EU work permit - the 'blue card' is unveiled

5th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

Our legal expert Matthias Lommers reports on the long awaited unveiling of the EU work permit - the so-called 'blue card'.

As part of the efforts to attract foreign highly-qualified workers, the European Union has accepted the idea of an EU work permit - the so-called blue card - allowing employment to non-Europeans in any country within the EU.

On Oct. 23, the Commission adopted two long-awaited legislative proposals on economic migration, being the draft Framework Directive on the admission of highly-qualified workers to the EU and a draft Directive establishing a single application procedure for a single residency and work permit and a common set of rights for third-country workers legally residing in the EU.  

Franco Frattini European Commissioner

The "Blue Card" scheme is inspired by the U.S. “Green Card” program and aims to attract top talent to the European Union to combat the aging population and declining birth rate problems. While in Europe, non-European highly-qualified workers make up only 1.7 percent of the employed population, they account for nearly ten percent in Australia, over seven percent in Canada and over three percent in the US.

The EU currently trails behind the above mentioned countries in attracting overseas talent. The hope is that the Blue Card, named after the colour of the European Union flag, will make the EU more economically competitive and to reverse a current trend under which highly qualified workers, mostly from Asia and Africa, emigrate to the US to find work.

The card will allow these highly qualified workers to travel and work in any country within the European Union, rather than deal with the all the different visa and work permit requirements of each member nation. The card will also allow workers to bring along their immediate family members.

The blue card will however not be "a blank cheque" to all highly-skilled workers.

In practice, a Russian or Mexican engineer will be allowed to come to an EU member state after presenting a valid work contract or a binding job offer and when earning a remuneration of at least 3 times the respective member states' minimum wage. At first, the work permit will be limited to a maximum two-years stay, followed by the possibility to move to another EU state, so long as there was a valid work contract available.

The Blue card scheme will entail a fast-track procedure for the admission of highly qualified third-country workers (maximum 90 days processing time) based on common criteria, a specific scheme for "young professionals" and special residence and work permits (the "EU Blue Card") which entitle the workers to some socio-economic rights and favourable conditions for family reunification.

It will however remain an exclusive competence of member states to set specific numbers of economic immigrants entering their territory in order to seek work.

Matthias Lommers

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact:
Matthias Lommers, Attorney,

(Laga 2007)


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