EU blue card job program visa to attract skilled labor
The European Union's top immigration official on Tuesday launched EU's biggest global job advertising blitz, presenting plans to set up a US-style green card job program to lure highly skilled workers to fill ever-increasing gaps across the 27-country bloc.
The plan aims to "improve the EU's ability to attract and, where necessary, retain," international professionals like doctors, nurses, engineers and IT workers from abroad in a large-scale effort to fill ever growing shortages of skilled jobs across the EU, through a new fast-track "blue card" worker visa program, the EU said. "We are not good enough at attracting highly skilled people" said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who along with Franco Frattini, EU commissioner in charge of immigration issues, presented the "blue card" plan. Barroso said the visa plan would offer highly qualified job seekers a simpler way to get a job within the EU and, if approved by EU governments, would do away with about 20 different national procedures to get residence and work permits. The measures would seek to lure professionals from across Asia, Africa and Latin America to work and live in the European Union. Frattini said the EU at the moment was way behind other western countries and economic rivals like the United States, Australia and Canada in attracting skilled labour. He pointed to EU statistics showing that non-EU highly qualified workers accounted for only 0.9% of all workers in the EU, compared with 9.9% in Australia, 7.3% in Canada and 3.5% in the U.S. "These figures show very clearly that, for the highly skilled workers, Europe is not very attractive and this is the reason why we have decided to launch this proposal, that I am sure is going to make the European Union somewhat more attractive," Frattini said. The EU justice and interior affairs chief has been drafting his "blue card" plan for years, but has faced opposition from many EU governments who do not want Brussels to have a say, or to set standards as to how many, or what kind of immigrants they let into their countries. Under the plan, migrants would be able to use a fast-track application asking for a single work and residence permit which would be valid for a renewable two-year work visa. Those who get the "blue card" would have the right to social and other employment benefits enjoyed by EU citizens and would, after an initial two-year freeze, be able to move to another EU state if they find another job there. The European Commission has called for EU action to set up the system, arguing the union's working-age population will shrink by more than 50 million by 2050, leaving widespread shortages in key sectors. The EU argues there is an urgent need to boost the number of immigrants in the union, warning that only a steady influx of newcomers will offset the impact of low birth rates and a graying population. Germany has already tried to attract high-tech workers due to shortages there, while Britain and the Netherlands have tried to attract nurses and doctors from Africa and Asia.