EU blue card – entry and residence of highly qualified workers (until 2023)
Directive 2009/50/EC – Conditions of entry and residence of non-EU nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment
WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE DIRECTIVE?
It sets out the entry and residence conditions for highly qualified* non-EU nationals wishing to work a highly qualified job in an European Union (EU) Member State (other than Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom (1)) and for their families.
It creates an EU blue card* system.
It will be repealed and replaced by Directive (EU) 2021/1883 (see summary) as of 19 November 2023.
Applicants for an EU blue card must present:
- a valid work contract or binding job offer of at least 1 year, offering a salary at least 1.5 times the average gross annual salary in the Member State concerned;
- documentary proof that they hold the necessary qualifications;
- a valid travel document and, if required, a visa;
- proof of health insurance.
Member States 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.
Member States may determine the number of highly qualified employees they admit.
Successful applicants will be issued with an EU blue card valid for a standard period of 1–4 years, depending on the Member State concerned, or for the duration of the work contract, if it is shorter than the standard period of validity, plus 3 months.
The application may be made by the individual and/or their employer, depending on the Member State.
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 Member State concerned.
EU blue card holders and their families can enter, re-enter and stay in the Member State that issues the card and pass through other Member States.
EU blue card holders enjoy the same rights as a country’s nationals in terms of working conditions, education, recognition of qualifications, social security and freedom of association. Member States may restrict some of these, particularly educational grants and loans.
National authorities may withdraw an EU blue card or refrain from renewing 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 obtain the necessary visa to move to another Member State. Provided they still meet the admission criteria, they can be allowed to start working before a decision to grant the visa is taken, and family members can join them immediately.
The Commission reports every 3 years on how the legislation is being applied. The first report was published in June 2014.
Review and proposal
In 2016, the European Commission issued a proposal to repeal Directive 2009/50/EC. This stemmed from a review of the directive, published in parallel, which concluded that the current directive has many intrinsic weaknesses and that it is not being applied consistently across the EU. Moreover, many Member States have parallel rules and procedures for the same category of highly skilled workers. This fragmentation is not efficient, as it creates a burden for employers and applicants, nor effective, as the numbers of permits issued to highly skilled workers remain limited. This makes it more difficult for the EU to attract and retain the talent it needs.
The proposal seeks both to address the shortcomings of the previous directive and to extend its scope to include beneficiaries of international protection and non-EU family members of EU citizens. The proposed scheme would also replace parallel national schemes targeting the same group as the blue card.
The proposal also includes the following:
- more flexible admission conditions (a lower salary threshold; a minimum duration for the initial contract less than 6 months; simpler rules for recent graduates and workers in shortage occupations; and equivalence between professional experience and formal qualifications);
- simpler procedures (faster and more flexible procedures, an optional fast-track procedure for trusted employers);
- broader rights (more flexible labour market access, including self-employed activity on the side; immediate family reunification; easier access to EU long-term residence status);
- easier travel within the EU (e.g. for short-term business trips across the EU, access to an EU blue card in a second Member State).
Directive 2009/50/EC is repealed and replaced by Directive (EU) 2021/1883 as of 19 November 2023.
FROM WHEN DOES THE DIRECTIVE APPLY?
It has applied since 19 June 2009 and had to become law in the Member States by 19 June 2011.
For further information, see:
Highly qualified employee. Someone in paid work who has a specific skill set certified by advanced professional qualifications.
EU blue card. A work and residence permit bearing the words ‘EU Blue Card’, entitling the holder to live and work in the Member State that issued 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).
Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States amending Regulation (EEC) No 1612/68 and repealing Directives 64/221/EEC, 68/360/EEC, 72/194/EEC, 73/148/EEC, 75/34/EEC, 75/35/EEC, 90/364/EEC, 90/365/EEC and 93/96/EEC (OJ L 158, 30.4.2004, pp. 77–123). Text republished in corrigendum (OJ L 229, 29.6.2004, pp. 35–48).
Successive amendments to Directive 2004/38/EC have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.
Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection (recast) (OJ L 180, 29.6.2013, pp. 60–95).
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).
See consolidated version.
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, 22.5.2014).
Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly skilled employment (COM(2016) 378 final, 7.6.2016).
Commission staff working document – Impact Assessment – Accompanying the document Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and the Council on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly skilled employment and repealing Directive 2009/50/EC (SWD(2016) 193 final, 7.6.2016).
Commission staff working document – Executive summary of the Impact Assessment – Accompanying the document Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and the Council on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly skilled employment (SWD(2016) 194 final, 7.6.2016).
last update 11.11.2021