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EU Council and Parliament Reach a Deal on Single Permit Directive

The 2022 amendment to the legislative directive of 2011/98 to enhance international talent recruitment has finally been passed through the EU parliament. This directive deals with the legal migration to the EU labour market. Elma Saiz, Spanish Minister, hails it as a response to labour market challenges, ensuring a smoother process for third-country nationals.

This pivotal move for the single permit directive update brings good news to the labour market of the EU and workers from the third-world labourers because it aims to:

       Streamline application processes,
       Enhance international talent recruitment
       Reduce labour exploitation. 

The Directive covers 25 EU Member States; all Member States except Denmark and Ireland. Member states also retain the right as to how many labours they wish to recruit into their labour market.

The 2011 Migration and Labour Directive of the EU

The directive passed in the EU legislative assembly in 2011 revolved around "a single application procedure for a single permit for third-country nationals to reside and work in the territory of a Member State and on a common set of rights for third-country workers legally residing in a Member State.’

What this means is that it establishes common rights for workers for non-EU labourers working in the EU, now they have the right to enjoy:

       Right to move work and reside freely in the issuing EU country,
       Enjoy the same conditions as nationals of the issuing country as regards working conditions, education and training, recognition of qualifications
       They also get to contribute to certain aspects of social security, tax benefits
       They get access to goods and services, including housing and employment advice services.

What is the Application Procedure for a Single Permit?

The application for a work visa in the EU has always been a point of contention for almost every non-EU legal work migrant. To make the process more effective, the new amendment aims to streamline the application procedure to make it more effective.

       A third-country worker can submit an application from the territory of a third-country or, according to the agreement reached between the co-legislators, from within the EU if he or she is a holder of a valid residence permit.
       When a member state decides to issue the single permit this decision will serve both as residence and as work permit.

Simplification of Application Procedures for Non-EU Migrants

The biggest hurdle the EU labour market has faced in eliminating labour shortage is the overall duration of application procedures. Now the process is set to be simplified by:

       Strengthening the safeguards and equal treatment of nationals of non-EU countries as compared to EU citizens
       Improve their protection from labour exploitation.
       The proposal includes new obligations for Member States to provide for inspections, monitoring mechanisms and sanctions against employers infringing national provisions.

“Many employers are facing a tense labour market situation. The proposal we have agreed on today is a response to this situation of shortages as it will result in a smooth and predictable process for third-country nationals to apply for work and residence permits in one go.” says Elma Saiz, Spanish Minister for the inclusion, Social security and migration in EU parliament today.

Fair Conditions for Non-EU Workers

On 25 January, 2023 the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs emphasised on the necessity to create fair working conditions for third-country nationals working in the EU Member States. The rapporteur Agnes Jongerius demanded ‘more action to stop the undermining abusive and exploitative practices of those employers who bend or break the rules.’

In the new single-permit directive, to ensure that migrant labour will not be exploited, certain conditions have been added:  

       The single permit will not be linked to one employer alone but the workers will have the right to change employer while continuing to reside legally in the Member State.
       This will facilitate labour matching and reduce vulnerability to labour exploitation.

Challenges and Limitations of Single-Permit

Although this is a welcome change and a relief for the non-EU worked, but there are certain limitations on these acts which are crucial to understand. In this directive:

       The social security rights of workers can still be limited by the Member States accordingly.
       The Directive does not create a right for third-country national workers to enter a state for the purposes of employment; it only introduces a single application procedure.
       Authorities in EU countries must treat any application for a single permit for residence and work as a single application procedure.
       They must decide whether the application is to be made by a non-EU country national or by their employer (or both).

What is The Duration of Single-Permit Directive?

To avoid the existing issue of prolonged application procedures, The Council and European Parliament have laid down specific directives on how long this permit should be put into effect once the application has gone through:

       The directive instructs that the issuing of the single permit should be made within three months after receipt of the complete application.
       This period also covers the time needed to check the labour market situation before a decision on the single permit to be adopted in full.
       The Member states will then issue the requisite visa to allow initial entry into their territory.

In 2019 Eurostat released single-permit data to show that member states reported 2,984,261 single-permit decisions. Out of these, 1,212,952 were for issuing first permits. The other decisions were for renewing or changing permits.

After this directive has been passed by both EU Council and Parliament, all Member States have stepped up their efforts to address the labour shortages in their countries and become an attractive place for international talented workers. However,  problematic issues with the procedure (administrative steps, delays, labour market tests) still remain the biggest hurdle for workers who are already employed in the EU. 

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