What is the European Union Policy or Stance on Immigration from non Member Countries

While the advent of the European Union has drastically decreased the barriers to immigration between the countries of Europe, at the same time the legal regimes governing EU immigration have made it nearly impossible to immigrate from a non-member country.  For the purposes of most workers, the stance of the European Union on immigration is: do not bother.

One note at the outset: immigration is a particular legal process, and the term generally means that somebody will move to a new country with the intent of the move being more or less permanent and with the intent to work once he or she arrives.  This makes immigration distinct from travelling as a tourist in a country or temporarily studying at university.  Tourists and students will have no trouble getting visas to enter the EU, and in fact for residents of many countries there is no need to even get a visa to enter the EU as a tourist.  Those entries will be valid for up to three months.  However, penalties for people who overstay a tourist entry permit face strict penalties, and may lose the ability to apply for reentry later.

The set of immigration agreements governing most European countries are called the Shengen Agreement.  In addition to opening internal borders within Europe, the treaty requires countries to give preferential treatment to people within Europe for employment visas.  In order for a non-EU citizen to receive authorization to work in a country covered by the Shengen Agreement, the country must receive proof that the employer advertised the job for at least three months and received no applications from qualified EU citizens.  Most employers are unwilling to go to those lengths to fill a position with a non-EU citizen, so the rule has the de facto effect of closing off work to anybody other than an EU citizen.

However, there are some slim exceptions that might apply to some people.  First, many countries in Europe will give preferential treatment to what would be termed common-law spouses in other countries.  People in long-term serious relationships with citizens of the country might (might!) be able to convince the immigration authorities that a work permit is appropriate in such a case.  The regulations will vary from country to country in that case.  In addition, very wealthy people might be able to arrange to immigrate to EU countries by proving that they are bringing significant resources with them and will not be relying on labor in the country to pay their bills.  In that case, the immigrant is arranging for long term residence without the ability to earn money through work.

The EU has taken a very hard line on allowing outsiders to immigrate with the intention of finding work.  With preference given for EU citizens first, the practical effect is that the EU immigration policy with respect to people from non-member states is that you are more than welcome to visit and come to study, but do not plan to stay and work.