New for 2019: Dispatches list of 7 European destinations desperately seeking highly skilled expats

Yes, countries under the sway of anti-globalist nationalist and populists leaders are closing borders and making headlines while playing to their bases. Hungary is now a no-go zone, as are the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. But there are still plenty of places across Europe actively recruiting highly skilled expats.

Most recently, the Irish island of Arranmore announced it is inviting techies to relocate, sweetening the pot by installing fibre optics.

The Republic of Ireland is but one European country where demographics are steadily chipping away at the talent base … a talent base that pays for the pensions of the rapidly increasing number of retiring Baby Boomers.

Life is always defined by numbers, and the numbers from Spain to Ukraine don’t add up in 2019 … there’s way more demand than supply when it comes to skilled people necessary to refresh local economies and keep multinationals innovating.


This is the latest place to advertise for people, in this case Americans. Arranmore Island – population 469 – wants to reinvent itself as a digital hub.

The trouble is, the remote island off the west coast of Ireland has lost its best and brightest to immigation.

So, Arranmore’s econ-dev types are inviting Americans (preferably families) to connect, do business, and even consider relocating after having high-speed internet service installed.

They even went to the (considerable) expense of putting out a news release on PR Newswire announcing their plan. Oh, and there’s the YouTube vid above with pretty impressive production values. So, yeah, they’re serious about reversing the outflow of talent.

From the release:

In an open letter to the people of America, the island’s community has stated that they are now “open for business.” Surprisingly, the local talent includes graphic designers, games developers, app developers, photographers plus a host of artisan craftspeople who are ready to connect right now.

You can message the Arranmore project on their Facebook page here.


Spain has seen perhaps Europe’s most dramatic rural-to-urban shift as Barcelona and Madrid beckon to young talent. On top of it, Spain is one of the European countries with negative population growth. That is, there are more deaths each year than births.

All this has launched multiple efforts including the Living Villages Project to help people move to the countryside.

Also, as Spain’s startup scene hots up, Catalonia – which includes Barcelona – has a new fast-track visa program for highly skilled internationals and entrepreneurs.


No country in Europe is more focused on attracting highly skilled internationals than the Netherlands as a whole. And no Dutch province is as aggressively courting talent as North Brabant, which includes deep-tech center Eindhoven.

Eindhoven is home to ASML and a number of world-class semiconductor companies and advanced tech firms that have thousands of open positions. Once you find a job here, your company will handle the heavy lifting when it comes to getting you a work permit. And the Netherlands is among the easiest places for non-EU citizens to relocate.

Full disclosure: Dispatches supports Brainport, Brabant’s economic -development effort. In turn, Brainport supports our local tech giants with recruitment efforts and efforts to increase Eindhoven’s global visibility.

Check out Brainport’s job listings. Right now the count is 973 openings in tech and IT.

Here’s more posts on moving to Eindhoven:

• Renting in Eindhoven: The best neighborhoods, towns and villages

• Expect the unexpected: What to expect when you’re expecting to move to Eindhoven


This is counter-intuitive considering Italy’s nationalist/populist 5 Star and Legua parties came to power on rather xenophobic anti-immigration platforms.

But reality overrides their worst instincts. The reality is, Italy has among the most out-of-balance demographics in Europe including one of the lowest birth rates among the Group of Seven industrialized countries.

Italy’s most ambitious have departed for the United States and the more stable European nations such as Germany, and Italy’s villages are projected to be deserted in as little as 30 years, according Italy’s environmental agency Legambiente.

So, it really is possible to buy fixer-uppers in villages for a few thousand euros if not the “1 euro” price so many clickbait websites claim.

Now, can you legally move there?

Yes … if you’re an EU citizen. If you aren’t, you can follow Dispatches’ Nancy Wellendorff Church’s instructions about applying for the Elective Residence visa. Oh, and bring a lot of money.

There are other options as Italy – like the rest of Europe – figures out it’s in a pickle and institutes special programs aimed at luring retirees and highly skilled internationals with tax schemes and innovation funds.

As we always say, who wouldn’t want to live in Italy?


The tiny Baltic country of Estonia has been aggressively recruiting foreign talent for years because its entire population is only 1.3 million, less than my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Which is like the 30th largest city in the U.S.

Yet, Tallinn is a unique destination – the capital of the first digital nation and a powerhouse tech hub, birthing TransferWise and Skype among other giant tech companies. (Which, of course, relocated.)

Estonia has several programs reaching out to highly skilled internationals including expense-paid career trips to visit Tallinn.

The Work in Estonia program has succeeded in recruiting several hundred people, but the number of Estonian companies hiring is in the thousands.

Also, Estonia just introduced a visa for digital nomads.


Late last year, Denmark officials acknowledged the country’s economy is booming, but big companies are hamstrung by bureaucracy when it comes to recruiting badly needed foreign talent. So Danish officials introduced 21 initiatives meant to make the country more competitive.

They include making it easier for foreign students to stay in the country and go to work after graduation, and to fast-track highly skilled internationals into jobs while their visa applications are being processed.

Denmark already had its Start-up Denmark visa scheme.


France has the same issues as Spain including brain drain, with young people leaving rural areas for Paris and careerrs. At the same time, global talent is migrating to the formidable startup/tech scene in Paris forming around efforts such as Station F, where Apple iPhone creator Tony Fadell now has offices. Villages in France such as Bourmont are ripe for reinvention led by … expats.

American expat Alice Verberne tells us Dutch families are buying in the area. “We have a few new Dutch neighbors in Bourmont, but what is really astonishing is that in the wine village of Coiffy-le-Haute, 17 Dutch families bought homes there, and by doing so, saved the place from becoming a ville morte.” (More on this later.)

France has recently introduced a number of initiatives including the French Tech Visa. So the French are serious about competing with the U.S., the Netherlands and Germany for the smartest people in the world.

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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