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European Union: 'Blue Card' gains new life

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European Union interior ministers met in Brussels on 25 September to discuss an EU-wide immigration pact that would include endorsing the EU Blue Card skilled immigration directive. First proposed in October of 2007, the blue card faced opposition at first but is now being accepted by most of the 27 member nations.

The blue card would provide a "one-stop shop" for non-European Union nationals with skilled work experience who wish to take employment in a European Union member state. The scheme hopes to help the EU compete with other countries who are attracting many more skilled immigrants.

Countries such as the United States have a much higher percentage of highly skilled foreign immigrants than the EU as a whole, something that the Commission hopes the blue card will change. However, unlike the United States Green Card, the blue card will not grant permanent residence in the EU or the member state the blue card holder resides in.

Other caveats exist. Skilled professionals taking advantage of the blue card would have to earn at lest 150 percent of the gross average salary in the country they wish to work in, or 120 percent for jobs for which there is a shortage of labor. It's also expected that a job offer will be required.

In additon, the main applicant under the blue card immigration scheme would be able to bring immediate family to live with them right away. After 18 months, a blue card holder can move to another EU nation, where he or she would be required to apply for permission to work before taking up employment. After a required time period elapses, a blue card holder and his family could apply for permanent residence.

French Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux said the only remaining issue is when the blue card immigration scheme will be implemented. It's expected that the blue card will go into effect in 2011, when work restrictions for 8 Eastern European nations that joined the EU in 2004 expire in member states that still have them in place.

The Czech Republic wants existing work restrictions in other EU countries lifted for new-member states before allowing in third-country nationals under the blue card scheme.