An Overview of the EU Blue Card

Understanding the EU Blue Card

Highly skilled workers from around the globe play a critical role in strengthening the European Union’s (EU) economic competitiveness and attracting foreign investment from multinational firms. To help bolster the workforce further and prevent a skills shortage, the EU Blue Card has been made available to select individuals from non-EU countries (third countries).

For multinational firms setting up or expanding into the EU, the blue card can be a critical tool for talent development and business growth. However, there are restrictions in eligibility and important application requirements that should be carefully considered before embarking on the process of hiring an employee abroad to work in a participating EU market.

Overview of the EU Blue Card

Essentially, the EU Blue Card scheme grants highly qualified workers from outside the EU the right to live and work in a participating EU country. Eligibility is primarily based on having higher professional qualifications, which can include factors such as a university degree, a formal employment contract or a binding job offer with a high salary compared to the average salary in the EU country where the job is.

Notably, the EU Blue Card scheme is used by 25 of the 27 EU countries, with Denmark and Ireland not participating in the program. Instead, these two countries lay out their own rules for accepting high-qualified employees from third countries. Furthermore, each participating country has its own distinctions of eligibility, application and scope of rights associated with the permit.

Who Can Apply?

One of the first factors an employer must consider is who actually qualifies as a high-qualified worker. To begin with, the employee must be from a third country and must also have a formal work contract extending at least one year. Additionally, there are other conditions the employee must fulfill to be considered highly qualified, including:

  • The employee must provide proof of ‘higher professional qualifications’ by showing a higher education qualification (e.g., a university degree). Some EU markets may also accept at least five years of relevant professional experience.
  • The employee must be paid.
  • The annual gross salary must be at least one and a half times the average national salary within the EU market hand, except when a lower salary threshold applies.
  • They must have the necessary travel and personal documents to be admitted to the EU, including eligible passports and health insurance for themselves and any family members that come with them.
  • In cases where the profession is regulated, the employee must prove that they pass the legal requirements to practice their profession.

Many EU markets use a quota system for granting work and residence permits, which means applicants will get a work permit only if the country is below its quota at the time of application — even if the candidate fulfills all the criteria. Occasionally, countries extend permits to applicants even after reaching the limit. However, to qualify for this exception, the candidate must usually provide further details and explain their suitability for a specific role, justifying why it cannot be filled locally.

In some cases, if an employer wants to bring in an employee from a third country, they may be considered an intra-corporate transfer, which has its own requirements. Apart from high-qualified workers and intra-corporate transfers, candidates can apply in other categories such as researcher, student, vocational trainee, seasonal workers, and self-employed/entrepreneurs.

What Does the EU Blue Card Allow for?

The EU Blue Card authorizes its holder to freely enter, re-enter and stay in the EU country that has issued the permit. Their family members can also accompany them, with the EU Blue Card holder and their family members entitled to the same freedom of movement within the EU as its citizens are. Furthermore, the EU Blue card holder generally enjoys equal treatment with the nationals of the country where they have settled. One main restriction is that they can only work in the sector they are qualified for.

The EU Blue Card holder’s family members are subject to variable residence and employment rights by country. In most cases, the holder’s spouse may work for any employer in the market and is not required to obtain a separate work permit. There are more specific requirements for children, with them sometimes being required to follow a separate permit procedure to secure employment.

After 18 months of regular employment in the country of entry, the EU Blue Card holder can move to another participating EU member state for employment. However, they must notify the local authorities there within one month of their arrival.

How to Apply and Maintain

To begin, the employer or the candidate must apply for an EU Blue Card to the recognized national authorities in the designated EU market. The application process for an EU Blue Card differs from one EU market to another. Each EU member is free to decide whether the application for the permit has to be made by the third-country national or the employer. While some member states offer online applications, many require candidates to arrange appointments at the embassy or consulate in their home country. Some countries also charge application fees.

The standard period for a Blue Card’s validity is three years. If an employee’s work contract is extended, they can renew their permit accordingly. In cases where the work contract is valid for more than a year but less than three years, the employee’s EU Blue Card will be valid for that specific period. When an EU Blue Card expires, the individual is granted a three additional month period to extend the contract or find another job.

How GoGlobal Can Help

The EU Blue Card unlocks new doors and greatly expands the hiring pool for employers, particularly for multinational firms that have a global workforce. However, one key component of the process is having contract from an employer in that specific market. That’s where an Employer of Record Provider (EOR) like GoGlobal can help, our local entity can provide the compliant contract to enable the worker to obtain their Blue Card.

GoGlobal alleviates some of the bureaucratic burden, identifying eligibility and furnishing all the necessary employer documentation needed to complete your team member’s application.

Go Fast, Go Smart, GoGlobal