What do I need to know about applying for a work visa after studying in the Schengen Area?

I finished studying in a Schengen country and my student Schengen Visa will soon expire, which visa do I need to stay there and work?

Student visas are a great way to study in the Schengen Area but don’t usually allow you to work in the Schengen Area for more than a limited number of hours per week, and only allow you to stay for a finite period during which you complete your studies, so to continue to work after your visa has expired, you will likely need to apply for a new work visa.

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How do I apply for a Schengen work visa?

Sadly, there is no universal Schengen work visa, and so you will need to apply for a work visa in a specific country. So, you cannot apply for a work visa for France and then work in Spain. You will therefore need to apply for a work visa in the country you plan to find employment in. This does not necessarily need to be the country you studied in.

The requirements for a work visa vary from country to country. For example, Germany allows students to apply for an extended residency permit that gives them 18 months to find work after their student visa expires. In Germany, once you find a job offer that pays at least €53,000 a year, or at least €41,808 a year for mathematicians, engineers, natural scientists, technicians, or physicians, you can apply for an EU Blue Card entitling you to work in Europe. Sweden, on the other hand, usually requires you to return home after completing your studies if you do not have a concrete job offer. Spain allows you to apply for a special one-year residency visa while you seek a job.

As outlined, each country has a separate process for applying for a work visa that will depend on your circumstances, like your plans, job offers, and academic qualifications, so it is best to seek advice from officials while carrying out your studies as they will be able to guide you through the process and provide tips. In general, your application is likely to be easier if you can provide evidence of a job offer and academic qualifications.

What documents do I need to apply for a work visa for Europe?

Although the exact documents you need will vary depending on your circumstances, the standard requirements for an employment visa in Europe are two copies of a completed visa application form, two identical photos, a valid passport, any travel reservations, medical insurance, proof of accommodation, an employment contract, and your academic or professional qualifications. You may also be asked to prove you can speak the language of your host nation.

I’m confident I meet the criteria to work in Europe, when should I apply?

If you are planning to return to your home country before starting work, you are strongly advised to apply for a European work visa at least two months before your return trip as embassy staff can take six weeks to process an employment visa application. Sometimes the process can be extended to 12 weeks - so it’s good to apply early.

This does not apply to those who are planning to stay after finishing their studies, but again you are advised to look into your options and apply for residency permits or work visas well in advance of the expiration of your student visa. You may need to also look into the criteria for obtaining your work visa before accepting a job offer to check it will meet the requirements of your visa application. Again, as this varies by country it is best to seek out advice from local authorities and/or your academic institution.

How long will my work visa be valid for?

Most European work visas entitle you to work for one year, but allow for an extension if you have ongoing employment that meets the work visa requirements of the state you are applying in.

How can AXA help?

It’s better to apply for a work visa as soon as possible, so with time being of the essence, AXA can help by providing you with travel and medical insurance that meet your visa requirements from as little as €22 per week. A certificate proving you are insured will be available immediately, meaning you can get on with your visa application. If you’re planning to stay longer, you can also purchase more comprehensive coverage that will cover you and your family’s medical costs up to €100,000.

Frequently asked questions about working in the Schengen Area after studying there

What if my application to work in the Schengen Area is refused?

You can appeal against the refusal or reapply - for example, if you applied to take up a job that did not meet the criteria for obtaining a visa but have now received an offer that does.

Do I have to return to my home country when I finish my studies?

This will depend on the country you are staying in and their rules for gaining a work visa after completing your studies, as well as whether you have received a job offer. You might not necessarily have to return home, but it’s a possibility if you have not received a job offer when your student visa expires.

Can I work in a separate Schengen country to the one I studied in?

Yes, providing you have a job offer there, but bear in mind you will have to meet the employment visa requirements there, rather than in the country in which you studied.