On June 15th, the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, voted the amendments to the proposal for a new EU Blue Card Directive.
The committee report tabled for plenary is awaiting the EP first reading.
The proposal aims to grant an “wide admission system to attract and retain highly skilled workers into the Union and promote mobility”.
What are the major proposed changes?
- National parallel schemes to be abolished:” Member States should issue an EU Blue Card to all applicants falling within the scope of this Directive”
- The concept of “highly skilled worker” will replace the concept of “highly qualified worker”. A professional experience equivalent to formal educational qualification shall be considered as qualifying criteria.
- A valid employment contract or, as provided by the national law, a binding job offer for highly skilled employment of at least nine months in the Member State concerned, shall be considered as qualifying criteria.
- The salary threshold shall be at least 1.0 times but not higher than 1.4 times the average gross annual salary in the Member State concerned. Member States are left discretion not to establish a salary threshold where unnecessary (e.g. where collective agreements govern the wages).
- The validity of the EU Blue Card shall be at least 36 months, unless the employment contract covers a shorter period. In the latter case, the EU Blue Card shall be issued for the duration of the employment contract plus three months. Where an EU Blue Card is renewed, its period of validity shall be at least 36 months.
- Labour market tests are permitted where there is a high level of unemployment in a given occupation or sector. The Member State must notify the Commission of its intention to introduce such test for a period of six months, may be extended for additional similar periods. Member States shall submit the reasons justifying such decision.
- Decisions on the application must be notified to the applicant at latest within 30 days of the date of submission (initial application or renewal). In the same context, if the validity of the EU Blue Card expires during the procedure for renewal. lawful stay shall be granted until the competent authority have taken a decision. Where the conditions for family reunification are fulfilled and the applications submitted simultaneously, residence permits for family members shall be granted at the same time as the EU Blue Card. Where family members join the EU Blue Card holder, residence permits shall be granted at latest within 30 days from the date of submission.
- National legislations shall provide for recognition procedures for employers for the purpose of applying simplified procedures for obtaining an EU Blue Card.
- EU Blue Card holders may engage in self-employment activity, subsidiary to their employment and in parallel to the latter, under the same conditions as nationals and EU citizens.
- The short-term mobility (i.e. enter and stay for the purpose of carrying out a business activity in one or several Member States for up to 90 days in any 180 days period) shall be authorized on the basis of the EU Blue Card issued by the first Member State and a valid travel document. Where a holder of a EU Blue Card issued by a Member State not applying the Schengen acquis in full, enters a Member State applies such acquis in full, when crossing an external border, he/she may be required to provide proof of the business purpose of the stay.
- Long-term mobility, shall be authorized after twelve months of legal residence in the first Member State holding an EU Blue Card. The competent authority in the second Member State must be notified while the EU Blue Card holder is residing in the territory of the first Member State or no later than one month after entering the territory of the second Member State. The EU Blue Card holder shall be allowed to work in the second Member State immediately after submitting the notification Evidence of meeting the salary threshold set in the second Member State may be required. Where the EU Blue Card was issued by a Member State not applying the Schengen acquis in full, crossing an external border, the holder may be required to provide a work contract or a binding offer for highly skilled employment for at least six months in the second Member State. Renewal may be applied for in the second Member State or in the first Member State (in the latter case, the applicant will be required to work for twelve months in that first Member State before exercising his or her right to long-term mobility again).
- Family members have accompanied or joined the EU Blue Card holder in the first Member State (or where the family has been constituted in the first Member State), shall be entitled to accompany him/her to enter and stay in the second Member State.
- Derogations from Council Directive 2003/109/EC should be provided for in order to give EU Blue Card holders and their family members an easier access to EU long-term resident status.
What would the next steps be?
Under the ordinary legislative procedure, after a first reading, the EP by a majority will deliver an opinion.
The Commission can incorporate the amendments proposed by the EP or stick to the original draft.
The Council can adopt the act and any amendments by a qualified majority vote. However, the Council can as well adopt a common position to reject any amendments by the EP (giving reason) or merely adopt a common position to reject the Commission proposal.
If a common position is adopted by the Council, it is sent to the EP for the second reading. The EP has three months to make amendments (by a majority) and send it to the Council and the Commission or approve the common position. The EP may as well reject the common position and in such case the procedure ends and the act cannot be adopted.
If amendments are made by the EP, the Commission must deliver an opinion. Then the Council has three months to approve the amendments by a qualified majority or by a unanimous decision if the Commission did not approve the amendments. The act can be then adopted.
If the Council rejects the amendments to its common position, the conciliation stage will be initiated. Providing that the Conciliation Committee agrees on a joint text, the latter must be adopted within six weeks by the EP and the Council (third reading).