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June 13—The European Union has overhauled its Blue Card visa program in an attempt to attract more IT, science and healthcare talent from abroad.
The new scheme, announced June 7 in Brussels, lowers salary thresholds and allows greater worker mobility, according to the European Commission.
“The EU Blue Card scheme, adopted in 2009, has proven insufficient and unattractive so far and is therefore underused,” the EC said in a statement. “Restrictive admission conditions and the existence of parallel rules, conditions and procedures at national level have limited the use of the EU scheme.”
The Blue Card is used by 25 member states, though nearly all of the visas (90 percent) are issued by Germany. The U.K., Denmark and Ireland do not participate in the scheme. Each EU member state calculates Blue Card salary minimums and job categories individually.
The Blue Card will still give companies the ability to bring over workers on a labor contact, but the salary threshold has been lowered significantly—as low as the member state's national average salary and as high as 1.4 times the national average salary. Currently, Blue Card holders must be paid at least 1.5 times the average salary.
Blue Card applications can be submitted either abroad or in EU territory. The maximum allowable processing time has been cut from 90 to 60 days and the minimum duration of the initial contract from 12 to six months. Trusted employers could see visa processing times drop still further.
Blue Card holders will be allowed to move to another EU member state after a year living in the country that issued the visa. Although EU countries won't recognize Blue Cards issued in another EU member state, transferring between countries should become easier, the EC said.
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