EU Blue Card: new rules for highly skilled workers in Europe

eu Blue Card

The EU Blue Card allows highly skilled migrant workers to live and work in Europe.

Highly skilled workers with professional qualifications and a job offer can apply for an EU Blue Card for Europe. There are several other eligibility criteria that applicants must meet.

The European Parliament has provisionally agreed to update these eligibility criteria. The modified rules will make it easier for non-EU nationals to obtain the permit and work in the EU Member States.

New Rules for the EU Blue Card

The European Union competes with other areas of the world for skills and talent. New EU Blue Card rules are aimed at making the EU a more attractive option.

The key rule changes are as follows:

Minimum salary and contract of employment reduced

The salary threshold to qualify for the EU Blue Card is being reduced to between 1 and 1.6 times the average gross salary of the destination country.

Applicants will now need a contract of employment lasting at least 6 months. Previously, a 12-month contract was required.

These measures will make the EU Blue Card accessible to more foreign workers.

Recognition of professional experience and skills

Until now, EU Blue Card applicants needed a higher education qualification in almost all cases.

Now, workers with professional experience considered equivalent to such qualifications will be considered in some sectors such as information and communication technologies.

This will allow highly skilled workers who did not previously meet EU Blue Card requirements to apply.

Increased possibilities to change role or employer

EU Blue Card holders need to complete a new labour market test if they change employer or position in the company during the first 12 months.

After the first year, they may only need to notify relevant national authorities about the change.

Working in different EU Member States with a Blue Card

It will now be possible for EU Blue Card holders and their families to move easily to a different Member State after 12 months of employment.

Time spent working in different EU nations will be taken into account when considering long-term residence status.

The EU Blue Card applies to all Schengen countries except for Denmark. It does not apply in Ireland.

Refugees and asylum seekers will have greater access

Highly skilled workers under international protection will be able to apply for an EU Blue Card for any EU nation.

This means refugees and asylum seekers who meet the eligibility criteria will be able to work in any EU Member State, not just the one where they reside.

The European Parliament and the Council still need to formally confirm the agreement. After the EU Blue Card Directive has been finalised, Member States will need to adopt the new rules in 2 years.

EU Blue Card eligibility criteria

The changes listed above will be applied to the standard application requirements. To be eligible for the EU Blue Card, foreign workers must:

  • Hold the relevant travel documents and health insurance
  • Have a university degree or other higher professional qualifications (see below)
  • Not be self-employed, only paid employees are eligible
  • Get a gross annual salary that is a minimum of 1 and a half the average salary of the EU Member State (between 1 and 1.6 times when the new rules apply)
  • If working in a regulated profession, meet all the legal requirements

Visitors who do not meet these requirements must apply for a different visa. The EU Blue Card is for foreigners taking up paid employment, not for business travellers.

Business travellers from visa-exempt countries will soon need an ETIAS visa waiver if visiting Europe for up to 90 days.

Higher professional qualifications for EU Blue Card applications

To meet the higher professional qualifications requirement stated above, workers need to have:

  • Completed post-secondary higher education studies lasting 3 years or more
  • Evidence that the qualification was successfully completed, for example a diploma or certificate
  • Carried out the studies at an educational establishment recognised as a higher education institution

Professional experience

Some EU Member States accept 5 years of relevant professional experience instead of qualifications. The work experience must be relevant to the profession/sector stated in the work contract or offer.

The European countries that take currently take professional experience into consideration are:

Apply for an EU Blue Card for Europe

The worker or employer must submit the EU Blue Card application to the relevant authorities of the Member State.

EU Member States are responsible for deciding how many people grant permission to work.

Applications must be submitted together with all the relevant supporting documents, a decision is communicated within 90 days.

Length of stay in Europe with an EU Blue Card

Migrants with an EU Blue Card can generally live and work in Europe for up to 4 years. The permit may be renewed for the same length of time, as long as all the conditions continue to be met.

The EU Blue Card is valid to enter and re-enter Europe. It can also be used to stay in EU Member States other than the issuing country for up to 3 months per 180 days.