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Top 6 things that you should do before relocating to Europe

Would you make a decision about moving abroad overnight? May be not, unless you are forced to. And you would have a solid reason behind it – get a high-quality education, start a business in a favourable environment, optimise taxes or live your life in a safe and stable country where you can plan the future.

To ensure a smooth relocation and settling in a new country, you must plan everything carefully focusing on every detail. We have prepared a step-by-step guide for those who want to immigrate to Europe.

Step 1: Choose your destination

Start by clearing your mind of any preconceptions and illusions. If you hear about people moving to this and that country, it does not mean that you are welcome there or that it is a piece of cake. Germany, France and USA are known for being very strict with migrants. Netherlands and Sweden are not over-welcoming either.

If you insist on relocating somewhere that would take a lot of time and money, it is your choice. However, we will recommend choosing a country with less stringent immigration laws.

How to move abroad

You must know that a visitor visa is not enough and you need a long-term visa. Here is a route to citizenship abroad.

  1. Residence permit (e.g. work or study visa).
  2. Permanent residence (ILR or settlement).
  3. Naturalisation.

If you immigrate to Europe on a work or business visa, you must go all the way through different stages. First you get your visa, or residence permit. Then in 2-10 years of living in a country and passing language and life tests, you can apply for permanent residence. 1 to 3 years later you are eligible to apply for a European passport.

How to get citizenship faster

Some jurisdictions that are trying to attract foreign investments offer special programs where an investor can get residence permit or citizenship much quicker.

Below you can see main European residence by investment and citizenship by investment programs with timelines of obtaining a status you need.

CountryResidence permitPermanent residenceCitizenship
Malta1–3 weeks5–6 months1 year
Cyprus1–2 months1–2 months6 months
Latvia1–3 months5 years10 years
Montenegro3 weeks3 weeks6 months
Portugal2–6 months5 years6 years
Spain2–3 months5 years10 years

How to immigrate to the UK

We have singled the United Kingdom out because there is no fast-track investment program. However, there is Tier 1 Investor Visa that will give you UK permanent residence, or ILR, in 2 to 5 years depending on how much you invest. You can apply for British passport in at least 5 years of living in the UK and at least a year after becoming permanent resident – these two factors combined, you will become British citizen 5 or 6 years after moving to the country.

Great Britain is always happy to give visas to talented entrepreneurs with impeccable reputation that want to grow a business on the British soil. Business visas come in several categories and as a rule you can apply for an indefinite leave to remain after 5 years of residing in the UK.

There is more information on choosing a relocation country in this article.

Step 2: Get to know the place

Global rankings such as Happiness Index and Peace Index are very useful and can be used as a reference. However, it is always better to form your own opinion of a country where you are going to move with a family. 1 or 2 reconnaissance visits will be enough, but do not go there as a tourist, imagine you live there. Here is simple advice to follow.

  • Stay away from hotels
    Rent a flat or a house in an area where you plan to live after relocation.
  • Stay long
    Do not expect to get a feel for the life in that country after only 5-7 days. Go there for several weeks in different seasons, for example in summer and in winter.
  • Check the infrastructure
    Are you happy with local amenities? How close are utilities, pharmacies, shops, cafes, cinemas and concert halls? How good are the roads and public transport?
  • Evaluate cost of living
    European visa applicants are required sometimes to show that they have enough money on their bank account to maintain themselves and a family. Irrespective of this requirement, you also need to understand how much living abroad will cost you. Do not change your habits, buy what you normally buy and you will soon figure out your budget for a month, quarter and a year.
  • Feel safe
    Last but not the least – you must feel safe in a country you want to live in. Do your research and talk to locals – find out how safe the place is in terms of crime rate and attitude to migrants.

Step 3: Plan your income abroad

Think about sources of income when you relocate and check if you can work abroad. Do you have a business that you can run remotely and that will maintain you?  Or, do you plan on retiring and enjoying life? Because if you plan to work abroad, you must check your visa restrictions in case that particular European program limits what you can do.

Where you can do business

Not all countries restrict migrants in their right to work. UK, Spain, Malta and Cyprus encourage business initiatives and make it easy for people to set up and run a company without administrative hurdles.

Entrepreneurs coming to EU and UK will be offered full support and customised solutions from London-based company Imperial & Legal. Our qualified specialists will help you register a UK company and provide comprehensive administrative, legal and accounting support.

We can also be very helpful if you need to open a bank account in a European bank where new residents are always treated with suspicion.

Step 4: Search for schools, universities and hospitals

If you are not moving alone, you should look for nurseries and schools beforehand. If you have high-school or older kids, make sure you understand how higher education works and which universities are nearby. Look at curriculum, costs and requirements for new students.

Even if you have good health, you might need a doctor at some point, and Europe is known for high standards of healthcare. Сheck how accessible health service will be to you, whether or not you need a medical insurance and how much it is going to cover.

Step 5: Plan and optimise taxes

Since you are moving to a new country for a long time, in about six months you will be classed as a tax resident. it would be sensible to check what taxes apply in a country you are moving to and what tax benefits you can use initially and after.

Tax advisers at Imperial & Legal recommend sorting out all tax-related issues before and not after relocation – this way you can prepare your assets beforehand and save money on taxes abroad. More information on UK tax laws and legal ways to reduce your tax burden can be found in this article.

Similar issues must be tackled if you plan to start a business abroad. Tax laws of some European countries allow to optimise taxes of companies trading outside of the country of registration.

Step 6: Prepare all necessary documents

Normally applications for a residence permit or citizenship must be accompanied by a big bundle of documents that you need to prepare at home. If you struggle with this, talk to licensed immigration lawyers that will help with all supporting documentation and paperwork and make sure you comply with all relevant laws and regulations.

Legal team at Imperial & Legal has been helping clients to move to Europe for many years whether it is studies, work, business or other purposes. Our qualified experts will be happy to advice on any issue related to relocation abroad and tailor solutions to your specific needs.

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.