Hey I'm currently a college student and my dream upon graduation is to travel around Europe and northern Africa for several years. Over the past couple years I've become proficient in carpentry, painting and managing construction projects. I plan on spending the next couple years honing these skills, especially carpentry. My plan is to travel from country to country doing odd jobs in construction, and maybe some apprentice work in the finer crafts stone work, furniture etc. My question is, is this plan feasible. Will I be able to travel from country to country doing this and not get deported or arrested? In my area the construction industry is held together by illegal immigrant workers, the industry would crumble without them. Is this also true in European countries? I would be going out there with savings in the range of 10-20k, would i be able to support myself with that and off-the-book construction jobs? The purpose of this would be to travel first and foremost but at the same time learn different crafts. I would love to talk to someone about this. I am actively seeking to befriend European natives so as to garner as much information as possible and hopefully make a few contacts in different countries. If anyone knows of any website forums that i could start making friends in that would be great, such as a European version of craigslist. Thanks for any replies.
[ Edit: Edited on Nov 7, 2007, at 9:28 PM by sarpedon ]
Hi Sarpedon - you don't mention where you're from - might be helpful for people to be able to advise you about visas etc.
In the UK at the moment it will be difficult for you to find illegal work in the construction industry as we have had a recent influx of low-paid and highly skilled legal migrant labour from Eastern Europe following EU enlargement. I'm guessing you'll find this to be the case in all 'Western' EU countries.
Good point....I'm from New Jersey. I don't think I would have much interest in working in the UK I was thinking for example Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, France, Greece, Turkey, Morocco and possibly some Eastern European countries. Obviously an ambitious list, but just to give you an idea. Also, I'm not looking to work in big cities I would much rather find places that are not big tourist spots but at the same time I'm not looking to be in rural towns and villages. When you say highly skilled what exactly does that mean? And If it is anything like the US for every job requiring a great deal of skill there a 5 that are just labor intensive. In my area people from South America and Mexico are usually employed for demolition, carpenter's assitance, simple painting jobs, and just all around manual labor. In this area which is very affluent the going rate is between $10-$12 an hour and there is usually steady work so someone working 5-6 days a week is making between $500-$600. Obviously one must take into account variations in living expenses around this country but i doubt if any illegal work is making less than $8/hr regardless of what area they are in. I am only looking to pay for everyday expenses with wages that i would earn....food and shelter (which i don't mind being extremely basic, hostels, simple meals etc). Any travel and extra curricular activities would be taken out of savings. Thanks for the reply
Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, France, Greece, Turkey, Morocco and possibly some Eastern European countries
You can just about forget about 90 % of all countries. The wages you quoted are especially unrealistic.
Unemployment is very high in Morocco. It is the gateway for illegal immigrants to Europe - if they could find work to support themselves there, they would not try so desperately to get into the EU. (There have been instances where people have tried to swim across the Strait of Gibraltar with nothing but an air matress for support. Can you imagine what kind of desparation that takes?)
Switzerland OTOH is the dreamland for EU citizens. Swiss employers can handpick among EU citizens, employ them legally and still pay them half the wages they pay Swiss employees. Go figure.
Greece, Italy and Spain are really cracking down on illegal immigrants. They are the countries in the EU that are first in line for immigrants from Africa and Asia via Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey. Greece is especially tough, Spain needs the immigrants to harvest fruits and vegetables from the fields and greenhouses. But since there are so many coming over from Africa, Spain and Italy can deport them all they want, the numbers keep growing anyway. For every illegal immigrant they send home, there are three already there willing to do any kind of dirty work.
I know some people from Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Syria, Iraq etc in my hometown and from them I know about illegal immigrants. Almost every Doner shop has at least 2 people living in cellar of the house, sleeping on rags, working for nothing except the left-overs. Their only hope of a way out of this is to marry a German or to get her pregnant, and they stop at nothing to achieve this. This is the kind of competition you'll have - people who will work for scraps from the table. They would rather die than to go back to Iraq or Afghanistan. There is a real network among immigrants of a certain nationality that helps illegal immigrants of the same nationality to stay under cover. All it takes is one who has gone legal, who has married a German, to open up a company. It can be anything - carpenter or construction work, a restaurant, internet cafe, etc. Then he employs only people of his own nationality, often illegals who cannot complain if he refuses to pay them. Often these companies are a front for money laundring. Social welfare fraud, tax evasion and other shenanigans are frequent. It is a well of crime.
Really, your only decent chance is to found your own company or to become a student. Save a few thousand dollars and apply for a residency permit or student visa.
With a student visa you get a limited work permit of about 10-20 hours per week. In Germany study subjects that would suit your Holzbau, Architektur, Bauingenieurwesen und Holzingenieurwesen (Eberswalde, Hildesheim, Rosenheim und Biel, Switzerland).
If you drop out of uni, you can change the status of your residency permit to non-student and start your own company. Watch out for rules concerning the guilds. In Germany you need to have completed a 3-year apprenticeship within the dual system and a 1 year-course with exam giving you the right to call yourself "carpentry craftmaster". Your college education might be the basis upon which the 3-year apprentice ship
Non-formal apprentice work is something that is done in the US, not in Europe. Europe's crafts have a history with their guilds, the training is much more regulated.
For example, you won't be able to find any illegal carpenter apprentice work in Germany. Carpenter's traditionally complete a 3-year apprenticeship and then become journeymen. They wear traditional clothing that identifies them as carpenter journeymen (wide black hat, black vest with silver buttons, black bell-bottom trousers, etc) and strictly adhere to the traditional rules set down in the Middle Age. They hitchhike or walk to get around, because owning a car is forbidden. Membership in the union is non-optional and all papers must be in perfect order. There are lots of rituals associated with the "Walz", and rules and traditions are strictly enforced. If they found you working illegal, landing yourself in the hospital is the best you can hope for.
As I said, watch out for rules concerning the guilds. In Germany you need to have completed a 3-year apprenticeship within the dual system and a 1 year-course with exam giving you the right to call yourself "carpentry craftmaster" before you can found your own carpentry company. Your college education might be the basis upon which the 3-year apprentice ship might be waved, but you would still need to pass the exam.