Europeans less keen to move to North America and UK, survey reveals

Europeans are less keen to move to Northern America and the United Kingdom than in the past, a survey has revealed.

Europeans less keen to move to North America and UK, survey reveals
An American Airlines plane approaches the runway at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in Arlington, Virginia, on April 2, 2022. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP)

It might be the effect of the pandemic, but Europeans are less keen to move to Northern America and the United Kingdom than in the past, a new EU survey has revealed.

While the percentage of Europeans saying they would be interested to work abroad has not changed significantly over the years (18 percent in 2022 compared to 17 percent in a previous survey carried out in 2009), there are significant changes in their favoured destinations. 

In 2022, Germany was the most popular choice for those who considering moving to another country at some point in the future, followed by Switzerland, Spain, the United Kingdom and Northern America (US and Canada).  

Germany and Switzerland have risen in popularity as a destination to move to among all nations except Slovenia, with the sharpest increases seen in Finland, Luxembourg and Italy.. 

Some 12 percent would choose Northern America and the UK.

The US and Canada remain favoured work destinations in four EU countries – Finland, Malta, Portugal, and Latvia.

Overall, however, their popularity has decreased by 14 percentage points compared to 2009, with the biggest falls seen in in Ireland, Luxembourg, France, Denmark, Spain and Italy. 

Brexit and the administrative barriers it created might have had an impact on the declining interest for the UK as a chosen destination for Europeans.

However, the UK did see a rise in popularity as a work destination among Swedes and Romanians. Interest also remained high in the Netherlands and Portugal, but declined strongly in Cyprus, Slovakia and Latvia.

Going or staying? 

The survey was conducted between May and June 2022 and was carried out for the European Commission to understand EU labour mobility after the pandemic.

The respondents most likely to say they would see themselves working abroad were from Finland (39 percent), Slovenia (33 percent), Sweden, Malta and Latvia (30 percent). The least likely were from Italy (11 percent), Romania, Austria, Cyprus, Greece (13 percent) and Poland (14 percent). 

The number of people saying they would not work abroad has also increased, reaching 79 percent (+6) compared to the previous research. 

Who moves and how to find a job abroad

Demographic data show that women in Europe are more likely than men to say they would move abroad and the same is true for city dwellers compared to residents in rural areas. Young people are more interested in having experiences in other countries too than older generations. 

Almost three quarters, 73 percent of Europeans considering a move would plan to stay abroad for more than one year. 

Personal contacts (51 percent), dedicated online job search tools (34 percent) and online social networks (32 percent) are the main channels used to find a job in another country, according to the responses. 


Some 13 percent of Austrians would consider working abroad in the future, even for a short time. Almost half of these would want a permanent employment while 28 percent would be keen on an internship. The top destinations for Austrians are Switzerland (23 percent), Germany (17 percent) and Northern America, although the latter saw a drop in popularity of 8 percent. Austrians are more likely than European peers to say they would require a salary offer at least 50 percent higher than the current one to accept a job in another country. Austria is the most popular destination for Hungarians (31 percent). 


Just less than a quarter (22 percent) of Danes would work abroad, a drop of 29 percent over 2009, the largest drop in the EU. The majority (59 percent) would be interested in a permanent employment, and 43 percent would be keen on a temporary assignment abroad through the current employer. The favourite locations are Germany, the UK and Northern America, although the last two countries saw a drop in appeal in recent years. A share of respondents above the EU average (26 percent) would move for the same salary and 8 percent for a lower one. 


About quarter of French respondents (26 percent) said they would consider working abroad. The vast majority (64 percent) would move for a permanent job and more than 50 percent said they would want to earn more. A percentage above EU average (10 percent) would move for volunteering. The favourite destinations are Northern America (18 percent), although it dropped by 17 percentage points compared to the 2009 survey, Spain and Switzerland. There was no significant change in interest for the UK (13 percent). 


Germans are less likely than EU peers to be interested in a job in another country (14 percent), although the percentage is on the rise (+3 percent). Some 59 percent would move for permanent employment and 24 percent for temporary assignment with their employer. In a nod to language preferences, Switzerland (21 percent), Austria (15 percent) and Spain (12 percent) are the favourite destinations among Germans. North America saw a big drop in popularity among German – a drop of 13 percent compared to 2009. The UK also saw a drop in popularity from 12 to 6 percent.


Only 11 percent among Italian respondents would be keen to move, a growth of 7 percentage points compared to 2009. Almost half (44 percent) would move for a permanent employment, 28 percent for traineeship and 20 percent for seasonal work. Spain, Switzerland and Germany are the favourite destinations, followed by the UK, which however lost 10 percentage points. The vast majority of respondents need to be offered a higher salary than the current one to take up a job in another country.


