Work permits For Members

COMPARED: What salary do you need to get a work permit in different European countries?

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
COMPARED: What salary do you need to get a work permit in different European countries?
Employees of Aura Aero company work on an "Integral R" aircraft model inside the factory building in Cugnaux, near Toulouse, France. Photo: Charly Triballeau/AFP

Several countries in Europe are reducing the salaries people from outside the EU need to be eligible for a work visa, although one – Sweden – is raising the threshold. Here's a comparison of current rules in the countries covered by The Local.


The regulatory regimes governing labour migration in our countries vary from the relatively liberal to the highly restrictive, with mixes of salary thresholds, skill shortage lists, quota systems, and employment conditions agreed with unions.  

Germany, Austria, and Denmark are all this year lowering salary thresholds to make it easier for businesses to hire much-needed IT workers and engineers, as well as to bring in younger workers to balance their ageing populations.

The EU as a whole reformed its EU Blue Card scheme in 2021 for similar reasons, with the new scheme starting to apply this year in most member states.  

Sweden is alone in moving in the opposite direction, with the salary threshold for a work permit set to more than double to 27,360 kronor a month at the start of November, and a further hike to the median salary planned for next year. 

Arguably Sweden was ahead of the curve, however, having brought in very liberal work permit policy back in 2008, when it abolished its system of labour market testing, and set the minimum salary for work permits at just 13,000 kronor (€1,125) a month. 

Here are the headline numbers on the salary thresholds in different European countries covered by The Local's network, first under national schemes and, secondly, for a European Blue Card, a card issued to high skilled workers allowing them to work in the EU.  

In countries such as Germany, the European Blue Card is a popular way of getting a work permit. Under the new more flexible rules, countries can require applicants to earn between 1 and 1.6 times the average annual gross salary.  

Some countries set different multiples for different professions or regions, with Germany setting a lower minimum salary for IT workers and engineers, for example. 

In November the Blue Card salary thresholds in Germany are being lowered to further attract foreign expertise. 


Country-by-country breakdown 


Germany offers a Work Visa for Qualified Professionals for non-EU citizens, which currently has a salary requirement of €48,180.  Citizens of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland or the USA can come to Germany without a visa but need to apply for a residence permit for the purposes of paid employment within 90 days. 

The EU's Blue Card scheme is also a very popular visa for non-EU IT workers coming to Germany to work, as the required gross annual salary for employees in IT, mathematics, natural sciences, engineering and medicine, at €45,552, is slightly lower than for the Qualified Professionals visa. Workers in other fields need a salary of €58,400 to be eligible for a Blue Card.

From November, Germany is cutting the salary threshold required for an EU Blue Card to €43,800 and to an even lower €39,682.80 for in-demand "bottleneck professions".

In March, the rest of the law will come into force, will making it easier for skilled workers to bring dependents, and bringing in a new points-based jobseekers’ visa known as the Chancenkarte, or "Opportunity Card". 



The last of Volkswagen's e-Golf electric vehicle roll off the production line in Wolfsburg. Photo: Oliver Killig/Volkswagen


In France, the employer hiring from overseas may be responsible (depending on the sector) for applying for the permit, or autorisation de travail. In many cases, employers need to prove that they have already advertised the job locally and did not get any suitable French or EU candidates, a time-consuming process which deters many employers from hiring internationally. 

A standard working visa for France requires only that candidates earn the equivalent of French minimum wage (SMIC) which is currently €1,747 per month, pre-tax (or €20,964 a year). 

This salary or above would be sufficient for a standard employee visa, while people who intend to be self-employed or freelance need to prove that either they will earn that amount per year, or they have the equivalent amount in savings.

There are some visa types that have higher salary limits though, specifically the "talent passport" visa, a multi-year visa reserved for people in certain specialist fields or for high-earners. The advantage of it is that it gives a four-year visa and the right to bring family members with you, but you are also required to meet certain qualifications.

Some types of talent passport visa are based on having a certain expertise (such as scientific researchers) or an established international reputation, while other types are based on earning power.

They include the Salarié qualifié scheme, which requires applicants to have signed a contract for a job with a salary of at least €41,933. There is also the Salarié en mission scheme which applies to inter-company transfers to France, for which the minimum salary is a lower €37,739.52. Finally there is the Mandataire social scheme, which applies to foreigners who have been working for a French company for at least three months. The minimum pre-tax salary for this is €62,899.20 per year. 

Foreign graduates of French universities can obtain a job-seeker's visa called the recherche d'emploi/création d'entreprise which can give them the right to stay in France for a year after they graduate, in order to find a job. If they succeed their salary must be at least 1.5X the minimum wage, or €31,450.

Finally, there is the Carte bleue européenne (Blue Card), which requires a minimum pre-tax salary of €53,836.50.

READ ALSO: Is there a minimum salary for a work permit in France? 



Like Switzerland, Italy has a quota system for work permits. This year, Italy issued nearly ten times as many - 82,705 - more than half of which are issued for seasonal workers in agriculture.

