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  • Need for a valid work contract or binding job offer of at least nine months
  • Salary threshold between 1 and 1.4 times the average gross annual salary in the country, to avoid social dumping
  • Refugees and asylum-seekers in the EU will also be able to apply
  • National schemes for attracting highly-qualified workers to be abolished

The Blue Card system for allowing highly-skilled foreign workers to the EU will be simplified and its scope widened to encourage member states to use it.

Civil Liberties Committee MEPs backed on Thursday changes to the Blue Card Directive to make it more attractive. The legislation was adopted with 45 votes to 10, with 2 abstentions.

 

Under the new rules, applicants will need to present a valid work contract or a binding job offer of minimum 9 months (instead of the current 12 months), as well as evidence of their higher qualifications or professional skills. Both the candidate and the employer would be able to file the request and the information to apply should be easily accessible.

 

To avoid competing with the EU common system, all national schemes for the admission of third-country nationals for the purpose of highly-skilled employment will be abolished.

 

The salary should be between 1 and 1.4 times the average gross annual salary in the country concerned, but authorities can skip this requisite for certain sectors if they agree so with the social partners, MEPs decided.

 

Member states will be able to withdraw a “blue card” (or not renew it, or reject an application) based on substantiated security concerns. They will also be allowed to take the situation of the domestic labour market, particularly high unemployment, into account before issuing a card, but they will need to consult with social partners and notify the European Commission first.

 

A Blue Card holder may lose it if he or she is unemployed for more than six consecutive months (except if that situation is due to illness or disability), or if their salary no longer meets the established threshold.

 

Quick facts

Following the adoption of the Directive in 2009, the EU Blue Card has been in place since late 2011, but it is not widely used. Germany grants the biggest share of “blue cards”, with more than 85% of the total issued in the EU in the last years. UK, Ireland and Denmark do not take part in the scheme.

In the context of the current migration crisis and taking into account demographic challenges and the need to attract highly qualified workers, the Commission proposed in June 2016 a review of the Directive, simplifying the procedures and qualifying criteria, widening the scope and strengthening the rights of the Blue Card holders and their families.