EU governments settle on rules for how non-EU citizens could move around Europe

Claudia Delpero, Europe Street
Claudia Delpero, Europe Street - [email protected]
EU governments settle on rules for how non-EU citizens could move around Europe
The European Union is considering changing rules to make it easier for non-EU nationals to move within the bloc. (Photo by FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP)

After months of discussion, EU governments have reached a common position on new rules regarding the EU's long-term residence status for non-EU nationals living in Europe.


What is the EU's long-term residence status?

Under a 2003 directive, third-country nationals can in theory acquire EU-wide long-term resident status if they have lived 'legally' in an EU country for at least five years.

To obtain the status, third-country nationals must also not have been away for more than 6 consecutive months and 10 months over the entire period (the rules are different for Brits covered by Withdrawal agreement), and prove to have "stable and regular economic resources" and health insurance. In addition, applicants can be required to meet "integration conditions", such as passing a test on the national language or culture.

This EU status exists alongside national long-term resident schemes and should guarantee some form of free movement within the bloc.

INTERVIEW: Why it must be made easier for non-EU citizens to move around Europe

In practice, however, most countries require employers to prove they could not find candidates in the local market before granting a permit to a non-EU citizen, regardless of their status. The conditions under which applicants may acquire the status are complex and many people are unaware the EU status exists and the rights that come with it.

So what does the EU want to change?

As part of measures seeking to make the EU more appealing for non-EU workers, last year the European Commission proposed to update such rules, with the revision of the EU Long-Term Residents Directive. The Commission proposal has to be agreed by the European Parliament and Council (which represents EU governments).

In April, the European Parliament said the period non-EU nationals are required to be legally resident in a member state in order to acquire EU long-term status should be cut from five to three years.

MEPs also said it should be possible to combine periods of legal residence in different EU member states, instead of resetting the clock at each move. Time spent for studying or vocational training, seasonal work, temporary protection (the scheme that applies to Ukrainian refugees) should be calculated too. All these periods at present do not count towards EU long-term residence.

Once long-term residence is obtained in an EU country, it should be automatically recognised at EU level too, MEPs said, asking to remove restrictions such as labour market checks or integration requirements for people who move to another EU state.


So what changes did the EU governments agree on?

However EU governments took a different stance.

At a meeting this week, the Council’s permanent representatives committee, which is made of diplomats of EU member states, agreed to maintain the five-year residency requirement.

Representatives of EU governments also said that third-country nationals “can cumulate residence periods of up to two years in other member states in order to meet the requirements of the five-year residence period,” but that applies only to “certain types of legal residence permits, such as holders of EU Blue Cards or residence permits issued for the purpose of highly qualified employment.”

EU countries can also continue requiring third-country nationals “to comply with integration conditions”. A statement also specifies that the “right to intra-EU mobility is not an automatic right, but is subject to a number of conditions,” and that “member states may assess the situation of their national labour markets in case an EU long-term resident moves to their country from another EU member state for work.”

The statement also says that EU long-term residents “enjoy the same treatment as nationals with regard to access to employment and self-employment, education and vocational training and tax benefits, for example”. But there are conditions too, such as “the requirement that holders of a residence permit live within the territory of the member state concerned”.


What happens next?

The Council and the Parliament will now have to negotiate the final text of the law.

According to Eurostat data, in 2020, 23 million non-EU citizens were legally resident in the EU. Of these, more than ten million were holders of a long-term or permanent residence permit.

In an interview with The Local, Damian Boeselager, the German member of the Greens/European Free Alliance group who leads the negotiations for the European Parliament, said: “The EU has a huge benefit of a large labour market having freedom of movement for EU citizens… But the truth is that Europe needs labour migration in all areas and all skill levels and therefore, if we want to be more attractive, we should make it easier (for non-EU citizens) to move from one member state to the next.”

He said he hoped the new law will be adopted before the European parliament elections of June 2024.

This article was produced by the Europe Street news site.


Comments (3)

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Michelle 2024/01/15 23:27
The article states in brackets that the rules are different for Brits covered by the withdrawal agreement. Can we have information on that too? Thank you.
  • Anonymous 2024/01/16 08:37
    Hi, This link has the information on rules for Brits covered by the Withdrawal Agreement :
Amanda 2023/11/28 10:26
How does this affect those of us in Denmark looking to secure our place in the EU? Does this mean we can apply to live in the EU after 5 years first, and apply for Danish Citizenship after 8-10 after?
Grazer 2023/11/25 14:37
Is this article unfinished? Reading it couple of times and cannot find connection between headline and text. What has EU agreed on about movement for long term residence permit holders inside EU?

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