I'm a South African citizen and have been in a relationship with a Polish girl for 8 years. We have been living in South Africa most of this time - over 6 years now - but we would like to move to Europe, probably not to Poland itself.

How do I go about this? I've been looking for employment in countries like the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland (not EU I know) and Spain but it seems companies are very reluctant to hire a non-EU citizen.

Would it be easier to get some kind of spousal relationship permit and look for a job whilst in the EU and in possession of such a temporary visa?

2 Answers 2


If your spouse moves to an EU country under EU rules (except Poland because in this case national rules take precedence) then you would be entitled to a residence permit as well and you could work in the same country without restrictions. Getting a spousal permit is therefore generally much easier than getting a work visa on your own, at least if you are married. You might be able to get such a permit without being married but there are additional conditions and you generally need at least some form of “registered partnership”. The job market is not great in some of the countries you mentioned but you could at least tell employers that they don't need to worry about the paperwork. Having a local address would also help.

However, even being married would not help you if you want to move somewhere without your spouse and living with her in one EU country does not entitle you to work in another one. The logic of the applicable laws is that your girlfriend has a right to work and live where she wants in the EU and you have the right to come with her. So the easiest path as far as the residence permit is concerned would be for her to look for a job, do the necessary paperwork for you to move together and only then look for a job yourself.


It's indeed very much country-dependent. Different EU countries have different policies and programs regarding non-EU persons. For example, in the Netherlands you, as a non-EU citizen, can work for a company if one of the following conditions is met:

  • you are the partner of the EU citizen (if that EU citizen is Dutch, you would be required to pass Dutch elementary proficiency language test before getting the residence permit). This is the quick route, but you are considered to be a dependant of this EU citizen (that also means that he or she must in the first instance have enough means to support you both for such residence permit to be issued).
  • you have obtained so called "knowledge migrant" status (which is possible if you possess skills that are on high demand and if you have found a company who can sponsor the process)
  • you have obtained regular working visa (which is a longer process than the "knowledge migrant" one, but has less requirements for the applicant).

Until recently, after 3 years of working in the Netherlands the non-EU person could apply for so called "work without permit" status, but I am not sure if that's still applicable at the moment.

  • 2
    Note that the conditions of the NL "Skilled migrant visa" are pretty straightforward—your employer must be enrolled in the programme (costs them about $5k if they're not already) and they have to be willing to pay you over €52k, if you're over 30 (I think ~€40k if you're under 30, but don't quote me on that one.) Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 9:33

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