Each year, the Member States of the European Union – except Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom – grant thousands of blue cards. The blue card was launched in 2009 with the aim of boosting the EU’s ability to attract highly qualified workers from third countries. It is a long-term residency and work permit that can be issued to higher earning, skilled professionals by one Member State. Since its adoption, the number of EU blue cards has continuously been rising. According to Eurostat, the European Statistical Office, the biggest EU blue card issuers are Germany, France, Poland and Luxembourg. In 2018, the Grand Duchy issued 944 blue cards against 639 in 2016, i.e. an increase of more than 50% in only two years! More significantly, the number of first residence permits represented more than half of the blue cards issued in 2018. What explains this growing success in Luxembourg and what are the requirements to be considered as a highly skilled worker?
Third-country nationals must satisfy three conditions of higher professional qualification. They must have concluded a valid employment contract with a duration equal or longer than one year. They must provide documentary evidence for the required high professional qualifications in the activity or sector mentioned in the employment contract. They must receive a salary at least equivalent to 1.5 time or 1.2 times of the amount of the Luxembourg average gross annual salary (EUR 73,998 or EUR 59,198.40) depending on the activity. The EU blue card is valid for four years or the duration of the employment contract plus three months if the employment contract has been concluded for a period inferior to four years. It can be renewed on request several times, each time for two more years, as long as the application conditions are met.
The EU blue card gives highly qualified third-country nationals a lot of advantages. After two years, they have unlimited access to the Luxembourg market for all highly skilled jobs in the private sector. Their family is allowed to immediately accompany them when they arrive in Luxembourg or to join them afterward. If they have to face unemployment for one reason or another, the EU blue card is not automatically withdrawn. Nevertheless, unemployment must not exceed three months and occur once during the period of the validity of the card. Under certain conditions, the EU blue card facilitates intra-European mobility by making it possible to cumulate days in different EU Member States to obtain long-term resident status.
The strong demand for highly skilled third-nationals in the Grand Duchy can be explained for two main reasons. Like most countries in Europe, Luxembourg sees its economy becoming more and more digital and needs very specialised skills in IT, finance and insurance. At the same time, the significant economic growth of the country in recent decades has gradually drained the traditional labour pool of the Greater Region. Finding workers with high professional qualifications is becoming more and more challenging. According to the National Employment Agency (ADEM), around 28% of the vacancies remain unfilled. Besides, a study conducted by the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER) shows that companies have difficulties in filling positions in the intellectual, scientific and leadership professions. This situation forces employers to look outside the European Union to attract high skilled employees, but the competition is harsh. Luxembourg must compete with the other European countries also affected by the lack of a highly qualified workforce.
Fortunately, the Grand Duchy has many assets to put forward. The country has a reputation for being open and multicultural. The country is also the top destination for safety and security as well as job security, reveals the 2018 edition of the Internations’ annual Expat Insider survey. It is no coincidence that most of the EU blue card holders in Luxembourg come from India, the United States, China and Russia!
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