Friday, May 3, 2013

Belgian Blue Card

Bruges
Bruge, Belgium
Photo by Wolfgang Staudt
In September of 2012, Belgium finally introduced their version of the European Blue Card. As with every country in the EU, the Belgian implementation of the Blue Card is unique and many Web sites appear to be reporting incorrect information. I've gone out to the French language Belgian government web site for Service public fédéral Emploi, Travail, et Concertation sociale, or their "Employment, Labor, and Social Services" web site and found the Belgian government's detailed explanation of their Blue Card laws.

The basic qualifications for the Blue Card are fairly normal. You must have:

  • a higher education degree lasting which took at least three years to obtain.
  • an indefinite employment contract.
  • a salary of €49,995 per year (adjusted annually)
  • a valid travel document (presumably a passport, but this is unclear)
  • health insurance other than what your employer provides

You must also not be considered a threat to the public or to national security.

Interestingly, there are several ways in which you can be denied the Blue Card. First, the Belgian government imposes a labor test: you can't take the job if they feel there are qualified Belgians available (similar to the Austrian Blue Card). Second, the employer must not have been previously penalized for hiring illegal workers. Third, and most interestingly, if your position is considered in a sector in short supply in your home country, you can be denied.

The last provision is fascinating. African countries were extremely upset with the European Blue Card because they are worried about the "brain drain" of their highly skilled workers fleeing to Europe. This is not entirely unreasonable. From the fairpolitics.nl Web site (emphasis mine):
For developing countries, the most important negative effect of voluntary migration to developed countries (e.g. in Europe) is the brain drain caused by the loss of highly skilled workers. Currently, more than 25% of highly skilled workers from African countries such as Mozambique, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda live in developed countries. Figures for the Caribbean and Pacific are as high as 70%. This brain drain has severe repercussions on the labour market in the migrants countries of origin, where it impacts negatively on vital sectors such as education and health, and reduces those countries capacity to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) one of the priorities of the EUs development policy.
Belgium has cut through a dilemma that many countries have been facing: how to appease locals who are worried about immigration (because this provision largely impacts many African and Asian immigrants), keep the developing nations happy because Belgium can say "we're listening to your concerns", but still import skilled workers. Belgium now has a very effective throttle if Blue Card immigration becomes politically problematic.
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