So you want to migrate to Europe? A ‘why and how-to’ guide

For those who are already migrants. Ever been told to go back to your country?

Ever been made to feel like a foreigner? An outsider even?

Migrating to another country can be tough, integrating is even tougher..especially if your original intention was to travel shortly then return home.

What if you belong to two or more places. What if you now have a birth country and an adoptive country? Which do you call home when they holler at you, “Go back HOME!”
In your home home *birth country* you may be labelled a summer bunny or a diaspora. They may make fun of the changes they have seen in you when you visit. They may poke fun at your accent, and your lamentations about how things work may come across as “snobbish,” and sometimes locals may scam you.
There may be that occasional request from relatives and friends for support; to help fund a child’s fees, or medical treatment, build a church, pay rent and other small contributions. You haven’t forgotten your community back home.

Traditional dancers at the Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi.

Traditional dancers at the Bomas of Kenya, Karen.

In your home *adoptive country* you’ve learnt to brave cold winters and fan yourself through sweltering hot summers. You ignore racist treatment, as well as the creeps who view you as a fetish. You make adjustments to your speech and language depending on who you’re talking to, you’ve become adept at ‘code-switching.’

Winter in Tilburg, the Netherlands.

There are several paths to leaving the African continent for Europe. Travel is a costly business, and migration even more so.
Some Africans have paid with their lives; walking through the desert, or trying to get across the Mediterranean sea to Europe, on tiny boats.
If it isn’t risky, it can be indignifying; what with the laborious visa process where you have to answer very personal questions and show sufficient proof of your intention to return to your home country. This may be through copies of a solid bank statement showing a healthy income in the past six months, health insurance cover, letters from your employer/boss, or documents from your country’s tax office and business permit if self-employed, evidence of strong family ties, and ownership of fixed tangible and liquid assets.

Yet, there are those back home in Africa who desire to go abroad and by all intents plan to stay. Within them is the urge to access a better life and a system that actually work. After so many messages asking me “How to”? This is my response.

Zurich airport, Switzerland.

Zurich airport, Switzerland.

Firstly, there is the education route. You can apply to study abroad. Some countries in Scandinavia offer tuition-free education, in many others the tuition fee is quite low like in Austria. If you prefer not to pay a dime, apply for a scholarship and have your education fully funded, with enough money for living expenses. There are so many scholarships for bachelor, masters and PhD degrees, that sometimes it feels like it’s raining money. If you have a head geared to study, then take advantage of these scholarships. Quite a number of countries in Europe offer residences for study, and after that for work and internships in their countries. Work permits can be renewed annually for years depending on performance of course. If you’ve clocked enough years and have a grasp of the language in that country, you can qualify to apply for citizenship.

Signing my degree certificate

Signing my degree certificate.

Secondly, the marriage or partnership route. One can be granted residence by virtue of marrying (or being in partnership with) a resident of the country. How does that work when you are in Africa, and the potential husband/wife/partner is in the West? Through the internet. Bingo!
Social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and snapchat have been instrumental in bringing people from different parts of the globe, together. Browsing through interracial dating sites and setting up a profile, and actively chatting have resulted in love and potential matches for marriage. I must put a disclaimer here though. Alot of tomfoolery occurs on these sites, with many insincere people breaking people’s hearts or just toying with them in pursuit of residence. It is wrong. Genuine love and marriage, or partnership, is what most people long for, and anyone being courted shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and be sure that their love interest won’t bail out once they’ve gotten their residence.

Thirdly, the birth route. Also known as ‘jus soli’, birthright citizenship is a policy whereby a child is granted citizenship by the country they are born in. Some smart lasses have figured this out and travelled, to set up in another country whilst pregnant, so their kid born there is automatically a citizen of that country. While it’s more common in countries such as U.S and Canada; there are countries in Europe which for periods at a time have tweaked the laws to grant nationality to babies born there. These special circumstances have conferred citizenship to children with stateless parents, because most European countries are parties to The Convention on the reduction of statelessness. Due to the baby being a dependent minor, eventually the parents being the caregivers may recieve their residences through their child.

Fourthly, the asylum route. Under the 1951 Refugee Convention, a refugee is defined as, ‘Someone who has left their country due to ‘a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.’  All member states of the EU are bound by the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and it’s 1967 protocol. It should be emphasized that as long as wars are started or continued – wars sometimes started or joined by European states, or fuelled by their arms sales – people will continue to flee to safe countries where they hope to receive asylum.

The EU has one of the world’s most developed regional frameworks for co-operation on asylum, refugee and migration issues; The Common European Asylum system. The goal of the CEAS is to create a harmonised EU- wide approach under which asylum procedures are as fair, consistent and effective as possible, and refugees recieve equal treatment no matter the country in which they apply. It must be spelt out here that though the European Union is made up of 10+ countries, they are not all on equal footing when it comes to their economies. Countries such as Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway as an example; are more prosperous than countries such as Italy, Greece, Portugal or Spain. This means that asylum seekers should aim to enter Europe through the more prosperous countries, and thus negate the need for further movement once in Europe. The Dublin regulation points to the fact that asylum requests should be processed at the first point of entry into Europe.

Sixthly, one can get a medical visa. It comes as no surprise that the health care given in European countries is top-notch. Hospitals are well-equipped, research carried out is up-to-date with medics attending conferences to share information about diseases and their treatments; as well as new drugs being tested and approved. This means that one is sure that any medical treatment recieved is from a professional and not a quack. Getting a medical visa can be costly though. Not only do you have to satisfy the requirements, but additionally you have to prove that the medical care you seek in Europe cannot be recieved in your country. European immigration for the most part will demand official documents from the recieving medical institution confirming that it can perform the treatment sought for, and that you will be admitted there. Once again, you have to show proof of having sufficient financial means to pay for treatment and proof of accomodation for the duration of treatment, and means to return to your country or to a third country.

Seventh, the business route.

Seventh, the business route, better known as ‘citizenship by investment.’ Foreigners invest a certain sum of money in a country in exchange for citizenship and a passport. Securing a second citizenship within the European Union is now often a necessity for those who wish to do business within the EU as opposed to a luxury reserved for only the wealthiest few.  Most citizenship by investment countries offer two or more options to purchase a passport. Firstly, you can donate to a government fund. Governments that need capital will exchange citizenship for money. These governments usually spend this money on education, healthcare or infrastructure. Secondly, one can purchase a government-approved real estate property.
The immigration through investment in real estate option usually requires a large purchase of local real estate and a hefty government application fee, ranging from 25000 to 50000 euros or more.

So there you go. Which European country would you be interested in migrating to and why? Let me know in the comments.

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