The different visas and residence permits that may or may not be required to live in another country can be confusing. Visas are currently not required for US citizens who are planning a trip to most European countries, but if you decide to extend your stay or live in the country, that all changes. Here is a description of the different permits required in most European countries for anyone planning an extended visit or to live in the European Union (EU).
What to Know About Visas and Traveling
US citizens can travel to the 26 EU countries that are part of the Schengen Agreements for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. The UK, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia or Cyprus are not part of the Schengen agreement, so travelers should check the requirements of any of these specific countries if planning a trip. Currently, the UK does not require a visa, but like other countries, they require proof of roundtrip travel and will want to know the purpose of your trip.
This will all change as of January 1, 2021 when the EU will require all US citizens traveling to Europe to apply through ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) for a permit prior to travel.
What to Know About Residence Permits for Living Abroad
Any US citizen planning to stay in a European country longer than 90 days will need to apply for a residence permit. In many cases you must go to your nearest consulate (while still in the US) for the destination country to apply, and the application must be completed and approved before leaving for your destination country. Some countries, such as Greece, will allow the application to be obtained while in country if done within a specific amount of time.
Most residence permits are good for one year. It is important to apply for and receive the next residence permit prior to your current residence permit expiring. For many of the European countries, you can apply for permanent residence after being in the country for a specified number of years (5 years seems typical).
How to Get a Permanent Residence Permit to Live Abroad
A permanent residence permit can be obtained in a variety of ways, depending on the country, and are good for longer periods than the regular residence permit. Staying in country for 5 years, or investing in property of a qualifying value are typical routes to qualifying for a permanent residence permit. In Greece, the permanent residence permit is good for five years, and allows the holder the same rights as EU citizens, including buying property, establishing businesses, or working in Greece. The permanent residence permit also allows the holder to travel freely through the EU in the same manner as EU citizens.
Permanent residence permits are only valid for as long as the qualifying conditions are maintained. For example, if you received your permanent residence permit in Greece because of purchasing real estate for 250,000 euros or more, then you must maintain that ownership in order to keep your permanent residence permit. If you sell the property, then you give up your permanent residence permit.
Applying for Citizenship While Living Abroad
Many countries allow expatriates to apply for citizenship after a specified number of years in country. With citizenship, visa and residency renewals are no longer necessary and you are allowed to dispose of any property you may own without jeopardizing the status of your citizenship. You will also be granted the same rights as any other citizens of the country.
As always, if you are planning to move to another country, be sure to look up the specific requirements of your destination country regarding permits, residency, and citizenship.