The European Commission said its permit scheme for allowing highly-skilled non-Europeans to work within the EU has, “proven insufficient and unattractive” as it set out plans to revise the four year old Blue Card – modelled on the US Green Card.
Since the Blue Card was introduced, Germany has issued almost 14,000 permits, or 90 per cent of the total, while the Netherlands has issued four and Sweden just two.
The Commission is proposing to abolish most national schemes and create one single, Europe-wide system, and to introduce further inducements.
"If we want to compete with the US Green Card, we need an EU Blue Card that deserves the same merit," said Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU migration commissioner.
The processing time for permits will be brought down from 90 to 60 days and it will be made easier for Blue Card holders to move to other EU states to take up a new job. Immigrants will be permitted to re-locate after one year of residence in the first EU country, compared to 18 months under existing rules.
Applicants will still need a job contract or a job offer, but the required minimum duration of the initial contract is brought down from 12 to six months. The UK, Ireland and Denmark are not part of the system.
The Commission hopes its plan will reverse the trend of skilled migrants from Asia and Africa going to the US, Canada and Australia.
Europe needs these skills because it is very short of expertise in computer technology and health, according to the Commission. In ICT it is estimated there will be 756,000 unfilled vacancies by 2020, while a shortfall of around 1 million highly skilled workers is estimated over the same period in health.
In addition, Europe faces a serious demographic challenge. By 2050, some 25 million Europeans are expected to retire and one third will be over 65 years of age.