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EU unveils blue card system to lure skilled workers

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The EU unveiled legislation on October 23 to attract skilled migrant workers from outside Europe in an effort to compete in the contest it is losing with the US, Canada and Australia for the brightest staff in hi-tech industries.


The draft legislation from the European commission offers a “blue card”, modelled on the US green card, for talented job applicants from third countries, simplifying and speeding up the processing of residence and job permits.


The system, if it becomes law, would apply across almost all of the EU, but Britain is unlikely to take part and Ireland and Denmark could also exempt themselves. The proposals would enable successful applicants to move between EU countries and jobs.


“Most highly skilled workers go to the United States, Canada and Australia,” said Jose Manuel Barroso the commission’s chief. “Highly skilled people from all over the world are welcome in the EU.”


Immigration is one of the most controversial subjects across Europe, and the proposals can expect a bruising reception. Britain will introduce a points-based system early next year, modelled on Australia’s. But the Home Office criticised yesterday’s EU package. “Frankly, we don’t support these proposals,” said Liam Byrne, the immigration minister.


EU officials said Europe needed to act quickly to catch up with the packages offered in North America and south-east Asia.


The EU population is projected to decline steeply from 2050, but the overall workforce will begin shrinking by 2011. Under the scheme a successful applicant would receive a blue card valid for two years but it would be renewable if he or she had a job offer. Families would be allowed to join them. After two years in an EU country, the migrant would be able to move freely to another EU country in the scheme.


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