EU mulls 'blue card' for skilled migrants

(China Daily/Agencies)
Updated: 2007-10-24 07:21

The European Union leads the United States as a destination for Chinese students, a senior EU official said Tuesday in Beijing.

Last year 120,000 Chinese students studied in EU countries, a record number; and more Chinese students study in Europe than any other destination in the world, said Jan Figel, the European Commissioner for Education, Training and Youth.

"When people speak of education, especially higher education, they often think of the US. But actually, universities in the EU are, overall, the most attractive because they have a diversity of cultures and teaching methods," Figel said.

Of the world's top 500 universities, more than half are in the 27 EU states, he said.

To attract more foreign students, the EU launched the Erasmus Mundus program in 2004, providing scholarships to foreign students. About 230 million euros ($327 million) will be disbursed through the program by 2009.

"The EU has first-class football leagues, and I think that the EU educational system is also a first-class league," he added.

Figel is in China to sign two joint declarations.

One is a cultural communiqu that will cover the promotion of cultural diversity and cultural industries. The other is on education and will cover issues such as lifelong learning and language learning.

The declarations will lead to regular exchanges of experience and best practices, reviews of policy developments and knowledge building.

EU mulls 'blue card' for skilled migrants

BRUSSELS: 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 labor which is increasingly important to plug labor gaps in the aging developed world.

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

It would make it 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 approved 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 United States and Canada.

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

The holder of a card would be able to have his or her family join them, at the latest, six months after having asked for it and without having to prove that he or she 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 should also be entitled to the same access to public housing and study grants, although a member government could chose to do so only after the person had stayed 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 loses his or her job and is 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 old 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 would then have two years to implement it.

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