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Permanent residence in Europe – how to get it, advantages and disadvantages

Before we go deeper into explaining what European permanent residence means, let us talk about the term itself. Permanent residence, indefinite leave to remain (ILR), settlement or any other word that might be used to describe it, means that you are granted a leave to live in that particular country without restrictions, indefinitely. It is very close in rights and freedoms to citizenship, but we will talk about it later. It all starts with a visa or residence permit that also allows you to live in the country all the time, but it is subject to restrictions and extensions and is not given indefinitely.

What is a residence permit?

If you are planning to move to Europe for a long period of time, a short-term tourist visa or seasonal worker visa is not going to work. You need a long-term visa or a residence permit that gives the right to stay in the country for long periods of time, leave and re-enter it without applying for a visa each time.

How to get European residence permit?

It is not enough to have a lot of money, you must have good reasons to want to relocate to Europe such as studying in a university, job offer, opening a representative office of an overseas company or an ambitious business project. Time-limited residence permit or a visa often restricts a migrant as to what they can and cannot do in the country; exception is an investor visa.

How to get residence permit to Europe?

There is one simple rule here, the more money you are ready to invest in a country in order to get a long-term visa, the less requirements the government of that country is going to ask you to meet.

To demonstrate this, let’s have a look at two UK visas and compare criteria for each one.


Representative visaInvestor visa

English exam

RequiredNot required

Job experience

RequiredNot required

Qualification and skills

RequiredNot required

Restrictions to what you can do in the UK



3 years3 years and four months

How to obtain UK visa

We can see from the table that a representative of an overseas business can live in the United Kingdom almost as long as a Tier 1 investor. However, to get the investor visa, you must invest in British economy at least £2 million while a Representative visa does not require investments on your part, parent company will take care of funding the business. Therefore, an Investor gets a better deal, faster decision on a visa, no need to speak the language, no professional skills or experience required. Moreover, an investor is not limited in what they can do in the UK while a representative must work only in the branch of the parent company.

Foreign investors have it easier not only on the British Isles. For example, Malta, Latvia, Portugal, Spain and other jurisdictions run special programs and schemes that offer European citizenship to non-EU nationals in return for their investments in local economy.

What are advantages and disadvantages of European residence permit?

The key benefit is the right to live, study, work and/or do business in a democratic country. Other advantages include:

  • Visa-free travel in Schengen zone (please bear in mind that the UK is not part of it and requires a separate visa).
  • Healthcare in European centres and hospitals.
  • Tax residency in Europe and tax optimisation.

Disadvantages of a residence permit

No matter how many opportunities it gives, this status has a validity; it must be extended before it expires (extension requirements, number of permitted extensions and periods vary from country to country). Besides, you would not be allowed to live in another European state either. Fortunately, if you live in a country that issued you a permit long enough, you will be eligible for permanent residence permit which offers more opportunities.

Какую европейскую страну выбрать для иммиграции

What is permanent residence permit?

In the UK it is called an indefinite leave to remain or settlement and the essence of it is in the wording – it is given indefinitely, though in some countries it is also subject to extension (this is just a formality). Most European countries offer permanent residence status after 5-7 years of continuously living in the country.

In terms of rights and freedoms, a permanent resident closely resembles a citizen of a country; the only difference being the right to vote and stand for public office.

When you can apply for permanent residence

You can choose to get an indefinite leave to remain and go no further, meaning not applying for citizenship and passport – the choice is yours. But let’s talk about permanent residence permit first; to obtain it, you must be living in a country for a few years, sometimes less, sometimes more.

7 additional benefits of European permanent residence permit

  1. If you have moved to Europe under the Golden Visa or any other investment program after investing in real estate, business or bonds, you can get your money back, fully or partially, after obtaining permanent residence permit.
  2. Travelling to Schengen states without visas (UK not included in the list).
  3. Access to high-quality education in any EU country.
  4. Flexible terms in financial sector, opening accounts and taking loans in European banks.
  5. Access to social benefits and public funds.
  6. Right to apply for a second citizenship provided you pass a language test and prove your knowledge of history and culture of a country, the same as when applying for settlement.
  7. Your family members can apply to join you in the country.

How to get EU passport by investment

Which country in Europe to move to?

If you want your children to have more opportunities in life and yourself a calm and relaxed lifestyle in a safe and welcoming environment, move to a European country. However, even the European Union cannot be viewed as a uniform legal field, therefore you should look at each country individually, assess their pluses and minuses and make an informed decision. If you are not an immigration pro, get professional advice and support.

Qualified lawyers at Imperial & Legal have been helping clients relocate to and settle in Europe. Our key selling point is a comprehensive approach. Our specialists do not stop at immigration, visas, permanent residence or naturalisation, they go beyond that. We will help you with a wide range of matters, from relocation (finding a place to live, a school or nursery) to opening a company and providing full accounting and taxation support. Have any issue with moving to a foreign country? Contact us and we will offer you a customised solution.

Tired of getting general advice?

We will work with you to find a customised solution for your immigration, second citizenship, business, tax and other needs.