Migration: MEPs and Council strike on highly qualified workers

New rules harmonise entry and residence conditions for highly-qualified workers by requiring only a six-month work contract or a binding job offer

Just as Malta and Italy engaged in another showdown in the central Mediterranean over responsibility for a group of some 400 irregular migrants this morning, the European Parliament and the European Council’s presidency struck an accord to facilitate entry into the bloc for the more desirable kind of migrant – the highly qualified.

The agreement on the EU’s blue card directive, which allows for the immigration of highly-skilled non-EU nationals into the EU, and the previously stringent qualifications are being made more flexible with the aim of attracting workers where there are noted skills shortages.

The new rules replace the existing ones and harmonise the conditions of entry and residence for highly-qualified workers and, for example, making admission criteria more flexible by requiring only a six-month work contract or a binding job offer.

As matters currently stand, a job offer of a minimum of 12 months is required, as well as evidence of higher qualifications or professional skills.

In certain cases, such as in the information and communication technology sector, the requirement for qualifications can be replaced with relevant professional experience.

The new system also introduced a lower threshold for the minimum salary applicants need to earn in order to qualify.  The salary threshold for applicants has now been reduced to at least 100%, but not more than 160%, of the average gross annual salary in the member state of where the blue card holder is to be employed.  This figure currently stands at a minimum of at least 150 % with no upper limit.

Under the new rules, applicants will also be able to apply for the blue card from EU territory and move more easily between member states after an initial 12-month period in the first member state. The situation of accompanying family members will also be improved through faster reunification procedures and access to the labour market.

Speaking after the agreement was struck, European Parliament’s rapporteur Javier Moreno Sanchez commented, “After five years of work and three years of member states blocking the negotiations, this deal sends a positive signal in the right direction. Europe must increase legal migration pathways and facilitate the arrival of qualified workers who can contribute to Europe’s development.

“EU Blue Card holders and their family members will have additional rights, including easier intra-EU mobility, which will increase its value compared to national systems.”

The agreed text will now be put to the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee and then on to plenary for approval, as well as to the European Council.

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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