Written by Richard Way,
30th March 2023

Got a good job in the UK or another non-EU country, but have ambitions to move to Europe? Your ticket to a new working life could be the little-known EU Blue Card, a scheme created to provide opportunities for foreign professionals to live and work in the EU. Let’s take a look at the key facts.

The EU Blue Card provides travel and work opportunities

The European Blue Card scheme

The EU Blue Card is a type of employment permit that enables highly qualified foreigners to work and live in European Union countries. It was introduced by the European Commission more than a decade ago, although it has been updated over the years and new directives kick in this November. All EU member states offer Blue Cards to eligible third-country nationals except Denmark and Ireland.

A mutually beneficial initiative, the Blue Card scheme helps European nations enrich their workforce and tackle skills shortages, while providing opportunities for professional workers from outside the EU. Some EU countries base their allocation of Blue Cards on a Labour Market Test (LBT), which means they only grant them once an employer is unsuccessful filling job roles with their own national citizens, EU citizens (in EU Member States this also means EEA workers) or legally residing third-country nationals.

Often these jobs will be in professions and industries where there is a skills shortage. Hence countries set their own limits on the number of Blue Cards issued each year. Thresholds for minimum salary levels and how long you must stay in a job before being able to change also vary.

EU Blue Card vs US Green Card

Many have compared the EU Blue Card to the US Green Card, another long-term residence permit in the USA. The Blue Card is a work permit with the same conditions in all EU countries. It was actualy so-named the “blue card” to signify that it’s Europe’s answer to the US Green Card.

Could you work from overseas?

What are the key benefits of a Blue Card?

Besides employment, a Blue Card makes the holder eligible for temporary residency for between one and four years in their chosen country. They are renewable, so long as the holder still meets all the requirements. Depending on the country, holders can apply for a new job in the same country after a year or longer, and typically after 18 months they can re-apply and move to a different EU country.

As a resident working full-time and enjoying the same workplace conditions as local citizens, holders benefit from social security benefits and public services, and there are opportunities to bring family members too. You also gain the right to come and go to your new country, visiting other EU countries (within the Schengen Area) unhindered for up to three months during a six-month period. Time spent in other EU countries can count towards – and help speed up – your eligibility for permanent residency.


Who is eligible for a Blue Card?

There are three key requirements: applicants must be a non-EU citizen; applicants must have higher professional qualifications that are approved by their chosen EU country (more on this below); applicants must have a work contract or binding job offer in an EU country for a minimum term of one year and with a salary of at least 1.5 times the average gross salary of that country.

Examples of salary thresholds are as follows:

  • €24,789 in Italy
  • €33,908 in Spain
  • €53,836 in France
  • €53,600 in Germany

Countries often drop the salary threshold for jobs in professions with a skills shortage (in Spain this 1.2 times the average salary).So, what qualifies as higher professional qualifications? In short, it refers to any type of higher education qualification that required a minimum of three years of studying.

This includes degrees, diplomas and other types of tertiary education certificates issued by a competent authority all count. The issuing educational establishment must be recognised as a higher education institution by the country in which it is situated (as well as by the EU country).

However, several EU countries accept professional experience as an alternative to education qualifications. This must be at least five years of professional experience at a level comparable to higher education qualifications and be relevant to the profession or sector specified in the applicant’s work contract or job offer.

Would you consider applying for a European Blue Card?

How to apply for a Blue Card

Blue Card applications are made to the immigration authorities in the country where you wish to work. Typically, the process starts with an applicant securing a job in an EU country and their future employer then makes the application on their behalf.

Applications come with fees, typically between €0 and €400, depending on the country. You should receive a decision within 90 days of your application being submitted.

Once a Blue Card is granted, the next step is for the applicant to apply for a visa at the consulate of the EU country before moving there. On arrival, they can then obtain their residency card. Blue Cards can also be applied for if you are already resident in an EU country and intend to gain employment in another.

For more information, visit the European Commission website 

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