May 24. 2024. 5:52

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Legal affairs committee seeks easier residence permits for non-EU workers

Members of the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee on Thursday (23 March) adopted a report to update the directive on a single work and residence permit and speed up permit procedures for third-country nationals.

The report concerns a revision of the 2011 single permit directive, which was proposed by the European Commission in April last year, in an attempt to make it easier for EU companies to find workers from third countries and address EU labour shortages.

The proposal also seeks to boost the protection of migrant workers from labour exploitation, by ensuring that the single permit is not linked to one employer only.

Speeding up procedures

Compared to the Commission’s proposal, the members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted to extend the scope of the directive to seasonal workers and those under temporary protection and to facilitate permit procedures.

“We are making the procedure for obtaining a single permit as simple and fast as possible,” social-democrat MEP Javier Moreno Sánchez, rapporteur on the single permit, said in a statement following the vote.

According to the adopted report, decisions on applications for a single permit should take no longer than 90 days, while the limit is currently set at four months. For applicants already holding a single permit in another EU country or selected through EU talent partnerships, the decision would need to be made within 45 days, the report reads.

According to the rapporteur, this timeframe should facilitate international recruitment for EU employers.

“[The single permit] can become a useful tool for companies and workers from third countries, responding quickly to the needs of the labour market and strengthening safe and legal paths to reach Europe in search of work,” he said.

According to Eurostat, 2.9 million single permits were issued in the EU in 2021. Of these, just under one million were issued to new non-EU workers, while the majority were extensions of existing residence permits.

Protecting workers

In line with the Commission’s proposal, MEPs also voted in favour of allowing workers to change their job during the validity period of their permit. This would allow them to step away from situations where their employer uses abusive labour practices.

“We guarantee equal treatment of workers from third countries as compared to national workers, protecting them from exploitation and other illegal situations, while facilitating their full integration in our societies,” the rapporteur said.

Moreover, the MEPs voted to extend the unemployment period during which the residence permit stays valid from three to nine months to allow a longer time period for the worker to find a new job.

At the same time, EU lawmakers agreed that member states would maintain competence over decisions concerning the number of third-country nationals allowed on their territory for work.

The Parliament is expected to adopt its position in the April plenary session. Once EU member states adopt their common position, the institutions will enter into negotiations.

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