European Union blue card – will it make recruiting non-EU citizens easier?


The amendments made to the Aliens Act entered into force on 19 June 2011. One of the amendments is the addition of a new legal basis for third-country nationals to work in Estonia – the European Union blue card, which is used in all European Union Member States except Denmark.

The general bases and principles of granting the European Union blue card are set forth in the respective EU Directive. According to the Directive all highly qualified employees and their family members should have an easy and quick option to obtain a residence permit – the European Union blue card. However, despite this being a good idea, applying for a blue card is actually somewhat more difficult than one could expect.

Is applying for a blue card easier than applying for an ordinary residence permit?

In short – it is not. Applying for a European Union blue card is actually more difficult and time-consuming than applying for the so-say ordinary residence permit. This is probably the reason why it’s not a very attractive option.

Namely, in order for a potential employee to be able to apply for the European Union blue card, the employer must have entered into an employment contract with the potential employee for at least 1 year or made the potential employee a binding offer to employ him/her for at least a year even before the application is filed. As the job or position that the employer wants to fill by hiring a non-EU national must require a higher qualification, it means that the procedure for recognition of the non-EU national’s professional qualifications must be completed before he/she applies for the permit.

Does the European Union blue card make recruiting non-EU nationals easier?

However, despite the somewhat bureaucratic nuances, the European Union blue card also has some positive sides. Unlike an application for an ordinary residence permit, the application for a European Union blue card can be filed here in Estonia, in the local service unit of the Citizenship and Migration Bureau. Also, the holder of a blue card may be unemployed for a short period of time without their residence permit becoming invalid. It is also positive that if the holder of a blue card has lived in Estonia on the basis of a blue card for at least two years, he/she doesn’t have to apply for a new residence permit when he/she starts working for another employer.

All in all, although applying for a European Union blue card and the application procedure may seem more complicated and bureaucratic, I advise to be more active in using this option with regards to hiring highly qualified potential employees.

Blue card holders do not have to apply for a new residence permit if they change jobs. This is particularly important if the new employer is interested in the non-EU national starting to work for them as soon as possible, which in the usual situation may not be possible due to the lack of a residence permit. I believe that in the long term, it will favour the employment of highly qualified non-EU nationals in Estonia.

However, before you recruit an employee from a non-EU country, make sure that you understand the procedure of employing them and ask for professional advice if necessary. We are happy to help you with this any way we can.

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