EU sweetens its Blue Card for foreign professionals

Bloc votes for amendments to make the system more attractive for those wishing to live and work in Europe

The EU's Blue Card, giving foreign professionals the right to live and work in the bloc, is being made more attractive under modifications approved on Wednesday by the European Parliament.

The amendments, reached after years of negotiations between EU institutions, were part of Europe's aim to draw more highly qualified workers, as competition heats up in western countries to fill positions.

Those holding the permit, which was inspired by the US Green Card, will need to sign a contract in the EU for a minimum of six months, instead of the previous 12 months.

The salary threshold for an offered position has also been lowered. Applicants must earn the average amount paid to professionals for their role in a given EU member state.

Before the changes, applicants would have to earn 150 per cent of that amount.

The rules allowing a bearer of an EU Blue Card to move from one EU country to another after 12 months of work have been eased, as have the provisions for them to be joined by family members, who would also have the right to work.

Members of the European Parliament voted 556 in favour and 105 against for the changes.

The EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Ylva Johansson, said as the debate on the topic started on Tuesday that "with this agreement, we welcome the highly skilled workers we need".

Ms Johansson said it would help to correct a situation in which "we are losing the global race for talent", as highly educated professionals were more tempted by the US, Australia and New Zealand.

The Blue Card was established in 2009, and is available for 25 of the EU's 27 countries.

Denmark and Ireland opted out of the scheme, although they, like many of the EU countries that do use the Blue Card, have their own national work permits for highly qualified workers.

Under the EU Blue Card initiative, professionals with qualifications in a profession – such as lawyers, doctors, business people, journalists, technicians, engineers and IT specialists – can apply.

The latest data on the scheme, from 2019, showed that 36,800 cards were issued that year.

Germany is the main user, issuing more than three quarters of the Blue Cards in the EU, with Poland and France in distant second and third place.

Indians topped the table of recipients, taking 9,400 of the cards in 2019, followed by Russians, who received 2,600.

Updated: September 16th 2021, 12:44 AM