Help Print this page 

Summaries of EU Legislation

Title and reference
EU Blue Card — entry and residence of highly qualified workers

Summaries of EU legislation: direct access to the main summaries page.
Multilingual display

EU Blue Card — entry and residence of highly qualified workers


Directive 2009/50/EC — Conditions of entry and residence of non-EU nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment



  • It sets out the entry and residence conditions for highly qualified* non-EU nationals, and their families, wishing to work in a highly qualified job in a European Union country (except Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom).
  • It creates an EU Blue Card* system.


  • Applicants for an EU Blue Card have to present:
    • a valid work contract or binding job offer of at least 1 year, offering a salary that is at least 1.5 times the average gross annual salary in that EU country;
    • documentary proof they have the necessary qualifications;
    • a valid travel document and, if required, a visa;
    • proof of sickness insurance.
  • EU countries may reject an application if the above conditions are not met or the documents have been acquired illegally, falsified or tampered with.
  • The applicant must not be a threat to public policy, security or health.
  • EU countries may determine the number of highly qualified employees they admit.
  • Successful applicants receive an EU Blue Card with a standard validity between 1 and 4 years, depending on the EU country in question or the length of the work contract, if this is shorter than the standard validity plus 3 months.
  • The application may be made by the individual and/or their employer depending on the EU country.
  • For the first 2 years, EU Blue Card holders are restricted to highly qualified jobs that meet the criteria for admission. After that they may apply on equal terms with a country’s nationals for other highly qualified employment, depending on the EU country.
  • EU Blue Card holders and their families can enter, re-enter and stay in the issuing EU country and pass through other EU countries.
  • EU Blue Card holders enjoy the same rights as a country’s nationals in terms of working conditions, education, recognition of diplomas, elements of social security and freedom of association. EU countries may restrict some of these, particularly educational grants and loans.
  • National authorities may withdraw an EU Blue Card, or not renew it, if the holder no longer meets the original conditions, has been unemployed for more than 3 months or is considered a public threat.
  • After 18 months’ legal residence, an EU Blue Card holder benefits from some facilitation to move to another EU country. Provided they comply again with the admission criteria, they can be allowed to start working already before a decision is taken, and family members can join them immediately.
  • The European Commission reports every 3 years on the way the legislation is being applied. The first report was published in June 2014.


It has applied since 19 June 2009. EU countries had to incorporate it into national law by 19 June 2011.


For more information, see ‘Legal migration’ on the European Commission’s website.


* Highly qualified employee: someone who is paid and has a specific competence proven by higher professional qualifications.

* EU Blue Card: a work and residence authorisation bearing the words ‘EU Blue Card’, entitling the holder to live and work in the EU country that granted it.


Council Directive 2009/50/EC of 25 May 2009 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment (OJ L 155, 18.6.2009, pp. 17-29)


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of Directive 2009/50/EC on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purpose of highly qualified employment (‘EU Blue Card’) (COM(2014) 287 final of 22.5.2014)

last update 21.04.2016