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Europe blue reply to US green card

Brussels, Oct. 23 (Reuters): The European Union is planning a “blue card” to lure highly skilled migrants by offering financial and housing benefits, and cutting red tape.

The 27-nation bloc is trying to compete with the US “green card” system and schemes in other western countries for the best-qualified migrant labour which is increasingly important to plug gaps in the ageing developed world.

The scheme, proposed by the European Commission today, would offer candidates a fast-track procedure to get work permits.

It would be made easier for them to work in another EU country, have their family join them, receive public housing and get long-term residency status, a draft shows.

To qualify for a blue card, a migrant would need an EU job contract of at least one year guaranteeing a salary of at least three times the minimum wage in the country concerned plus health insurance, the text shows.

The proposal “aims... to improve the EU’s ability to attract, and where necessary, to retain highly qualified workers,” the draft text to be appr-oved by the EU executive says.

“The EU as a whole... seems not to be considered attractive by highly qualified professionals in a context of very high international competition,” the text says, referring in particular to the US and Canada.

The scheme must gain approval from all 27 states and it faces resistance in some countries, notably Germany.

Card holders would be able to have their families join them, at the latest, six months after having asked for it and without having to prove that they had reasonable prospects of obtaining a permanent residence permit.

The holder of an EU blue card would be treated in the same way as EU nationals regarding tax benefits, social assistance, and payment of pensions when moving to another country.

The migrant would also be entitled to the same access to public housing and study grants, although a member go-vernment could chose to do so only after the person had sta-yed three years in its territory.

The blue card would be valid for up to two years and could then be renewed. It could be revoked if its holder lost his or her job and was unemployed for more than three months.

The EU executive will also propose making it easier for young high-skilled migrants to get the blue card.

Those under 30 years of age would need only to earn twice the minimum wage to be entitled to the scheme. Governments could decide to waive the salary requirement altogether if the migrant had obtained a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in an EU state.

If they agree to the law, EU states will then have two years to implement it.

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