European blue card for international workers being introduced

by Ray Clancy on January 24, 2011

Blue card for EU proposed

The European Commission is pressing ahead with the introduction of a ‘blue card’ similar to the green card in the United States that would make it easier for businesses to employ overseas staff on a temporary basis.

The European Union has already approved a directive which would create the EU Blue Card to allow highly qualified workers to obtain a work and residence permit in an EU member state, with the ability to move to another member state after certain conditions are met.

Member states are now moving towards incorporating this into immigration law and regulate the entry and residence of so-called Intra-Corporate Transferees (ICT). This will help companies bring in senior management and specialists who possess valuable skills and knowledge vital to company operations. It would also include trainees who have completed their higher education.

Many EU member states have provisions in place already for the transfer of overseas employees. But for companies who operate in a number of different nations, having to deal with the EU’s 27 different immigration policies can be problematic and time consuming.

According to the EC, the new directive will streamline the processing of visas that will help EU companies recruit management and specialist level staff members internationally. The EU will benefit economically as a whole from the increased competitiveness of EU companies.

‘If we are going to realise our goals in the Europe 2020 strategy, the EU needs to remain open and competitive in the labour market, and we need to create more legal ways for migrants to come to Europe,’ said Maria Âsenius, chief adviser to EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström.

Speaking at a European Policy Centre conference she pointed out that many EU countries are experiencing shortages of highly skilled staff in certain area including engineering and information technology.

The new rules are expected to be approved by this summer. It will mean that work and residence permits can be obtained in not more than 30 days. The directive will also make it easier for transferees to bring their families with them and to work in more than one member state if their employer asks them to do so.

‘We are not making these proposals only to be nice to Indian or American businessmen. It is in our interest that companies operating in Europe can have access to the right people with the right skills at the right moment,’ explained Âsenius.

‘It’s high time that Europe started making itself more attractive, because competition for workers will increase in the future. Not just in the EU, but also in the US and Canada, and within a few years China. So it is very much in our interest to be more of a magnet for migration,’ she added.

The draft directive on ICTs includes strict limits on the amount of time that a transferee can work in the EU. The maximum length of stay for managers and specialists would be three years, while trainees would not be allowed to stay in the EU for longer than 12 months.

In accordance with the EU Treaties, each member state will retain control over how many non-EU workers are allowed in the country.

‘The Commission cannot force member states to accept ICTs against their will. This is all decided at member state level, if they want to take anybody or not. But we say if they are open to taking ICTs, these are the rules that apply, and nothing else,’ said Âsenius.

Ameet Nivsakar, vice president of NASSCOM, a trade association representing the Indian IT industry welcomed the move. ‘It is important that a globally mobile workforce is able to seamlessly move within Europe,’ he said.

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