Among Spaniards, 15 percent would move abroad for work. The majority (63 percent) would want a permanent job and 29 percent seasonal work. Some 36 percent said they would need to earn at least twice as high to make the move. Germany, France and Italy are the favourite destinations, although the latter two lost some of their appeal over the years. 


Some 30 percent of Swedish respondents would move abroad, with a vast majority among them (66 percent) looking for a temporary assignment through the current employer and 47 percent a permanent job. The favourite locations for Swedes are the UK, Northern America and Germany. 

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How many American citizens are ordered to leave European countries?

Hundreds of Americans citizens have been forced to leave EU and Schengen area countries in recent years for numerous reasons, mostly related to residency rules. Here's a look at the numbers.

How many American citizens are ordered to leave European countries?

A small number of European countries are responsible for most orders to leave the Schengen area issued to American citizens in 2021 and 2022, figures from the EU have revealed.

In 2021, 1,690 US citizens were ordered to leave a Schengen area country.

And up until the end of September 2022, some 1,290 Americans were ordered to leave the EU and Schengen area, according to the latest available data from the EU statistical office Eurostat.

The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, France, Germany and Belgium issued the vast majority of departure orders towards US citizens.

From the figures, which are communicated to Eurostat by national authorities, it emerges that the Netherlands alone issued 980 leave orders in 2021 and 770 in the first nine months of 2022.

Norway followed with 795 leave orders in 2021 and 105 in 2022 up to September. Then came Sweden, with 240 in 2021 and 135 in the same period of 2022. In comparison, France ordered 100 US citizens to leave in 2021 and 85 in the first nine months of 2022, and Germany 60 in 2021 and 25 in 2022.

Spain reported 10 cases in both years, Italy 5 in 2021 and 15 in 2022. For Austria, the figures were 15 in 2021 and 10 in the first nine months of 2022. Denmark issued 15 and 20 leave orders respectively, and Switzerland 40 and 20 respectively.

Netherlands vs Norway

Not all these people who received the orders, however, had to leave the country in which they were based.

The Dutch immigration agency (IND) said that an order to leave can be issued if a residence application has been “rejected” or “a previously granted residence permit has been withdrawn”.

The person has then an obligation to leave the country and all other countries of the Schengen area within a certain period (usually 4 weeks).

But it is still possible to apply and obtain a residence permit, or even to appeal a negative decision, while staying in the country, the IND said.

The discrepancy between the number of orders given and the number of people who actually then had to leave is reflected in Eurostat figures.

The data shows that the number of returns – US citizens that actually had to leave European countries – is smaller than the number of orders given: 510 in 2021 and 350 in the first nine months of 2022. For the Netherlands, the total was 80 in 2021 and 40 in 2022.

From information on actually number of people returned it emerges that Norway is the country that imposed most US citizens to leave: 635 in 2021 and 60 in the first nine months of 2022. For Sweden, the figure was 180 in 2021 and 85 in 2022 up to September.

Some 15 US citizens were returned from France both in 2021 and in the first nine months of 2022. For Germany the number was 10 and 5, for Denmark 15 and 10, for Italy and Spain zero and 10, for Switzerland zero.

Why are American citizens ordered to leave EU countries?

When it comes to the reasons why Americans are given orders to leave EU and Schengen area countries, well it’s largely for the same issues other non-EU citizens receive the same instructions. 

The Local recently published data about British citizens issued a leave order from Sweden post-Brexit. A spokesperson of the Swedish Migration Agency said these were due to “incomplete [residency] applications, late applications, applications where the applicant did not fulfil the requirement for residence status,” as well as “reasons unknown”.

The website of the French Ministry of Interior specifies that an order to leave can be issued, for instance, if a person has entered France or the Schengen area irregularly and does not have a residence permit, if they have stayed beyond the visa expiry or for more than 90 days in 180, if they have an expired residence permit, or this has been refused or withdrawn, or if they have worked without a work permit.

However, there are several cases in which a person cannot be forced to leave France. These include, among others, being a minor (unless parents are also subject to such a measure), having lived in France for more than 10 years, excluding periods as students, having habitually resided in France since a child, have been – and still be – married to a French citizen for at least 3 years.

An order to leave is not an expulsion, which occurs only when, in addition to be illegally present in the country, the person also represents “a serious threat to public order,” the French Ministry of Interior says. In this case, the expulsion usually leads to a ban from the country.

This article was written in collaboration with the Europe Street news site.