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expat questions

I am in the process of making the move to Italy (my goal is for April of next year) and am having trouble deciding on what would be the appropriate (and most successful) route to take.

Basically, these are my options:
*6 months of language school and then find employment
*Au Pair- this would be through an agency like Interxchange. Has anyone had any experience with them?
*Pay 3 months on an apartment up front, find a job while I'm there and get a work visa
*Teaching English (I have TEFL ceritifcate)

I realize that it is not an easy thing to accomplish- but I HAVE to do it, in order to keep my sanity. Any ideas or websites (or books, anything!) you could point me to would be wonderful. I do speak Italian, not fluently but well enough.

I am also looking into Amsterdam or Paris if Italy does not work.

Thank you!

Posted by
506 posts

Gwen -

I can speak for France - and obtaining a working permit here for long stay is not easy if you do not already have a job. For instance - you must be able to prove that you have in hand at the time of request of Titre de Sejour - at minimum 400 euro per month in the bank, bank account in France, apartment with contract, proof of employment, proof of health insurance, etc.

At issue is how you are trying to immigrate. Things have changed considerable with the Schengen Agreement allowing EU citizens to gain employment within the EU - so consequently coming from the States is not as easy as it has once been.

I would recommend gaining an employment contract prior to arrival - as it may also be a precondition for your extended stay visa.

Best to check the embassy sites for each country you are considering.

Student visas tend to be much easier to get - but again rules vary by country. Typically - you will have to show you are attending classes etc.

Posted by
91 posts


Therein lies the problem...finding employment. France will be especially hard since my French is very poor. There are a few companies that offer Au Pair type programs where French is not required- however I'm not sure how reputable these programs are. I certainly to not want to end up dead-broke with nowhere to stay because the company went belly-up in the middle of my stay.

Would it be easier to find employment once I'm there? How stupid would I be to hop on a plane with a bank account full of money and a heart full of hope?

It seems so difficult, like only a miracle (or marriage!) will allow me to make the move. I wonder if it is the same for Europeans who want to immagrate to America?

Posted by
251 posts

This will sound harsh, but if you do not know the answers to these questions then you not ready to immigrate. True we might be able to help you better if you could say a word or two about age and background, and travel experience.

If you are over 25 don't expect Au pair work.
Unless you have private funds. Do not expect to make a living off of teaching English. There is no full-time work and often teachers are required to pay fees etc, and the hours are horrible, the pay worse you are also competing with British teachers who have a right to be there.

If you want to find regular employment then you better be FLUENT in the home language (language school will not give this to you.

You will not get a work visa unless you marry or PACS or bring a skill so unique they can't live without you.

That being said it can be done. I would advise to plan for 1 year of travel (w/money etc.)Then once you are there, decide what is possible, if no work out, come home.

Posted by
251 posts

Yeah I am long winded....

Try this web site for french info but also expect the advice to be pretty harsh as well.

You also need to consider if you are ready to live in a foreign country. It is VERY different then travelling there, daily costs, daily transportation, daily chores, laws/red tape, relationships in foreign languages. The things that you don't miss after three months suddenly become neccessities after 6.

Other options (The two ways I did it)

Try University (Bachelors or Masters) abroad (not language schools) it at least gives you a chance to live in a country legally.

Also you could explore working on US boats in the cote d'azur. You should have some maid, serving, or professional cooking experience.

Posted by
4555 posts

The realities are even more difficult than stated. European Union countries insist workers have proof they are citizens or legal residents of fellow E-U countries before they can be hired, usually through the form of national ID cards. They must also have permanent E-U residences. Much like America, they don't want people flooding into their countries taking jobs that should go to their citizens. As well, visitors are only allowed to remain in the Schengen list of countries (basically all EU countries except the UK and Ireland) for 90 days, then must wait 90 days before heading back in. To be brutally honest, it is extraordinarily difficult to settle permanently in Europe in cases like yours. You could look for work that pays "under the table," or sell pirated CDs on the streets like African migrants in Spain, Italy, and France. But those are precarious existences, and if you're caught and expelled, you may not be allowed back. Any of your grandparents born in Europe?

