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Reviewed October 2022

The prospect of living and working in the EU is one that is enticing to many. Conversely, the EU recognizes the importance and advantages of labor migration into Europe in boosting its competitiveness and economic growth.

Thus the EU Blue Card program was designed to render Europe an attractive destination for professionals from outside the EU. 

Here’s all you need to know about the EU Blue Card program; its requirements, eligibility, associated costs, and more.

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What is the EU Blue Card program?

The EU Blue Card is a work and residence permit available for eligible non-EU/EEA nationals. The EU Blue Card grants comprehensive socio-economic rights and a path towards permanent residence and EU citizenship for its holders. 

To a certain degree, the EU Blue Card program can be regarded as a merit-based system; one that regards an ‘individual of merit’ as someone who is in possession of a highly sought-after skill set gained through professional experience or one who has received adequate levels of education.


Which European countries are issuing the EU Blue Card?

The EU Blue Card applies in 25 of the 27 EU countries as follows:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. 

Denmark and Ireland do not currently participate in the EU Blue Card program.


Who are eligible for the EU Blue Card program?

Eligibility is contingent upon the following:

  • Holding a non-EU citizenship
  • Educated or professionally experienced. An applicant must have completed their tertiary education and/or have three years or more professional experience in the related profession
  • Possesses an employment contract or binding employment offer

Please note that citizens of the European Economic Area (European Union, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland), citizens of overseas countries and territories (OCTs) that have constitutional ties with EU member states, are excluded from the EU Blue Card program.

Requirements for EU Blue Card application

The required documents/certificates are as follows:

  • Proof of higher professional qualifications. This may be satisfied by providing a higher education qualification such as a university degree. Some EU Member States may also accept at least three to five years of relevant professional experience
  • Proof of employment. Note that the EU Blue Card program does not accept those who are self-employed or entrepreneurs
  • A work contract or binding job offer in an EU country for at least one year
  • A valid passport. If you have previous passports, you must also include them in your submission
  • Valid insurance policy for the applicant and any relatives coming along to the EU 
  • Proof that an applicant fulfils all the legal requirements to practice their profession, where regulated

Apart from the above requirements, an applicant must also have an acceptable level of annual gross salary. The general rules stipulate that the sum of the salary must at least be one and a half times higher than the average national salary of a respective country. You must have valid proof of this.

In addition, in case you lose your job within the first three years under a Blue Card, you will have three months to find another job. Or else you will have to leave the country.


What is the validity of the EU Blue Card program?

The EU Blue Card is normally valid for a period of between one and four years. It can be renewed for the same period so long as all the conditions are satisfied.


What are the benefits?

Apart from being able to live and work legally in the EU, an EU Blue Card also allows its holders to move freely within the Schengen area, entitlement to a series of socio-economic rights (e.g. unemployment benefits), and the prospect of permanent residence in the EU. However, EU Blue Card is not issued in Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus or Croatia.


What is the application process?

The process of applying for the EU Blue Card program differs from one EU country to the next. Some EU countries allow the employer to apply for the Blue Card on the applicant’s behalf, while others require the applicants themselves to play an active role in acquiring the permit.

However, most EU member states typically require applicants to set up an appointment at their home country’s embassies or consulates as opposed to applying online. For detailed information on what rules are in use in a particular EU country, you can select your destination country on this map of the EU.

What is the fee for the EU Blue Card application?

The cost of issuance and renewal of the EU Blue Card varies depending on the individual member countries.

But to give you some idea of the range of the fees, Germany sets a fee of EUR 110 for the initial issuance while renewal fees are EUR 65 for three months and EUR 80 for renewals of more than three months. You can check the EU Blue Card fees for each country and salary thresholds here.