What is the EU Blue Card and Can it Solve the H-1B Visa Problem?

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When it comes to skilled immigration around the world, the US’s H-1B visa is often the first that comes to mind. However, there is an alternative option that can help employers hire skilled workers in one of the most in-demand regions in the world. All this without worrying about H-1B RFEs and denials, decades-long lines for permanent residency, and frustrated workers — the EU Blue Card.

The EU Blue Card is a little-known but amazing program that enables skilled non-EU nationals to move to the EU for work with a pathway, in some countries, to permanent residence and citizenship. Not only is the EU Blue Card a way for these skilled individuals to find immigration stability in a sought-after region of the world, it can also be used as a way to eventually apply for immigration in the US, but through different means – only those that can be achieved after getting work experience.

This article is going to dive into the challenges of high-skilled immigration in the US, what the EU Blue card is, why the EU Blue Card might be the answer that both employers, and high-skilled workers around the world, are looking for.

The Problem With the H-1B Visa

First let’s tackle the 800-pound gorilla in the room: the H-1B visa. The H-1B visa is a popular work visa meant to bring highly skilled workers, often STEM workers, into the US when a qualified American can’t be found. The H-1B visa holder is typically offered an initial duration of three years which can be extended for up to six years. And while the H-1B visa is a temporary work visa, most H-1B visa holders look to then get sponsored for permanent residence, otherwise known as a Green Card.

The current annual cap on H-1B visas, determined by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), is 65,000, though there are also 20,000 additional visas available for foreign professionals who graduate with a master degree or doctorate from a US institution of higher learning. Given that the number of H-1B visa applications exceed this number each year, a lottery system is used to determine who can file their H-1B petition.

However, the H-1B has become something of a controversial subject, and is also riddled with issues. As a consequence of high H-1B denial rates under the Trump administration (where one out of every four requests for skilled visas was rejected — the highest number in the last decade), many applicants developed PTSD. These rejections have also led to a huge stain on employers, many of whom filed their own lawsuits, most notably the ITServe Alliance.

And while the H-1B denial rate has been getting better, there is also the unreasonably long Green Card backlog, especially for Indian nationals, who makeup 68% of the total employment-based green card backlog while they live in limbo here in the US.

Unsurprisingly, these challenges have left companies wondering if there is another way to hire foreign skilled workers — one that doesn’t require them to go through the expensive and drawn-out H-1B process.

The answer is yes. And one of the best options out there is the EU Blue Card.

What is the EU Blue Card?

The EU Blue Card is, essentially, Europe’s answer to the H-1B visa and green card process — blue in reference to the EU flag.

The scheme offers a work and residence permit for skilled non-EU nationals who want to work and live in one of twenty-five countries within the European Union, excluding Ireland and Denmark. Note: this also excludes the EFTA member states (Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland, and Switzerland) who do not offer EU Blue Cards. Presented in 2007, the program aims to fill gaps in Europe’s labor market, and to cut overall bureaucracy.

An attractive option for many, the EU Blue Card offers access to local socio-economic benefits and a pathway to permanent citizenship depending on the member state you apply for. EU Blue Card holders will also gain free movement within the Schengen area and receive equal access to opportunities and payment within their sector.

Family members are also able to join blue cards by applying for family reunification which includes your partner, children under eighteen, dependent adult children, and, in some cases, parents.

After 12 months  of regular employment, Blue Card holders can move to another EU member state, subject to that state’s rules, to take up alternative employment within their sector. This offers a great deal of flexibility and opportunity for professional growth and progress within their career. Conversely, if Blue Card holders lose their job within the first three years of residency, then a three month rest period is offered to find a new opportunity.

A significant advantage of the EU Blue Card over the H1-B visa is a maximum processing time of ninety days. There is also no backlog or lottery system, saving both employers and employees a significant amount of time and uncertainty. Residency is typically issued for the amount of time stated on the work contract offered, with a maximum of three years before renewal.

In order to qualify for an EU Blue Card, here’s what’s required:

  • Non-EU citizenship
  • An employment contract, or binding employment offer, of at least six months that provides a salary that meets at least one and a half times the average national salary in the EU country you are applying to
  • A university degree or equivalent. Some member states will accept relevant professional experience totaling five years
  • Proof that legal requirements are met for regulated professionals
  • Work as a paid employee; the EU Blue Card does not apply to self-employed work or entrepreneurs

As of August 2020, European countries have varied wildly in the number of issued blue cards. Notably, Cyprus, Greece, and the Netherlands have not yet issued any cards, while Germany has issued 27,000, followed by France with 1,500.

So, if your company has an office in Germany, France, or one of the other Blue Card-issuing EU countries, that’s great. But what if your company doesn’t have an EU office? Can you still take your job and work remotely from Europe with a Blue Card?

The answer is yes, and here’s how: with Global Residency and Citizenship Group.

Global RCG can help US companies take advantage of the EU Blue Card in Germany without having a German office.

Global Germany Group, an affiliate of Global RCG, can help US companies easily set up their legal structure in Germany, handle the worker’s immigration into Germany, and once approved, help the high-skilled worker transfer to the new Germany entity and work from there.

This has two long-term benefits:

  1. The company is able to hire highly the skilled worker immediately and without worrying about a lottery, and they can continue to employ them from the EU.
  2. The individual can then eventually try coming back to the US if they desire, either by continuing to apply for the H-1B visa until they get it, through an L-1 intracompany transfer once they have a year of experience at the company outside the US, or even via the EB-1C green card program directly as a multinational executive or manager.

Either way, it provides a simple solution to a situation that has become time-consuming and complex – hiring and retaining skilled workers.

Get in Touch with Global RCG and Leverage the EU Blue Card

So, if you are interested in hiring a highly skilled worker for your US company and you’ve either tried and failed at the H-1B visa, or you want to avoid the H-1B headache altogether, let Global RCG help you leverage the EU Blue Card. Get your talent hired and working in Germany and, eventually, if you and the employee want, back in the US.