New rules for the EU’s Blue Card make it easier to attract highly-skilled foreign workers

New rules for the EU’s Blue Card make it easier to attract highly-skilled foreign workers

With the European Union’s working-age population set to drop from 333 million in 2016 to 292 million by 2070, MEPs have moved this month to approve changes to the Blue Card scheme to facilitate the employment of highly-skilled workers from outside of the EU.  

Originally proposed by the European Commission in 2016, Parliament and Council negotiators have agreed on a revision of the 2009 Blue Card directive which will create more flexible criteria and make it easier for beneficiaries to move within the EU and be reunited more quickly with their families.

By lowering the criteria for admission and strengthening the rights of Blue Card holders and their families, the European Parliament aims to increase the attractiveness of the bloc for workers in industries where there is a demonstrable shortage of skilled labour.

Relaxed application criteria

The biggest change in the new update to the Blue Card system will see candidates with a minimum work contract of six months be allowed to apply, instead of the current 12.

What’s more, to make it accessible to more people, the salary threshold for the scheme will be reduced to between 1 and 1.6 times the average gross annual salary.

Increased freedom of movement

From now on, Blue Card holders will also be able to move more easily within the EU after having worked for one year in the country in which they first settled. Likewise, their families will be able to accompany them.

Additionally, refugees and asylum seekers that currently live in the EU will be able to apply for a Blue Card in other EU countries and not just the one where they are currently resident – as was the case until now.


While the Blue Card is an EU-wide scheme (with the exception of the Republic of Ireland and Denmark), each member state is responsible for issuing the card.

EU countries can choose to take into account the conditions in their domestic labour market (for example if there is high unemployment), or refuse applications where there is a proven threat to public security.

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