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Brussels, 20th January 2006

Status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents in the EU : deadline for rules to take effect on 23 January 2006

On 23 January 2006, the deadline for the implementation of Directive 2003/109/EC of 25 November 2003 concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents will expire. Vice President Frattini emphasised “this Directive is a cornerstone of the legal framework covering immigration and integration of third-country nationals. More than 10 million third country nationals in the EU will directly benefit from it”.

In essence, this Directive translates into legal reality the call of the Tampere European Council, that the legal status of third-country nationals should be approximated to that of Member States' nationals and that a person who has resided legally in a Member State for a long period of time should be granted a set of uniform rights which are as near as possible to those enjoyed by citizens of the European Union.

To acquire long-term resident status, third-country nationals have to prove that they have continuously and legally resided in a Member State for at least five years and that they dispose of adequate resources and sickness insurance. Member States may require third-country nationals to comply with integration conditions, in accordance with national law. Long-term residents enjoy reinforced protection against expulsion, they are guaranteed equal treatment with nationals of the EU in a wide range of economic and social matters and will also have the right to reside in another Member State for employment, study or other purposes on the conditions set out in the directive.

An extrapolation of existing data indicates that at least 10 million of legally residing third-country nationals could qualify as beneficiaries of this Directive.

By mid-January only 5 Member States (Austria, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia and the Slovak Republic) have notified their implementing measures to the Commission. The Commission regrets this delay in transposition and the legal uncertainty for third-country nationals resulting from it. It will take the appropriate procedural steps according to its power conferred by Article 226 of the EC Treaty.

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