When Luke took a job here in Lithuania earlier this year, the first thing I looked up was the process of getting residency in Lithuania.
Was it even going to be possible for an American to move to Lithuania? Would I be able to stay long-term or would I have to leave every three months only to return again three months later and repeat the process forever (or at least for however long Luke wanted to keep this job)?
It turns out, getting residency in Lithuania as an American who is self-employed wasn’t all that difficult (although it was expensive!).
Why Move to Lithuania?
While Lithuania may not be on your radar as a great place to live, it should be for those that want work-life balance, a low cost of living, access to the rest of the EU, and being surrounded by natural beauty.
There are a lot of reasons you may want to consider moving to Lithuania. I’ll discuss the ones that I think make it stand out for those that have an outside income, especially if you work for yourself as a digital nomad.
Cost of Living
The Cost of living in Lithuania is much lower than in other places around the European Union. I have written a complete breakdown of my cost of living in this article.
I currently live in a small city about an hour from Vilnius. My apartment is one bedroom with a new kitchen, a large living room, and a nice big bathroom. It is fully furnished, including dishes, cutlery, pots, and pans (although I bought a few new ones after moving in).
My apartment costs €300 per month. That does not include bills, which during the summer months added up in total to an additional €50.
So in total, my monthly outgoings on rent and utilities is €350 or roughly $400 USD. That’s $200 less than what I was paying to live in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico.
My monthly grocery shopping for two people adds up to about €430 per month or about $500 USD per month. This includes meat, grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, desserts, stops at the bakery, and all the beer that we buy at the grocery store (but not any that we drink out at bars).
We eat out about once a week and perhaps once every two or three weeks, we head to a bar and have a few drinks with friends. If you lived in Vilnius or Kaunas where there are bars and restaurants around every corner, you will likely spend much more than we do. But there simply aren’t that many restaurants in our town.
Eating out costs about €30 for two people including a starter and a main and a non-alcoholic drink. Drinks out cost anywhere between €3 and €6 depending on whether it’s just a local beer or it’s a nicer glass of wine. I’ve seen cocktails listed for as much as €13 in Vilnius (and I’m sure there are places that charge even more if you look for it).
Free Movement in the EU
As an American with a Lithuanian Temporary Residency Card, I can move freely between the EU to travel without the normal 3-month cap that exists for non-EU members.
If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you can read more about the Schengen Visa here.
Normally, Americans, Canadians, Australians, Brits, and many other nationalities, have three months to travel within the Schengen Zone. This consists of 26 countries, most of whom are in the EU, some of whom are not (Switzerland and Norway are not EU members).
Once you have been in this area for three months, you must leave for at least three months before returning. You are allowed to visit three months out of every six.
However, if you gain residency in an EU country, you are able to live in that EU country full time without any restrictions. This also means that you can then take a vacation to Italy, even if you’ve been in Lithuania for four months.
This is perfect for me as a travel writer and YouTuber. I can have a homebase in a beautiful country and then once a month, I can take a trip to a totally new country and culture by hopping on a flight that takes less than two hours (and costs less than $100 round trip!).
Just note that you MUST declare a place of residence with either a lease or by bringing the owner of your home to the local town hall. That means that you have to be paying rent somewhere. You can’t simply get Lithuanian residency and use this as a way of staying in the EU and traveling around long term.
It’s Absolutely Stunning
I had no real expectations of what Lithuania would be like. Of course, I did my research before moving here of course, but I was not prepared for how beautiful and green this country is.
I was told recently on a tour that 1/3 of the entire country is forest. That’s a lot of trees and there’s no better way to see it than when you fly into the Vilnius Airport.
But it’s not just about the cities here (although I love both Vilnius and Kaunas). The Baltic Coast is perhaps one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. In particular, the Curonian Spit and the town of Nida.
There are trails for walking, forests for foraging, and beaches to walk along. There are also so many lakes, it’s impossible to visit them all. The country is dotted with these beautiful lakes which are so clean, most people head to them in the summer for swimming rather than to the beach.
It’s Centrally Located
If you are a digital nomad or you want to have a home base where you are only a short flight to pretty much anywhere in Europe, then it doesn’t get much better than Lithuania.
Okay, the airports could be better. Vilnius and Kaunas have airports that connect you to major hubs, but getting to say, Portugal requires at least one layover, if not two.
However, you can hop on a bus and be in Riga in three hours. You can take a night bus to Warsaw for less than €20. You can get a flight from Kaunas to Cologne for €9!
Berlin to Vilnius is barely an hour flight. There are quick flights to Denmark, Sweden, Ukraine, Croatia, Italy, the UK, and France. You can take a ferry across the Baltic sea to any number of countries.
And if you live here long term, buying a car is easy and affordable. Once you have wheels, Europe is your oyster. You can drive to Estonia in a few hours. You can take road trips through Poland and into Germany.
Lithuania claims to be the geographical center of Europe (as so several other countries). So basing yourself here means you get to enjoy a beautiful country as your home and still have easy access to so many others nearby.
What are the Temporary Residency Options for Americans in Lithuania?
Lithuania has a special pathway for citizens of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan.
If you are one of these nationalities, you have three choices for applying for temporary residency.
- You will work under an employment contract
- You are a participant or manager of a company that performs activities specified in the articles of association in the Republic of Lithuania and your purpose of entry is to work for that company
- You will engage in other lawful activity, including self-employment, as defined by the Law on Personal Income Tax of the Republic of Lithuania
I applied using the third option, which I believe is perhaps the harder of the options, considering you don’t actually have a job offer. Luke was able to apply for the first option because he has a job contract with a company here in Lithuania.
To learn more about each of these options, head to the Lithuanian migration website and follow the steps under “For Foreigners.”
How to Apply for Temporary Residency in Lithuania – The Steps I Took
If you plan to apply for temporary residency in Lithuania because you will be “engaging in other lawful activity, including self-employment, as defined by the Law on Personal Income Tax of the Republic of Lithuania,” then these are the steps you will need to take.
First, in order to apply, you must be in the country. You need to be legally present in Lithuania to file your temporary residency.
For those from the countries that I listed above, this means you can be in the country on the Schengen visa. Just make sure you apply with enough time that you don’t run out of days on your Schengen before you are able to receive the visa (we’ll get to that below).
Step One for Lithuanian Residency
Once you are in the country, you need to apply for the correct temporary residency permit through the Migracia portal. You need to have all of the paperwork ready to upload to your application when you fill it out.
This includes proof of whatever legal activities you are pursuing. For me, this was a press pass that I received back in the United States. If you are confused about how you can show what work you do, you can email the migration department at firstname.lastname@example.org. They are incredibly responsive and very helpful.
You will also need to have health insurance that covers you during the duration of your stay. I purchased mine from Ergo. You can email them in English and they will walk you through exactly what insurance you need for the residency permit.
You can also schedule a preliminary meeting to discuss your visa options if you have a lot of questions. Head to the website and click “book a visit.”
Step Two When Applying for Residency in Lithuania
When you complete and submit your online application, you will be asked to choose an office where you will bring all of your documents. You should choose the office that is nearest to where you live. Whatever office you use to apply for your residency will be the office you return to when you pick up the residency card.
Once you choose an office, you will select a date and time to visit the office. It’s not really much of a “meeting” although it’s easier to call it that. You have a scheduled appointment and you will bring everything that you submitted in your online application.
You need to bring your passport, proof of health insurance, bank statements to prove solvency, and whatever additional information you submitted. For me, I had to bring my press pass.
The third step to getting Lithuanian residency is to attend the meeting. Make sure to give yourself about an hour for them to complete everything.
Once they have checked all of your documents, you will then use a machine that takes your photo, your fingerprints, and where you will write your signature. This photo and signature will be what appears on your residency card so make sure you like it!
You will also pay for your residency permit application at this stage. There are two payment options – 3 months or 45 days. This is how long it will take to process your residency.
Unless you are already on a six-month or one-year visa, you’ll need to apply for the 45-day turnaround.
The three-month turnaround time costs €120 and the 45-day turnaround costs €240.
Make sure to give yourself a little bit more time because they tend to take exactly that amount of time to approve it and it will be another week or two until you can actually pick up your residency permit. Make sure you have enough time left on your Schengen or visa otherwise you will be illegally in the country.
Proving a Place of Residence as a Foreigner in Lithuania
The last step to getting residency in Lithuania is what you have to do once you pick up your card.
From the day that you pick up your temporary residency, you have 30 days to declare your place of residence. AKA to tell the government exactly where you’re living.
There are a few ways to do this. If you already have a lease when you apply for the visa, you can bring that with you to your meeting. The immigration office will then file your residence in the system when they file all of your other paperwork.
However, it’s likely that you will have only just arrived in the country and you may still be looking for a place to live when you apply. Once you pick up your residency, you should speak to the person who gives you your card.
Every city and municipality is different. Where I live in the small city of Utena, I simply had to bring my residency card and my lease to the town hall. I emailed the town hall to ask them which office to go to and they replied to tell me exactly where to go and who to talk to.
This is not a definitive guide on how to get residency in Lithuania. This is to share why I think Lithuania is a wonderful place to base yourself. As well as how I was able to get residency.
If you have specific questions about anything I’ve mentioned above, please feel free to ask in the comments below.
If you are in different circumstances but want to get residency in Lithuania, then I highly recommend contacting the immigration office directly.
Like I mentioned above, they are very responsive to emails. They answered my questions usually within the same day if not within 48 hours. They also sent me links to the specific pages on the immigration website that addressed many of my concerns about my application.