New Developments In European Immigration Law From A Spanish Perspective
Europe Day is celebrated on 9 May in commemoration of the historic “Schuman Declaration”, considered to be the birth of the European Union as we know it. The European Union currently faces unprecedented challenges, such as the war in Ukraine and the climate crisis.
In this context, Spain will assume the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2023. During its Presidency, Spain will have special responsibility for leading initiatives related to the Union’s main lines of work: ecological transition, digital transformation and the social agenda.
The influence and impact of European law on the lives of citizens in the Member States is unquestionable. With numerous and varied pieces of legislation, whether directly applicable or subject to transposition, we find recent examples that have had a significant impact on citizens’ lives: the regulation of personal data protection or the very recent whistleblower directive that obliges companies with more than 50 employees to have a whistleblower channel.
And what do citizens think of this European influence?
According to Eurobarometer data published in March 2023, 76% of Spanish citizens are in favour of more decisions being taken at EU level, well above the European average (57%), and 82% are in favour of establishing common policies on migration.
One of the main purposes of the European Union today is to improve its control of external borders and migration flows. To this end, rules and frameworks have been adopted to manage legal migration flows, in particular for highly skilled workers, students and researchers, seasonal workers and persons seeking family reunification. The regulation of highly skilled workers is clearly one of the priorities of Member States in contributing to economic recovery and aims at attracting and retaining talent from outside the EU, especially in sectors with skills shortages.
What developments are we expecting this year from EU migration law?
This year, the main novelty that will revolutionise the processing of permits for highly qualified workers is the new EU Blue Card regulation, after the Council adopted the new EU Blue Card Directive on 7 October 2021.
The EU Blue Card is a work authorisation that allows highly qualified third-country workers to reside and work in the European Union. This figure was initiated with a Directive adopted in 2009 that resulted in uneven implementation among Member States. The interpretation made by the Spanish legislator, for example, resulted in a figure that has practically not been used because it requires accreditation of the national employment situation, a difficult and lengthy procedure, and which lost its meaning with the approval of the residence authorisation for highly qualified professionals introduced by Law 14/2013 on entrepreneurs.
The aim of the new regulation, pending transposition into Spanish law, is for the EU Blue Card to become the main instrument for attracting highly qualified workers: with faster procedures, more flexible and inclusive admission criteria and more extensive rights, including streamlined mobility within the European Union. This is a change that will be very attractive for Spanish companies, as it will not only facilitate access to foreign talent residing abroad, but also simplify the recruitment of talent already residing in the EU.
In Spain, the EU Blue Card will be regulated in Law 14/2013 under the name of “EU Highly Qualified Professional“, so that the Large Companies Unit will be in charge of its processing, guaranteeing reduced and competitive deadlines for Spanish companies. The permit will be granted for a period equal to the duration of the contract, to which 3 months will be added, without in any case exceeding the maximum limit of 3 years.
We do not have an exact date of entry into force in Spain, but the Directive sets 18 November 2023 as the deadline for transposition. We will therefore have to remain vigilant because its entry into force will relegate the current and attractive procedure for highly qualified professionals to a national permit whose regulation will be modified to avoid inequalities between workers. It will be vital to keep up to date in order to assess, case by case, which is the best option for the worker and for the company.