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Explainer: What you need to know about the EU Blue Card scheme

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European countries

The EU Blue Card program, which was developed by the European Commission, serves as a bridge to connect high-skilled non-EU citizens and 25 European Union countries (with Denmark and Ireland as exceptions).

The program is part of the EU’s broader strategy to mitigate the effects of an aging population and a shrinking workforce.

The aim is to attract skilled non-EU talent to the EU in order to sustain economic growth, enhance competitiveness, and maintain its global technological leadership by synergizing talent across borders, fostering integration and growth.

The EU Blue Card has been a significant component of the EU’s migration policy, designed to attract skilled workers to contribute to the economic growth and competitiveness of the region. For non-EU

nationals, it represents an opportunity for professional development and personal growth in the European Union.

Why the Blue Card was initiated

The EU Blue Card was inspired by the U.S Green card, and is now seen as the European Commission’s answer to the pressing need for skilled labor in sectors crippled by workforce shortages.

In May 2009, the European Council adopted the EU Blue Card directive, and by December 2011, the single permit directive was adopted. Together, they establish the EU Blue Card Scheme: A demand-driven, residence and work permit.

Unlike any standard work permit, it encapsulates a promise of growth, opportunity, and integration for individuals from diverse professional backgrounds including IT, engineering, and healthcare.

For Nigerians, especially those in the IT sector, the Blue Card fosters international career advancement, offering benefits like long-term residency, family reunification, and a seamless pathway to contribute to Europe’s economic dynamism.

 

Who is eligible for the Blue Card?

The Blue Card has been particularly significant in sectors experiencing acute labor shortages, such as information technology (IT), engineering, and healthcare which are critical for the EU’s economic development and innovation capacity.

Therefore, eligibility for the Blue Card demands a blend of professional experience and academic achievement in these sectors.

EU Blue Card for unqualified IT Professionals

 

Interestingly, the EU Blue Card has a special case in certain circumstances for IT professionals without formal qualifications.

  • To be eligible, the applicant must secure a specific job offer as an IT professional in Germany, with a minimum employment duration of six months.
  • The prospective job in Germany must offer a gross annual salary of at least €41,041.80 (as of 2024) to meet the financial threshold.
  • Additionally, the applicant must demonstrate a minimum of three years’ experience in the IT field within the past seven years. This professional experience must be at a university level and deemed essential for employment in Germany.

The application process is streamlined to encourage potential talents, to reflect Europe’s commitment to attract and retain global expertise.

What cardholders stand to benefit

In order to embrace diversity and foster development, cardholders can stay and work for a period of between one and four years in the Member State that granted the EU Blue Card.

Subsequently, the card holder can gain permanent residency after two to five years, depending on the country of residence. The card may also be renewed for the same period as long as you still satisfy all the conditions.

  • Obtaining a valid EU Blue Card, can enable the cardholder to enter, re-enter and stay in the EU country which has issued the card, without restrictions to pass through other EU countries and stay there for up to three months.
  • The EU Blue Card offers more favourable conditions for family reunification and access to work for spouses notably. If the relevant conditions are fulfilled and the applications lodged simultaneously, their residence permits can be issued at the same time as your EU Blue Card.
  • The EU Blue Card also gives access to visit other EU countries for up to three months (90 days) during a six-month period (180 days) with the privilege of traveling through other EU countries on your way to the EU country that you live and work in. It also provides residency permits for family reunification.
  • Furthermore, the EU Blue Card facilitates short-term visits to other EU nations for up to three months within a six-month period, with the added flexibility of transiting through other EU countries en route to the primary country of residence and employment.
  • Aim addition, it facilitates family reunification by providing residency permits.

How to qualify

To qualify for an EU Blue Card, applicants must:

  • Hold a higher education degree or have a minimum of five years relevant professional experience
  • Have a job offer or contract from an employer in the EU with a salary that meets or exceeds a set minimum, usually 1.5 times the average gross annual salary in the member state. Self-employment or entrepreneurial activities do not qualify.
  • Apply through the national immigration authorities of the EU country where the job is located.
  • Possess necessary travel documents and maintain health insurance coverage for yourself and accompanying family members.
  • For regulated professions, you must meet the legal requirements to practice in the respective field
  • Issuance numbers

Germany has been the leading issuer of EU Blue Cards, reflecting its strong economy and demand for skilled labor.

The country has issued approximately 200,000 Blue Cards since inception until the end of 2022 after it was first introduced into the Residence Act in June 2012.

Since then, the EU Blue Card has been an integral part of the residence regulations for the entry and employ- ment of highly qualified third-country nationals in Germany.

This makes it the most active participating country in the program.

Nigeria particularly, has been in the spotlight, with many professionals seizing the Blue Card opportunity to explore European horizons. Despite the debate on brain drain, the continuous influx of African talent underlines the enduring appeal and necessity of this program in addressing Europe’s skill deficits.


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