Can You Work Without a Visa as an Expat?

    Understanding the different options available to you

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    Having a work visa is usually the key to working in another country. However, the ease of obtaining a work visa varies by country. For many expats, securing a work visa is crucial to entering the job market. However, there are circumstances in which you can work without a work visa. Let’s find out how.

    European nationals working in the EU

    In general, citizens of European Union (EU) Member States are not required to have a work permit to work in another EU country. European citizenship, established in 1992 by the Treaty of Maastricht, was later supplemented by the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997. European citizenship is granted automatically to individuals from EU Member States. It does not replace nationality, but rather adds to it. While there is no concept of “European nationality” (nationality remains within the jurisdiction of individual states), it constitutes a form of citizenship that grants specific rights, such as the freedom to move and work throughout European territory without the need to a work permit.

    There are two main categories of jobs in the EU: regulated and unregulated professions. Most occupations fall under the general category, which allows European nationals to work freely in another European country. However, regulated professions follow a different procedure. Foreigners wishing to work in a regulated profession must undergo a strict application process, which may involve proving their professional qualifications by submitting a European Professional Card (EPC) application. You can submit this application online if you are a pharmacist, physiotherapist, nurse (general care), estate agent or mountain guide. However, if you are involved in a high-risk profession or a specific field such as law, your host country may carry out checks. It is your responsibility to check the list of regulated professions and the necessary steps, such as applying for an EPC, if applicable.

    Denmark Initiative

    As of November 17, 2023, a new regulation from the Danish Ministry of Immigration allows non-European expatriates who meet certain criteria to work in Denmark without needing a work visa. To be eligible, individuals must be employed by a company based abroad but affiliated with a company established in Denmark with a minimum of 50 employees. The recent measure imposes a time limit on non-European foreign workers without a work visa. They are allowed to work for the Danish company for a maximum of two 15-day periods within a total period of 180 days. After each 15-day work period, foreign workers must leave Denmark and remain outside the country for at least 14 days.

    The recent measure targets several sectors, including construction, agriculture, forestry, horticulture, hotels and restaurants, cleaning and freight transport. Refers to managers, high-level executives, middle managers, and positions requiring specific technical skills. Denmark specifies that certain professionals are exempt from the visa requirement, such as European nationals, members of the board of directors (limited to 40 days per year), and workers on specific assignments (limited to 90 days per year). Artists can work in Denmark without a visa if they participate in a “major” art event. Guest lecturers in Danish schools can also teach without a work visa, as long as they teach for a maximum of 5 days within a 180-day period in a school under the Ministry of Higher Education or the Ministry of Culture.

    Work without a work permit in Canada

    Section 186 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) outlines the categories of foreign nationals permitted to work in Canada without a work permit. The law applies first to business visitors, which refers to people who carry out activities such as trading on behalf of a foreign company in Canada, providing or receiving training for the Canadian branch of their foreign employer or representing a foreign company for sales purposes in Canada. If these people are officially recognized as business visitors, foreign workers can do so without a work permit. A similar exemption applies to foreign representatives accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and this exemption also extends to their families.

    Foreign diplomats, government employees and artists performing in Canada benefit from this measure, excluding film, radio or television productions. Additionally, professionals such as lecturers, official sports referees, management members organizing a convention, researchers and others are covered by the work permit exemption.

    Another short-term work permit exemption is available, lasting 15, 30 or 120 days, as part of the Global Skills Strategy. Immigration authorities emphasize that these exemptions apply only to workers entering Canada specifically for work-related reasons, and eligibility checks will be conducted. It is important to note that being exempt from work permit requirements does not mean being exempt from visa requirements to enter Canada.

    Work visa and work permit: Understanding the difference

    Although there is often confusion between the two, the general rule is the same.A work visa allows you to legally enter and stay in a country for a specific period and for a specific purpose. Countries with visa waiver agreements allow their citizens to legally enter and stay in the countries for the period set out in the agreement, usually around 90 days. Please note that a “work visa” is an entry authorization, not a work permit. However, the distinction is often blurred, especially in countries such as the United States and South Africa, where work may be authorized with a work visa.

    A work permit allows foreigners to work legally in a country fora specific period, in a specific role and with a specific employer. Most work permits are associated with a particular employer. However, others are not tied to an employer, giving foreign workers greater freedom. On the other hand, a residence permit allows foreigners to stay legally in the country for the duration of the permit. It allows entry and exit from the country without the need for a visa. However, it is important to note that time spent outside the host country should not exceed a specific duration, as exceeding this limit could lead to cancellation of the permit.

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