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EU blue card – entry and residence of highly qualified workers (from 2023)

EU blue card – entry and residence of highly qualified workers (from 2023)



Directive (EU) 2021/1883 – conditions of entry to and residence in the European Union of non-EU nationals for the purpose of highly qualified employment


The directive lays down the entry and residence conditions for and rights of highly qualified third-country* nationals and their families:

  • staying for more than 3 months in a European Union (EU) Member State;
  • working in a Member State other than the one that first granted them an EU blue card.


The directive’s scope is the following.

  • It applies to non-EU nationals applying, or having applied, for highly qualified employment in a Member State.
  • It does not apply to non-EU nationals:
    • seeking international protection;
    • carrying out a research project;
    • who are granted long-term resident status in a Member State;
    • who are covered by an international agreement allowing a temporary stay, rights of free movement or whose expulsion has been suspended.
  • It does not affect:
    • more favourable rules in EU law, including bilateral and multilateral agreements;
    • the right of Member States to decide how many non-EU nationals may enter their territory.

Applicants for an EU blue card must present:

  • a valid work contract or a binding job offer for highly qualified employment for at least 6 months;
  • documents confirming their professional qualifications;
  • valid travel, and where required visa, documents;
  • evidence of having applied for health insurance if this is not covered in the contract.

Member States:

  • require that conditions under relevant national law, collective agreements or established practices are met;
  • ensure the salary threshold they set is at least equal to, but no higher than 1.6 times, the average gross national annual salary, a lower threshold of 80% applying to professions with shortages and recent non-EU graduates (no more than 3 years);
  • decide whether applications are made by the non-EU national, the employer or either of the two;
  • may charge fees, as long as they are not disproportionate or excessive, for handling applications;
  • make easily accessible to applicants all the documentary evidence required and the attached conditions;
  • appoint contact points to receive and transmit information.

Rejection rules stipulate the following.

  • Member States must reject applications where the:
    • admission criteria are not complied with;
    • documents presented are false;
    • applicant is considered a threat to public policy, security or health;
    • main purpose of the employer’s business is to bring in non-EU nationals.
  • Member States may reject applications where the:
    • vacancy may be filled by a national, EU citizen or third-country citizen legally living in the EU;
    • employer has not met tax and other legal obligations, is bankrupt, is facing insolvency or has illegally employed non-EU nationals;
    • applicant’s home country has a lack of qualified workers in the profession concerned.

Withdrawal or non-renewal rules stipulate the following.

  • Member States must withdraw or refuse to renew a blue card where:
    • the card or documents are false;
    • a non-EU national no longer has a valid work contract or the necessary qualifications, or no longer meets the salary threshold.
  • Member States may withdraw or refuse to renew a blue card where:
    • public policy, security or health are at risk;
    • the employer has failed to meet their legal obligations;
    • the blue card holder does not comply with the directive’s personal finance, residence and other requirements.

Blue cards:

  • are valid for at least 24 months, or, if a work contract is for a shorter period, a further 3 months after the contract ends;
  • entitle holders to enter, re-enter and stay in the Member State and enjoy all the rights under the directive.


  • benefit from a simplified blue card procedure if a Member State gives them recognised status;
  • face effective, proportionate and dissuasive national sanctions if they do not comply with the legislation.

EU blue card holders:

  • may have to inform national authorities of any change of employer or circumstances during the first 12 months of legal employment;
  • enjoy equal treatment to EU nationals in areas such as employment conditions, freedom of association, educational and vocational training, mutual recognition of diplomas, social security and access to goods and services;
  • can be accompanied by their family members, who also have the right to work;
  • may acquire long-term EU resident status, subject to certain conditions;
  • may, after living legally for 12 months in the Member State that issued the blue card, move, live and work with their family in another Member State.

The directive requires the following.

  • Member States must provide by 18 November 2025, and annually thereafter, detailed statistics on blue cards granted, refused and withdrawn and the reasons given.
  • The European Commission must submit reports to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union by 18 November 2026 on its assessment of the:
    • list of highly skilled occupations in Annex I, and do so every 2 years thereafter taking account of changing needs in the labour market;
    • application of the directive, proposing amendments if necessary, and to do so every 4 years.

The directive:

  • amends Directive (EU) 2016/801 on the entry and residence of non-EU nationals for research, studies, training, voluntary service, secondary education and au pairing (see summary);
  • repeals the original blue card directive, Directive 2009/50/EC (see summary), as of 19 November 2023.


It has applied since 17 November 2021 and has to become law in the Member States by 18 November 2023.


  • The directive updates previous blue card rules. It gives the EU a targeted legal migration scheme that can respond to skill shortages and makes it easier for highly skilled professionals to join the workforce.
  • The directive provides an EU framework for attracting talent, while individual Member States decide how many people to admit to their labour market.
  • For further information, see:


Third-country national. Any person who is not a citizen of the EU.


Directive (EU) 2021/1883 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2021 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purpose of highly qualified employment, and repealing Council Directive 2009/50/EC (OJ L 382, 28.10.2021, pp. 1–38).


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on a New Pact on Migration and Asylum (COM(2020) 609 final, 23.9.2020).

Directive (EU) 2016/801 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2016 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of research, studies, training, voluntary service, pupil exchange schemes or educational projects and au pairing (OJ L 132, 21.5.2016, pp. 21–57).

Successive amendments to Directive (EU) 2016/801 have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

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).

last update 16.12.2021