immensely large country, while many of the EU states are toy-sized countries. Eighteen of those 27 states have a population of less than eleven million. Eleven of those have a population of under six million. This is in line with many US States. So it would be fair to say that the EU is like a United States of Europe. It is just formed with 27 states instead of 50. And there is a popular map out that equates the GDP of countries to US States with a similar GDP. (Image found at the post here)

So on the surface, the European Union and the United States are two labor markets. A US Citizen can legally work in any of the fifety states and Washington, DC and most EU Citizens can work in any of the twenty seven EU States.

"did you know that: the EU allows you to travel, live and work in any EU-country, in most cases without border controls or paperwork?"

This would seem like a great opportunity for those who can gain the right to work in both labor markets, but it is only that simple in the US.

Take the employment summary from an EU website. I would not call this completely deceptive. However, the statement does depend on where you are now as to how 'Great' this aspect of the EU is compared to your country.

Living in the US, I am living in a union of states where I have the same right. I can move to any of the 50 states (and DC) and live there for work and be equal to those that have lived there their whole lives. This mobility of the workforce is a very important part of reducing unemployment. If the population is mobile and has the freedom to move from region to region, they can move to where the work is.

In the EU, most citizens can move to wherever they want in the EU for work, or for any reason without much restriction. There was talk of restricting citizens from new member states to prevent them all from moving to the higher paying countries. But the funny thing is, the EU did not need to enact barriers to keep people from moving from one country to another, as there are already natural barriers in place.

Take language. almost each country in the EU has it's own language and I can tell you from experience, that your going to have an impossible time finding work if you don't know the language. So if your are getting Greek citizenship, you are not going to find work unless you know Greek. And forget finding work in any of the other EU countries, other than the UK, unless you plan on teaching English for work. Language matters for even trivial work. But that's just for starters. You are not in their 'system.' Not in the banking system. Not in their Social Security system. Unlike the US, you need to get yourself registered each time you move to a new EU Country.

Then there is the fact that you are in another country. You have to learn how things are done there. In the UK, they drive on the other side of the road and you'll have to buy a new car because yours has the steering wheel on the wrong side. They do not use the euro in the UK either. Nor is the Euro used in Sweden and in the new EU member-states. While now a member of one EU country, you are still not a citizen of 26 other EU countries, so you can be excluded from public sector jobs, such as policeman, etc which is a shame since the public sector is normally the biggest employer of EU States.

As for border controls, the UK still has them for internal EU citizens too, but it is a formality. However, in a number of the countries, you will have to obtain a residence permit if your going to stay. And if you just want to move there and you don't have a job, you need to prove that you have enough funds to live without assistance as well as adequate health insurance. This is setup to prevent movement of the poor (most likely from states with poor welfare to those with good welfare programs.) But if can also prevent you from moving to an EU country other than the one you obtained citizenship in.

That's one of the great things about working in the US. Sure, NY is very different from Arizona, and from Alaska, and Hawaii, but I can be confident that all the basics will be the same; The language, the currency, the social security, the tax system and Government.

Eric Hammerle, a Vero Beach resident whose father was born in Germany, said it was easy for him and his 16-year-old son Nick to become German citizens.

They acquired the necessary documents - birth, marriage and death certificates - and took them to the German consulate in Miami.

"The whole process took about 20 minutes," Hammerle said. "They read over the documents, came back and said, 'Congratulations, Germany has two new citizens.' It was a fee of $85." - Palm Beach Post

Great for him. Now he just needs to learn German and move to some part of Germany to be able to look for a job. He is probably limited to the former West Germany since unemployment is very high in the former East Germany half of the country.

I lived in Finland for three years before giving up on the country and moving back to the US. I have recently met with two Americans and an Australian who were here when I left and 'stuck it out'. The Australian had both Finnish Citizenship and could speak Finnish and it still took a couple years to get established here, and it seems she did that by starting her own company. The two Americans did not have the benefit of knowing Finnish where they could work using it. They both were on what I consider shaky ground at the time and one described the situation for a couple years as 'just treading water' as far as work was concerned. But now they are established here. I know of another American living in Germany and he is getting along by tutoring 'Business English.' They will readily admit that they can earn more in the US and pay less taxes. But they do like living here and that is why they stay. Part of me wishes that I stayed, but somehow I reached the end of my rope here and was getting phone calls from the US about working there, so when faced with no opportunities in the EU and opportunity knocking in the US (and lots of student loans coming due and a depressed Euro) I made the decision to move back. Anyone moving to the EU needs to have patience to make the move work. That was something that I was lacking. My friends did manage to make working in the EU work, but they had the benefit of being smart guys who also happened to do their MBA in the country they eventually found work in.

One way to do this is to move back for school. But that probably fits more for your children, then yourself. At any rate this news story should be viewed with great caution. It is not that easy to pick up and move to the EU like moving to another state. Notice that they didn’t interview any Americans who had already moved to Europe.

Note: I have worked in a number of EU countries both as cargo ship crew and shoreside including over three years living in Finland.

With U.S. in slump, dual citizenship in EU countries attracts Americans - PalmBeachPost

Mobility of the Workforce - "Working in the EU" - 29 Oct 05



Martin-Éric said...

The whole situation with citizenship by ancestry that is common in so many EU countries is downright absurd:

The sheer number of people with a Finnish or German passport who could not speak either of those languages even if their life depended on it, and who clearly have no intention of living in either country, is simply astounding.

By contrast, people who have taken the step of learning the language and who have been contributing to their new homeland's economy are routinely disqualified from naturalization, on a routine basis, in both countries.

Both situations require immediate remedy. Distant ancestry is no excuse for claiming a passport, while several years of having contributed to a country very much is a very good reason for claiming citizenship.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

"Great for him. Now he just needs to learn German and move to some part of Germany to be able to look for a job."

No he doesn't, that is simply wrong. If doesn't speak German and doesn't want to learn, he could either take his chance in Germany getting a job where only English is needed like TEFL, easy enough an American friend told me if you are presentable and have a decent education. Or he could move to Ireland or the UK and look for a job there.

p.s. it takes about three minutes to learn to drive on the other side of the road and about two days to get used to.

Fred Fry said...

"he could either take his chance in Germany getting a job where only English is needed like TEFL, easy enough an American friend told me if you are presentable and have a decent education. Or he could move to Ireland or the UK and look for a job there."

I did mention in the post above that teaching English was an option without having to know the local language:
"And forget finding work in any of the other EU countries, other than the UK, unless you plan on teaching English for work."

I did fail to mention Ireland, but OK UK and Ireland. As for teaching English, that has been a longtime fallback position for Americans moving to the EU for marriage or for the spouses of those moving to the EU to work. I would not recommend anyone moving to the EU with an employment plan of teaching English. I was offered two jobs in Germany without knowing German. I have a background in logistics and Lufthansa Cargo was more interested in that than my German language skills. HOWEVER, they did plan on sending me off to German lessons immediately.

I have an American friend living in Germany, married to a German. He spent years teaching English. It is surely no reason to move from the US in search of a better future (which was the gist of the article) but more so an act of desperation. As you said, he took a chance.

OK, The driving issue can be seen as trivial, but it is another example of how less of a homogeneous abor market the EU is. Not only do you have to trade in your car for one configured with the steering wheel on the wrong side, but also you'll have to get new appliances as ones from the US and rest of EU don't work there.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to comment.

Consul-At-Arms said...

I've quoted you and linked to you here: