I am considering the drastic step of fleeing the country as a healthcare refugee. I have a medical condition that requires expensive medications, frequent doctor’s visits, and regular blood work, which costs me considerably more than my monthly rent. I live alone, and I am penniless and constantly stressed about money. I work full-time, but if I want to keep this medical condition in check, I desperately need to cut back on my hours.
I met someone online, a longtime friend of trusted friends who lives in a European country that still has national healthcare. He has been romancing me now for five months; I went to visit him, and the sparks flew. I am very much in love with him, but I recognize that it’s early days yet for this relationship.
We have discussed me moving there sooner rather than later—as in, as soon as I can find someone to take over my lease. He has offered to marry me so that I can have access to free medical care, and tells me daily that he wants us to build a life together. I’m very much inclined to say yes. Is this a crazy, ridiculous plan? Too much of a gamble? Paying my bills every month just isn’t happening, to the point that I can’t always get the medications I need to keep working. Should I take the risk?
—Sick in Love
What a romantic story! Who can resist a plot twist in which our protagonist finds love and democratic socialism? And just when you need free healthcare more than ever! With all my heart, I want to tell you to start packing your bags and planning the wedding.
But first, get a lawyer.
That sounds crushingly pragmatic, I know. But European immigration laws concerning spouses are complex and inhospitable. I can imagine why. In my 20s, I spent one evening with a ridiculously handsome Danish man I’d never met before, and the chemistry was explosive. I thought, “I should move to Copenhagen and have a baby now—think of all those social benefits!” This is no doubt exactly the sort of disillusioned yet idealistic Yankee reasoning that EU governments hope to deter.
Immigration laws concerning spouses are different in each European Union country. You can’t just move there and begin enjoying your healthcare tomorrow; while many European countries do require hospitals to treat anyone who shows up, getting the routine care you need, as well as the right to work legally, will be trickier. Some countries require the sponsoring spouse (in this case, your beloved) to meet income requirements. Others might require that you have a health check; your preexisting health problems could inspire nitpicky objections to your application. Mistakes long forgotten could be used against you—even parking tickets.