"The EU Blue Card is a measure to attract and retain highly qualified third-country workers as part of an approach based on the needs of the Member States of the European Union."

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Proposal for New EU Blue Card

The European Commission proposal (2016/0176 (COD)) revamps the existing rules for the EU Blue Card and aims to improve the EU’s ability to attract and retain highly skilled third-country nationals. Highly skilled third country nationals are highly qualified workers from outside the EU, being highly educated and experienced.

The European Commission has drafted this proposal because the current EU Blue Card scheme (Directive 2009/50/EC), adopted in 2009, has proven insufficient and unattractive so far.

The European Commission states that the new EU Blue Card Scheme would bring an estimated positive annual economic impact of between €1,4 billion to €6,2 billion to the Member States from additional highly skilled workers coming to the EU to take up jobs. 
At the moment, only 31% of highly-educated migrants to OECD countries choose the EU as a destination; 69% opt for other destinations which compete economically with the EU. Since the ambition for the European Union is to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge based economy in the world, the new proposal is intended to contribute to achieving this goal.

In the Netherlands until very recent the number of EU Blue Cards issued has been very limited, because most employers choose to apply for the Dutch Highly Skilled Migrant Visa

Restrictive admission conditions and the existence of parallel rules, conditions and procedures at national level have limited the use of the EU Blue Card. In order to develop the EU Blue Card into a truly EU-wide scheme, Member States are obliged to grant an EU Blue Card instead of a national permit for highly skilled work to persons falling under its scope.

For the Netherlands this will imply that the current fast track highly skilled migrant program would no longer be allowed. 

The new EU Blue Card proposal:

  • As a distinction to the current EU Blue Card scheme, the new proposal does not allow Member States to have parallel national schemes targeting the same group of highly skilled workers. 
  • A lower general salary threshold, equivalent to or at the highest 1.4 times the average national salary.
  • The required minimum duration of the employment contract is brought down from 12 to 6 months.
  • EU Blue Card holders are allowed to exercise a self-employed activity in parallel with their Blue Card occupation.
  • Professional experience equivalent to qualifications higher education qualifications to be recognised by Member States.
  • Access to EU long-term residence after 3 years if the EU Blue Card holder resided continuously in the same Member State.
  • A lower salary threshold should also be laid down to benefit third-country nationals during a certain period after their graduation. 
  • Member States may offer a special fast-track procedure for trusted employers with fewer conditions to reduce administrative burden.
  • Short-term business trips will be less complicated for EU Blue Card holders, allowing for business trips of up to 90 days within the other EU Member States that apply the Blue Card, without the need of a new work permit.

The United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark will not apply the new Blue Card Directive. These countries also did not adopt the current EU Blue Card Directive.

Interesting links:

Press release European Commission: Delivering the European Agenda on Migration: Commission presents Action Plan on Integration and reforms 'Blue Card' scheme for highly skilled workers from outside the EU - IP/16/2014

Questions and Answers European Commission: An improved EU Blue Card scheme and the Action Plan on Integration - MEMO/16/2071

Factsheet European Commission: Revision of the EU Blue Card

Legislative proposal: Directive on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purpose of highly skilled employment

New European Commission EU Blue Card website

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