The EU said yesterday that it is launching a new ‘blue card’ working visa scheme, designed to tempt thousands of highly-skilled workers from outside of Europe to come and ply their trade on the continent. The idea is to replace the current system, in which every country has its own procedure, with a single application process.
Workers who qualify for the blue card (which is intended as the European version of the US green card – see what they’ve done there?) will be entitled to live and work in Europe for an initial two-year period, bringing their family with them after an initial qualifying period, and will eventually be entitled to permanent residency after five years.
The EU reckons that by 2030 Europe will have a shortfall of about 20m skilled workers, thanks to an ageing population and rapid growth. Making economic migration easier is the only way to plug this gap, it thinks. And currently, Europe is not exactly seen as a hot-spot for talented workers: only 5% of the world’s skilled migrants come to the EU, while the US gets a whopping 55% (compare this to unskilled migrants, where Europe gets 85% of the total and the US just 5%).
The only catch if you’re a UK business is that Britain is expected to opt out of the new scheme. The government wants to stick to its own points-based system, where immigrants qualify for residency once they tick a certain number of boxes.
As with all migration schemes, the Blue Card scheme is bound to be controversial. There will inevitably be rumblings across Europe about ‘foreigners coming in and taking our jobs’ – although the EU has already tried to reassure trade unions by insisting that EU workers will continue to get priority in both hiring and training.
And worst of all, it raises the prospect of someone making a sequel to Green Card, that terrible film starring Gerard Depardieu. If that happens we might seriously consider emigrating ourselves.