French Application of the New European Blue Card for Immigration of Skilled Foreign Employees : A valid competitor to the American Green Card ?
Initially, the Blue European Labour Card was a project of the European Commission. It dates back to the 23rd of October, 2007 when the President of the Commission José Manuel Barroso and the commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security Franco Frattini made the proposal for a “Blue Card” for non-European high-skilled immigrants, during a press conference. The Blue Card would allow those citizens to work and live in any country within the European Union (EU), excluding Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
The main reason of adopting such a card was the fact that the European Union was not attracting significant numbers of qualified foreign professionals. Indeed, most qualified immigrants from the Southern countries used to move to the United States or to Canada, rather than to Europe, which has an imbalance between the two continents. The idea was to offer an alternative to the well-known American Green Card, and to boost the attractiveness of immigration to Europe, and to establish a unified system for European immigration. The term “Blue Card” makes reference to the EU flag, which is blue.
The Blue Card is an attempt to create certain equality of rights between European Union citizens and skilled immigrants, as well as a real need of having a harmonized procedure application and admission within the 27 member States of EU.
The Commission proposal refers to Article 63 of the Treaty of Rome, which states that the Council shall “adopt measures on immigration policy” concerning “conditions of entry and residence, and standards on procedures for the issue by Member States of long-term visas and residence permits” (point 3 a)) and measures “defining the rights and conditions under which nationals of third countries who are legally resident in a Member State may reside in other Member States” (point 4).
The proposal has been heavily criticized by the international community: the main issue was possible brain drain from developing countries: the Blue Card could result in the loss of their skilled citizens who already tend to immigrate to the American continent.
Despite the criticism, a Directive was passed on May 29th 2009: the Blue European Labour Card was officially introduced, after warnings from the European Parliament against brain drain. The Directive is transposed in French law by the “Loi relative à l’Immigration, à l’Intégration et à la Nationalité » of the 16th of June 2011. Then, a Decree completed the process on September 6th 2011. This Decree came into force on the 8th of September 2011, but the provisions governing scientists and interns will come into force on January 2012.
CONDITIONS FOR GRANT OF THE BLUE EUROPEAN LABOUR CARD
The applicants to the Blue Card must either possess a three year advanced degree or a five years’ experience in the relevant field of activity, including two years in a high level position.
The must be in possession of European [French] employment contract of a term of at least one year. The contract must be consistent with the qualifications and professional experience of the applicant..
A minimum salary is also required: the salary must be at least 1.5 times the French median salary, that to say approximately 4,300 Euros (as of the fourth quarter of 2011). The median salary is set by decision of the French Immigration Ministry every year.
Contrary to most temporary work visas in France, granted for one-year terms, the Blue Card is granted for an initial period of three years and is renewable for a similar period. If the term of the work contract is for a period less than three years, the card will be available for the whole period of the contract plus three months in order to allowthe holder time to search for another job. The renewal of the Blue Card by the Labor Office and Préfecture will depend upon the holder’s compliance with the initial terms of issuance of the Blue Card..
During the first three years, the Blue Card holder will have access to the French labour market, but such access shall be limited to jobs in the concerned sector. After three years, the holder will have access to all the qualified jobs on the French market, on a par with French workers..
Generally, Blue Card applicants do not need to demonstrate that their employers have first sought candidates on the French labor market, which is a substantial improvement from French common law rules and is much less time-consuming. However only time will tell to what extent the French administration will abide by such rules.
CRITICISM OF THE BLUE CARD
While the Blue Card may be perceived as opening a door to employment in Europe in light of the heretofore rigid immigration policy of the EU, it also raises some issues.
In the first place, the duration of the Blue Card is perceived as too short, compared to that of the Green Card: indeed, the Blue Card has a validity of three years whereas the American Green card is of unlimited duration. Furthermore, the Blue Card holder has to wait for three years before obtaining the right to work in another member state; whereas the American Green Card holder may work in any State of the United States of America.
These limitations may not be favourable enough to stem the tide of immigration of skilled immigrants to the United States and Canada. Indeed, according to French statistics, 50% of the North-African skilled immigrants settle in the United-States or in Canada, as compared to only 5,5% who move to Europe. The Green Card appears more advantageous in many ways.
The high level of the qualifications as well as the salary required make also the Blue Card very restrictive.
Furthermore, the introduction of the Blue Card, on top of numerous other French reforms and visa categories, makes French immigration law rather unwieldy – there are simply to many provisions governing the entry and residency of immigrants to France. How is France to balance the use of the Blue Card in light of the existing Skills and Talents Card established in 2006, or with existing regulations regarding transferred employees (salariés en mission)?
While the Blue Card certainly opens new avenues making Europe (and France) more attractive to skilled workers, only time will tell how the French labor offices and municipalities (Préfectures) apply the Blue Card in practice.
- January 2016
- December 2013