|March 3, 2014|
Previously published on February 25, 2014
Employers this year could see sudden immigration changes, processing delays and new requirements as EU member states begin to adopt a single combined work and residence permit system for locally hired third-country nationals, as required by an EU directive. The single permit system should, however, eventually streamline and standardize immigration procedures within the EU.
EU member states were required to implement a single permit program for locally hired third-country nationals by December 25, 2013, but most failed to meet the deadline. Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom are not required to implement the directive.
Although the directive mandates the establishment of a single application process for issuance of the single permits “in a timely manner,” among other conditions, it gives member states some latitude in developing individualized procedures and incorporating them into their domestic immigration systems. As a result, requirements and application procedures may differ across member states. The adoption of the single permit directive can lead to minor procedural changes in a country, as seen in Luxembourg, or it can mean a sudden and drastic overhaul of a country’s immigration system, as happened recently in Hungary and Slovakia.
As many as 15 EU member states have yet to implement a single permit program, though they are in varying stages of drafting or negotiating related legislation. Several member states, including Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal, already had compliant single permit systems in place when the directive was announced and are not required to take further action. Bulgaria has approved legislation but has not yet implemented its program.
There has been some speculation that some member states would designate their EU Blue Card program as their single permit. However, because the Blue Card is reserved for highly skilled workers only and because member states may not have established a single application process for the Blue Card, it may be difficult for them to amend their existing Blue Card programs to comply with the single permit directive.
Though they are free to do so, EU states are not required by the directive to implement a single permit system for intracompany transferees, workers staying for less than six months, long-term residents, seasonal workers or au pairs. However, the EU is currently considering a similar proposed directive that would apply to intracompany transferees.
What This Means for Employers
Though the implementation of single permit programs in the region may cause short-term challenges for employers, it should in the long term simplify and further harmonize immigration rules in EU states. More efficient procedures both for third-country nationals and their employers may also result.