Posted by
5314 posts

Hi Gwen,

I spent several years as an expat in Europe. My company sponsored me and obtained the work visa.

You really need to have the appropriate visa before you enter the country. In general, it is not possible to go to a country and then obtain a work permit. Work permits are usually very restrictive. For example, the work permits that I had in the two countries in which I worked only allowed me to work for a specific employer in a specific occupation. I was not permitted to switch employers or to even take a different type of job with that employer.

You need to be in the country legally if you expect to live there normally. You may not be able to do basic things like sign a lease, get utility service such as phone or cable, or open a bank account if you do not have legal status in the country.

I'd suggest
which has helpful information about expatriation.

Posted by
91 posts

Thank you to everyone for your responses!

I certainly anticipated a degree of harshness as I'm well aware that this is not a simple thing to do. I'm fully prepared for the improbability of being able to legally move to another country. I am, however, quite steadfast in my desire to make it happen.

Trotro- I am 24 and have been abroad many, many times (three times this year alone). I've been studying Italian for two years and while I can hold a conversation and read it with relative ease, I know that I am nowhere near fluent. I would love to be, which is one of my reasons for wanting to move to Italy. If I were to enroll in a language school for 6 months, I would at least be able to live there for that long, right?

It seems as if my best bet, from what has been said here, would be to just go and travel for a year and try to achieve some sense of normalcy while I'm there...that is slightly heartbreaking...but better than nothing I suppose.

I'll keep working on it.

Posted by
9363 posts

Norm, just to clarify, you can only stay in the Schengen countries for 90 days at a time TOTAL, not per country, right? That was my understanding. So Gwen would need to leave the EU after three months and go elsewhere for three months before going back (unless you have a student or work visa or something).

Posted by
91 posts

Nancy & Norm-

Does this mean that I could stay in one of the Schengen countries for 90 days, go to the UK, and then come back? Or do I have to go back to the US? And do I also have to be gone for 90 days before I am allowed to come back?

Posted by
4555 posts

Yes, you could go to the Schengen countries for 90 days in a 180 day period. So you can spend 90 days in the Schengen countries (total, then go to the UK for 90 days, then head back into Schengen territory.

Posted by
6928 posts

Consider checking with a Schengen member Embassy about an extended visa. Not sure of all of the requirements, but it is possible and not much trouble to get a 6 month visa. The other problem may be that both the 90 day and 6 mo visa are not really work permits, so working during that time may create issues. I would concentrate on using the first 90 to 180 days to learn the language and making contacts, then with a job contact, apply for a work visa.

Posted by
19 posts

The situation for independent US expats in the EU really does suck, unless you have highly-desired skills. I'm fortunate in that I had a friend in Germany who wanted to employ me, and was willing to slog through the paperwork to get me a work permit.

I've generally heard good things about doing au pairs, but otherwise I have no clue about that. Personally, my second choice would have been a student visa for grad school. In Germany at least, it's relatively easy to be admitted to a university (though not easy to graduate!), and still quite inexpensive. A student visa will often allow you to do some kind of work during holidays as well.

To expand on what Paul said a bit, you should be able to get some kind of (non-working) temporary residence permit as long as you can prove you have adequate finances and health insurance. It's really just an extended tourist visa.

You still haven't said much about your personal situation (finances, education, age), so it's difficult to offer specific advice. Is teaching English what you really want? Besides living in Italy, what do you want to do?

Posted by
251 posts

I never had a problem overstaying 90 days. I lived there for almost 1 1/2 year from 2002-2004. I mean no one ever checked my passport, until it got stolen, then I got a new one and a new entry date.

But in case it is a problem it is fairly easy/cheap to take an easy jet flight over to Africa for a few days.

Posted by
22978 posts

A jet to Africa will not work. It is 90 out of 180. The clock does not restart when you step out.

Posted by
19 posts

It might not be strictly enforced in some countries, but overstaying your visa is a very bad idea if you want to get a real work/residence permit in the future.

