Entry and residence of highly qualified workers

Entry and residence of highly qualified workers

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Entry and residence of highly qualified workers


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Internal market > Living and working in the internal market

Entry and residence of highly qualified workers (EU Blue Card)

Document or Iniciative

Council Directive 2009/50/EC of 25 May 2009 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment.


The object of this directive is to improve the European Union’s (EU) ability to attract highly qualified workers from third countries. The aim is not only to enhance competitiveness within the context of the Lisbon strategy, but also to limit brain drain. It is designed to:

  • facilitate the admission of these persons by harmonising entry and residence conditions throughout the EU;
  • simplify admission procedures;
  • improve the legal status of those already in the EU.

The directive applies to highly qualified third-country nationals seeking to be admitted to the territory of a Member State for more than three months for the purpose of employment, as well as to their family members.

Entry conditions

To be allowed into the EU, the applicant must produce:

  • a work contract or binding job offer with a salary of at least 1,5 times the average gross annual salary paid in the Member State concerned (Member States may lower the salary threshold to 1,2 for certain professions where there is a particular need for third-country workers);
  • a valid travel document and a valid residence permit or a national long-term visa;
  • proof of sickness insurance;
  • for regulated professions, documents establishing that s/he meets the legal requirements, and for unregulated professions, the documents establishing the relevant higher professional qualifications.

In addition, the applicant must not pose a threat to public policy in the view of the Member State. S/he may also be required to provide his/her address in that Member State.

Member States will determine the number of third-country nationals they admit.

Admission procedure, issuance and withdrawal of the EU Blue Card

Member States are free to decide whether the application for an EU Blue Card has to be made by the third-country national and/or his/her employer. If the candidate fulfils the above conditions and the national authorities decide to admit him/her, s/he is issued an EU Blue Card, which is valid for a standard period of one to four years. The application will be accepted or rejected within 90 days of filing. If the application is accepted, the applicant will be given every facility to obtain the requisite visas.

The application for an EU Blue Card can be rejected if it was drawn up on the basis of false or fraudulently acquired documents or if, given the state of the labour market, the Member State decides to give priority to:

  • EU citizens;
  • third-country nationals with a preferred status under Community law who are legal residents or who are EC long-term residents and wish to move to that Member State.

The application may also be rejected on the grounds of volumes of admission established by the Member State, ethical recruitment or if the employer has been sanctioned due to undeclared work or illegal employment.

The EU Blue Card may be withdrawn if the holder does not have sufficient resources to maintain him-/herself and family members without social assistance or if s/he has been unemployed for more than three consecutive months or more than once during the period of validity of the card.

Rights and residence in other Member States

With this card, third-country nationals and their families can:

  • enter, re-enter and stay in the issuing Member State and pass through other Member States;
  • work in the sector concerned;
  • enjoy equal treatment with nationals as regards, for example, working conditions, social security, pensions, recognition of diplomas, education and vocational training.

After two years of legal employment, they may receive equal treatment with nationals as regards access to any highly qualified employment. After 18 months of legal residence, they may move to another Member State to take up highly qualified employment (subject to the limits set by the Member State on the number of non-nationals accepted).

The procedure is the same as that for admission to the first Member State. An EU Blue Card holder and his family can, however, freely enter and stay in a second Member State, but must notify the authorities there within one month of their arrival. The second Member State may decide not to allow the third-country national to work until a positive decision on his/her application has been taken. However, the application may already be presented to the authorities of the second Member State while the EU Blue Card holder is still residing and working in the first Member State.

Implementation and reporting obligations

Starting from 2013, the Commission annually collects statistics from the Member States on the number of third-country nationals to whom an EU Blue Card has been issued, renewed, withdrawn or refused, on their nationalities and occupations, and on their families. Starting from 2014, it reports on the application of the directive to the European Parliament and the Council every three years and proposes any changes it deems necessary.


In its policy plan on legal migration, which was presented on 21 December 2005, the Commission made five legislative proposals concerning different categories of third-country nationals. This directive is the first of these proposals.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 2009/50/EC



OJ L 155 of 18.6.2009

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