The quotas are broken down by industry sector, and this also varies every year, with almost all available permits in 2023 limited to road haulage, construction, hospitality and tourism, mechanics, telecommunications, food production, and shipbuilding. A small number of permits, currently set at 500, are available to self-employed workers.

The minimum annual salary requirement (or income requirement for freelancers) for obtaining one of these quota permits is €8,500.

The minimum salary for eligibility for the Blue Card scheme is set at a relatively low €24,789, making this a relatively attractive way to obtain a work permit. 




Spain amended its immigration laws to make it easier for non-EU citizens to work in the country in August 2022. Previously the only way non-EU nationals could be hired from overseas for a contract job was if employers could not find an EU candidate for the position, or if the job was on Spain’s shortage occupation list, which is made up almost entirely by jobs in the maritime and shipping industry.

The new law makes it easier for non-EU workers to get a work permit to if they are taking a job in agriculture, hospitality, or construction.

Spain's standard work permit regime does not have minimum salary requirements. Neither does the country's self-employment visa, but applicants do have to provide a business plan to authorities and proof of sufficient funds to start their business.

This year, Spain introduced the Digital Nomad Visa for those living in Spain but receiving their income internationally, which requires proof of an income of €30,240 per year.

In June 2023, Spain rolled out the EU Blue Card, which requires an employment contract lasting for at least six months that will pay you 1.5 times the average gross annual salary, which based on 2022 salary figures, comes to €38,000 a year. 



From the start of November, the minimum salary eligible for a work permit is set to more than double to 80 percent of the median salary, or €28,500  (328,320 kronor) a year. Next year, the government plans to hike the minimum salary to the full median salary, with exceptions brought in for key professions. 

Currently the minimum salary eligible for a work permit is around €13,500 a year (156,000 kronor). To be eligible for a work permit, an applicant's salary and employment conditions must today match those agreed with unions under collective bargaining agreements. 

While the European Blue Card exists in Sweden, it is hardly used, as the minimum salary of €65,000 has been so much higher than that applied for a standard work permit application. 

READ ALSO: How Sweden's new work permit threshold will work in practice 



Austria in October 2022 completely reformed its Red-White-Red work permit card system for highly skilled work migrants to make it the centre of a new points-based work migration system. Very Highly Qualified Workers, Skilled Workers in Shortage Occupations, Other Key Workers, Self-Employed workers and Start-Up Workers are all eligible for Red-White-Red cards. 

For the first two of these, there is no minimum salary required. 'Other Key Workers' must earn €35,100. Self-employed workers need to show their role involves the transfer of at least €100,000 in capital to Austria, and Start-up Founders need to show they have start-up capital of at least €30,000 in the company and at least a 50 percent stake. 

The Blue Card is also popular among non-EU citizens seeking work in Austria, with the minimum salary currently set at €45,595. 



Switzerland has a restrictive, quota-based work permit system, with employers who want to hire from outside the EU needing to secure one of the relatively few permits issued each year. 

In 2023, the federal government issued 8,500 permits for third-country employees (with UK nationals excepted). 

Employers must first apply to their Canton's immigration authority, explaining why they need to hire a non-EU national. If the Canton wants to grant a permit, it forwards the application to the State Secretariat for Migration, which reviews applications "according to admission criteria that apply to the whole of Switzerland". If it is accepted, the Canton can then issue a work visa. 

There is no minimum salary requirement. 

As Switzerland is outside the EU, the EU's Blue Card Scheme does not apply. 

READ ALSO: Is a job offer enough to work in Switzerland as a non-EU/EFTA citizen?



In April, Denmark brought in its Supplementary Pay Limit Scheme, which cuts the minimum salary for non-EU citizens hired to work in Denmark to 375,000 kroner (€50,269) per year. The scheme only applies so long as unemployment in Denmark is below 3.75 percent. If it rises above this, applicants need to use the older Pay Limit Scheme, where the salary limit is currently 448,000 kroner (€62,319) a year. 

People from non-EU countries can also receive work permits under the two "Positive List" schemes for workers who have a higher education or set of specific skills of which there is a shortage in the country. There is no minimum salary threshold for these schemes, but pay and conditions must meet Danish standards. 

Due to Denmark's opt-out from EU rules on Justice and Home affairs, the EU Blue Card does not apply in Denmark. 



Skilled workers from non-EU/non-EFTA countries applying for a work permit in Norway need to receive a salary which is considered "normal in Norway". 

For roles covered by union collective bargaining agreements, which includes most jobs, this is set at the wage rate for the position agreed by unions. 

For industries with no such agreement, the minimum salary threshold is 480,900 Norwegian kroner per year pre-tax (€41,490) if the position requires a Master's degree and 448,900 kroner (€38,723) if it only required a Bachelor's degree. 

As Norway is not an EU country, it is not covered by the EU Blue Card Scheme. 





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