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Policy plan on legal migration
The Commission proposes a series of legislative and operational initiatives on legal migration, in four complementary policy areas. Most notably, it recommends drawing up a framework directive to safeguard the rights of all third-country nationals in legal employment. It also plans four complementary directives to cover the entry and residence of certain categories of third-country nationals, namely highly qualified workers, seasonal workers, intra-corporate transferees and remunerated trainees.
Communication from the Commission on a policy plan on legal migration [COM (2005) 669 final - not published in the Official Journal].
This document proposes initiatives to develop common EU rules in the field of legal migration. The proposed measures are not exhaustive, and additional proposals may be presented in all four of the areas covered by the action plan.
Legislative measures on labour immigration
The Commission proposes the creation of a general framework directive. The directive is intended to guarantee a number of rights to all third-country nationals in legal employment. The rights would be extended to all workers admitted to a Member State but not yet entitled to long-term residence status (Directive 2003/109/EC).
The framework directive will also address the question of recognition of qualifications and introduce a single application for a joint work/residence permit, which would involve biometric identifiers. The validity of such a document would be strictly tied to the existence of a legal work contract.
The Commission also proposes four specific directives. These would concern only salaried workers and would cover entry and residence conditions for:
- highly skilled workers;
- seasonal workers;
- intra-corporate transferees (ICTs);
- remunerated trainees.
The directives will establish a rule that admission should be conditional on the existence of a work contract and on the "economic needs test", although exceptions may be granted for certain sectors or regions.
The Commission suggests a common special procedure to speed the admission of immigrants covered by the proposed highly skilled workers directive. If necessary, the proposal could also include intra-EU mobility, or introduce an EU work permit (EU green card) issued by one Member State but valid throughout the EU.
The proposed directive on the conditions of entry and residence of seasonal workers puts forward a scheme for a joint permit that allows the holder to work for several months each year over four to five years, provided that the entry and residence requirements are respected (including the maximum length of stay per year).
The scheme put forward by the proposed directive on the entry and residence of ICTs notably sets out common procedures in relation to temporary residence in the EU for ICTs. The Commission suggests that the measure should specifically address the intra-EU mobility of ICTs.
The proposed directive on the admission of remunerated trainees is intended to allow them to acquire qualifications and knowledge through a period of training in Europe. The aim is to provide safeguards so that abuses can be avoided.
Knowledge building and information
The Commission will develop tools to substantially improve access to and exchange of information.
By 2007, the Commission intends to create an EU portal to present:
- EU policies and the acquis;
- news in this area;
- links to the national websites, the EURES network, and the future EU integration website;
- research results.
Other Commission activities will include:
- specific information campaigns about the EU immigration policies;
- targeted EU activities such as identifying issues related to third-country immigrants to be addressed during the European Year of Workers' Mobility (2006) and the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All (2007).
The Commission also intends to develop services through the European Job Mobility Portal (EURES).
It has also begun a reform of the European Migration Network (EMN) to improve the availability of information about migration and asylum.
Given the cross-cutting nature of integration, the Commission intends to ensure that the specific priorities of integration policy (proposed by the Commission and agreed by the Member States) are coherently reflected across a range of policies.
It suggests, in particular, providing integration programmes for newly arrived legal immigrants (including information packs, language courses and civic orientation), and education, training and cultural initiatives. To fund such projects, and others, the Commission proposed the creation of a European fund for the integration of third-country nationals under the financial perspectives 2007-2013.
Cooperation with countries of origin
The Commission proposes to monitor the migration of skilled workers from developing countries to the EU, to identify sectors and countries of origin subject to significant brain drains, and to propose solutions that meet the needs of Member States and the countries concerned.
It suggests improving information in countries of origin about the possibilities for legal immigration to the EU.
The Commission proposes supporting circular migration through feasibility studies covering:
- long-term multi-entry visas for returning migrants;
- the possibility of former immigrants being given priority and obtaining a new residence permit for further temporary employment in the former host country under a simplified procedure. In this respect, it also recommends considering the case for setting up an EU database of third country nationals who left the EU when their temporary residence/work permit expired.
The Commission will also explore the advisability and the technical feasibility of funding training structures under the responsibility of the local authorities and/or of NGOs in countries of origin, to help immigrants develop their skills and better adapt to the needs of the EU job market.
The Hague Programme underlined the importance of the question of economic immigration, and invited the Commission to "present a policy plan on legal migration including admission procedures capable of responding promptly to fluctuating demands for migrant labour in the labour market before the end of 2005." This document constitutes the Commission's response to that request. More detailed measures will be proposed over the coming four years.