If you are a non-EU citizen looking to relocate to a country in the European Union, an EU Blue Card could help the transition.
The Blue Card scheme is a lesser-known option when it comes to moving abroad for work.
The benefits vary between countries, but it essentially works as a residence and work permit.
Here’s what you need to know about whether you are eligible for the card and how to apply.
What is an EU Blue Card?
The Blue Card scheme was launched by the European Council in May 2009. The system allows highly-qualified non-EU citizens to live and work in any EU country - apart from Denmark and Ireland.
In December 2011, a single permit directive was adopted, described as a ‘demand-driven, residence and work permit’.
The scheme aims to attract skilled workers to the EU. "Labour migration into Europe boosts our competitiveness and therefore our economic growth," says José Manuel Barroso, who previously served as president of the European Council.
“It also helps tackle demographic problems resulting from our ageing population."
As such, the Blue Card is aimed at professionals with an “adequate education” or “sought-after skills”.
What are the benefits of the EU Blue Card?
The Blue Card initiative comes with various benefits to aid relocation to an EU member state.
Most importantly, it ensures working and salary conditions equal to nationals and freedom of movement within the Schengen Area (unless issued in Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus or Croatia.)
It also entitles holders to a series of socio-economic rights, such as unemployment benefits, and makes it easier for family members to join you.
After two to five years, depending on the country of residence, the card allows you to apply for permanent residency.
How can I apply for an EU Blue Card?
If you think the Blue Card might be for you, be prepared to face a tough and potentially lengthy application process.
Firstly, there are various conditions for eligibility. This scheme is only for non-EU citizens, so Brits and Americans can take advantage, for example.
Secondly, the scheme requires applicants to have completed tertiary education - i.e. an undergraduate degree - or two to five years of professional experience depending on the country.
Applicants are also required to hold an employment contract or binding employment offer in the country they intend to live in. This contract must meet minimum salary requirements.
The application process varies between countries, but you will need to begin by arranging an appointment at the EU or specific country’s embassy or consulate in your country of residence.
As well as your offer of employment, in most cases you will need to bring your completed application form, passport, passport photos, evidence of your education qualification, a CV and evidence of health insurance.
In some countries, this is just an initial step to receive an entry visa for employment or residence permit. The Blue Card application is then done when you move to the new country at a local immigration office.
Each country has a slightly different process so make sure you consult the specific information page.
What are the minimum salary requirements for an EU Blue Card?
To be eligible for an EU Blue Card, you need to earn roughly 1.5 times the average gross salary of the respective country.
Countries specify a minimum annual salary requirement each year. In France, for example, it is set at €53,836.50 or over while Germany asks for at least €56,400.
Other countries are significantly lower. Italy’s minimum requirement is €24,789 per year while Malta is €16,036.
How much does the EU Blue Card cost?
The application for an EU Blue Card varies in cost between countries. The most expensive is Finland, where it costs €550 while in Bulgaria it costs €55 and in Cyprus it is free to apply.
How long does it take to get an EU Blue Card?
The EU Blue Card has a maximum processing time of 90 days. The exact time it takes for you to receive your card will depend on the country you intend to live in and the authorities handling the application.
If you are thinking of applying for a Blue Card, make sure you visit the individual country’s immigration website for specific information on how to apply.