Which visa do I apply for to work in the Schengen Area after my student visa expires ?

I’ve finished studying in the Schengen Area on a visa that expires soon, what visa do I need to stay on to work?

Student visas are a great way to experience living in one of the 27 Schengen Area countries while learning and can allow you to work for a limited number of hours per week - but do not allow you to stay in the Schengen Area beyond the completion of your studies, even if you have employment lined up. To stay in the Schengen Area and take up a job offer you will need to apply for a work visa - or permit, as it is sometimes referred to. Some countries do offer students the chance to apply for an extended residency visa while they look for employment.

To obtain a work or residency visa, you will need to apply via the authorities of the country you plan to live and work in - and each has different, if often similar, criteria for granting these. This means you cannot generally apply for a visa to work in France and then take up a job in Germany. However, your work visa doesn’t have to be for the country you studied in if your job offer is in another country.

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Can I get a residency visa without a job offer to stay after my studies ?

As stated, work visa requirements vary from country to country - and some nations grant students special dispensation to look for employment following the completion of their course. For example, Germany allows students to apply for an extended residency permit that gives them 18 months to find work related to their studies after their student visa expires, while Spain grants a similar residency visa lasting up to one year allowing a person to seek employment.

However, other countries have stricter conditions. For example, France allows those studying for bachelor’s (undergraduate) degrees to stay on only if they have a work permit. Those who have completed a master’s (postgraduate) course may apply for a temporary residence permit for a period of up to two years. Sweden, meanwhile, usually requires that you return home if you have not lined up employment after completing your studies.

What kind of job offers will gain me a long-stay work visa?

The easiest way to gain a long-stay work visa is to obtain a salaried, long-term job offer that relates to your studies. Those with high-level qualifications and a job offer with a high salary may even be able to obtain an EU Blue Card enabling them to work across Europe. In Germany, for example, job offers paying at least €53,000 a year, or at least €41,808 a year for mathematicians, engineers, natural scientists, technicians, or physicians, enable you to apply.

If you don’t meet the EU Blue Card requirements in the country you want to reside in, this should not be a major problem, but your ability to stay on and work will depend on local policies and your circumstances, such as academic qualifications and the specific nature of your job offers, so it is best to seek advice from your institution and local officials who will be able to guide you through the process and provide tips.

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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.

Freelancer visas

In the modern world, more and more people are working as freelance contractors rather than taking up permanent contracts at one firm. Some Schengen countries, like Germany and Portugal, offer freelancer visas for those who want to be their own boss. The good news for graduates is that high-level qualifications make it easier to obtain this visa - but you will be asked to provide those qualifications, certifications from a professional body - such as in law or accountancy fields, as well as examples of previous work and employment. You will also be asked to prove you can support yourself during your time living in the country.

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Frequently asked questions about applying for work visas in the Schengen Area

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, as well as whether you have received a qualifying job offer, can prove you have a certain level of qualifications, or are able to work as a freelancer.

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.