Blue Card – future of EU labour mobility

Projections show that by 2070, the European Union will have 292 million people of working age, compared to 333 million in 2016. This trend would mean a significant decline in the workforce for the EU member states. This is one of the reasons why the European Parliament approved a revised draft of the 2009 Blue Card Directive, which should facilitate labour mobility between member states. The European Council adopted the directive on 7 October this year.

The employment of foreign workers is a rather sensitive issue in all member states. To be authorised to enter the EU labour market, third-country nationals must undergo a time-consuming and administratively demanding visa procedure.

The most common residence permit for employment purposes in the Czech Republic is the employment card. Another option is the EU Blue Card that is subject to stricter rules and is intended for employment requiring high qualifications. A foreigner planning to apply for the Blue Card must meet several important criteria: their annual gross salary must equal at least 1.5 times the average annual gross salary prescribed by the Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (gross monthly salary of at least CZK 51,188); they must have completed a post-secondary higher education programme of at least three years; and they must submit an employment contract for at least 12 months with the application. If the foreigner fulfils the criteria and receives the Blue Card, they will be allowed to move to another member state after one year of residence in the member state that issued the blue card. The procedure to obtain the residence and work permits in such a state should then be easier. However, it is often otherwise in practice. 

The European Parliament is therefore bringing forward a revision of the Blue Card Directive to give employers in sectors facing labour shortages greater flexibility in employing highly qualified workers. The revised directive should allow member states to maintain their national systems for the employment of highly qualified personnel, but at the same time introduce conditions to avoid putting them at a disadvantage compared to national permit holders.

Under the revised directive, the requirements on Blue Card applicants should be reduced. For the first application, it should be sufficient if the applicant submits an employment contract for at least six months. The minimum salary threshold should change to range between 1 and 1.6 times the average salary of the country in which the applicant is applying for the Blue Card. The mobility of family members accompanying the Blue Card holder should also be facilitated. The revised directive also pays attention to the mobility of asylum seekers and refugees. They should be able to apply for the Blue Card not only in the member state where they have been granted asylum, but also in other EU member states.

The adopted wording of the directive shall enter into force on the twentieth day following its publication in the Official Journal. Member states will have two years to adapt their legislation to the new rules.

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