Splitting your time between the UK and the Schengen area is a slightly crazy but probably entirely workable idea, particularly if you could get a partner to trade places with. Though again, you'd need to have your own finances for this.

Posted by
75 posts

Along w/the US gov't jobs, another possibility is to be "sponsored" by a diplomatic family, and travel/get extended visa that way. This option is available to all dip families, not just u.s.dips and was created to let people bring their servants. Maybe a dip wants an au pair in Italy. Good luck!

Posted by
710 posts

A friend's daughter was a bartender in Ireland last summer. Ran into people in England who were waitresing. Ran into a waitress in Switzerland. Know another person who went to Japan to teach English and someone else who did that in China 2 summers ago. I don't know what type of visa they had to work. The bartender and waitresses were college students working for the summer, which I thought was a great idea. Most college students in my area just go to one of our beach resorts to work for the summer if they want to get away from home. Cruise ships also hire, but I hear it is hard work. You don't get a lot of time off in ports. I had a hairdresser from England who was working on a cruise ship in the USA and Canada as a way to see our country,

Posted by
91 posts

Teaching English is not what I want to do per se, but I would certainly jump at the opportunity if offered to me. At this point I'd work at a waste management facility if it meant that I'd be able to live in Europe. As far as education is concerned I am college educated (B.A. in Art History and a B.A. in English Literature and Classics) but for all intensive purposes, like most degrees, they are quite useless. I work at an art museum as an Assistant Curator. Again, the skills I have acquired working at an art museum probably won't help me move to Europe.

I have lived the last 12 years of my life working diligently to attain certain goals and now, at 24, I'm ready to just "be" for awhile. Financially speaking, I work very hard and live very simply in order to fund my travels. I am not rich by any means.

The idealist in me is struggling with the fact that I cannot simply get on a plane and make a life on another continent. Despite that, I AM ready to move. That much I do know.

Posted by
12154 posts

Another option that hasn't been discussed yet. Depending on the type of job you want and are qualified for you should check out It list US Government jobs. You can search for overseas jobs that you may qualify for. That will take care of the job and status issues. If you aren't already a government employee, they probably won't help you with travel or moving expenses.

Posted by
517 posts

I just want to weigh-in because I have been in Gwen's shoes. She is doing exactly what I did: i.e.- Stating her goal and sticking to it. If she pursues every avenue and doesn't give up, she too will eventually get there. However, it may take a while. The first time I lived in Europe (for 2 years) I "just showed up". First I got a job at a German hotel as a dish-washer. They only hired me after they could verify that they could not find a German to fill the job. I eventually transitioned to an Engish Teacher job. Work permits were handled at the same time as all this was happening. (ahem. yes, this was 20 years ago.) Came back to the States for family reasons and also got a Masters Degree. Decided I wanted to work in Europe again. Got a good job in the States. Here is the depressing part: I probably applied to hundreds of jobs over a period of 12 years!! But I eventually landed a real professional job that allows me to raise a family in Vienna, city of my dreams. Good luck, Gwen!

Posted by
4555 posts

Thomas....bravo! I applaud your patience and perseverance! But do you think your experiences of 20 years ago relate to today's EU climate? With more countries being admitted to the EU, richer nations are being swamped by legal workers from the less well off member states. It strikes me they're not exactly welcoming "illegal" workers with open arms. I'd hate to have Gwen run off and try to replicate what you did 20 years ago and see her get tossed out :( There are legal ways, as you and others have mentioned....I think the key is patience!

Posted by
1158 posts


There are many things you ahve to take into account when you move overseas, and even more when it's about EU.
In EU people are very well educated, it's not just they have a Bachelor's Degree, many of them have PhD, Master's degree. Besidees this they have skills , not just education. Often European speak at least 3 languages. Now I don't believe as au pair you don't need to speak the language. I heard this type of job is paid low, often even not paid at all.
The cost of living in EU is higher then in the US, but you can find a place to share with somebody else.
You said you've been taking Italian classes for 2 years, but you don't speak fluently. I don't want to seem rude, but after 2 years you should have spoken it near fluent.I knwo it's hard, but there are many options to improve a foreign language skills even when living in the US.
However keep in mind that Western Europe opened its doors years ago and now eastern Europeans are allowed to work anywhere in the EU or UK

Posted by
1158 posts

continue...Eastern Europeans are highly skilled in many areas, computers, banks, languages. And in Europe in order to teach English you don't have to be a native speaker of it, like in Asian countries.
Also you have to think how you are going to support youself if you don't make a lot of money.
Teaching English won't give you a lot of money.
Italy has had a lot of employment problems, it has the highest rate of unimployment, so I think you are going to find a job easily. So in France, but over there people don't realy want to work, especially immigrants, so you might have more chances in France.
I heard that in Holland there are many people working illegally. Maybe you should do research that way.Expired visa in EU will put in trouble, so I would consider to live legally anywhere I would go.Good luck to you!

Posted by
91 posts

I wanted to thank you all for your thoughtful comments.

I understand that what I want to do is not easy. Fortunately, I have the patience of an elephant and I am no stranger to hard work. I am confident that I will find my way. Being young and resilient certainly has its advantages...

It is not impossible! And that is enough for me.

Posted by
505 posts

I would also strongly suggest not staying in any EU country illegally. They CAN tell that you have overstayed, and now more than ever, are liable to punish you if you try to re-enter or if you are caught.

As someone who has been studying in the UK for 4 years, I can vouch that immigration regulations have been getting increasingly strict recently. Unless you are on a student visa, you must obtain a work permit (which is usually obtained by the company which wants to hire you) whilst you are in the US. This generally involves sending your passport in to the immigrations agency for a period of months (up to 6 months in some cases). What may have worked 2 or 3 years ago probably is not possible now.

For a job, your employer must prove that no EU applicant can be found for the job. Which means that you have to have specialised skills - IT or a Masters or PhD in an in-demand occupation.

The best advice is to either start looking for jobs now from the US...

Posted by
505 posts

to see if you have a real chance of getting a job in your field. Many countries have job websites specifically aimed at non-EU citizens.

The other option is to study - perhaps for a master's degree. That would not only give you more specific job skills, but likely open up options for visas and connections to jobs.

I would NOT, however, arrive in Europe expecting to get a job. It probably was possible in years past, but these days there are fewer available jobs and much stricter regs for non-EU citizens. And if you are entering a country on a student visa or extended Schengen visa, you will have to prove that you have enough $$ to pay for food, rent etc. as you will not be permitted to work.

You can succeed, but do your research wisely, be realistic about your chances and don't break the law. It's people who overstay visas who cause visa fees to rise for those of us who obey the law - which is why people who flout immigrations rules.


Posted by
2759 posts

Here is a post from working/living in Europe~~
Working in Europe
For recent college grads it is possible to be placed as an English language assistant in a European secondary school. The program is one of several sponsored by the U.S. gov't under the auspices of the Fulbright Commission. For example, my daughter had a great year in France, teaching 12 hours/week, getting an apartment (shared), and a stipend. She was also able to take classes for free at a local university. Google Fulbright programs to find out exact details.

USA 12/11/2007

Posted by
953 posts

Along the lines of the above post that mentioned government jobs:
If you've got the money to move yourself over there, move to a town with a military post. Get a job working at a PX or something like that just to start. I know that your intent is not to live the "American life." But if you get a job on a post there, you will be in the country legally. And it will give you money to live on while you learn about your surroundings and find another job off post. You very well could meet other Americans who are ex-pats that may work there, and they may be able to give you advice. I was a student in Germany and got a job on a military post towards the end of my stay. It gave me the luxuries of America but I was living the German student life. It's very easy to find an NAF job over there. There are military posts in: Vicenza, Naples, Livorno, Aviano, Sigonella. I just went to and there were PAGES of jobs in Aviano. It would be a way for you to transition to civilian life in Italy