Move towards creating EU single permit

Non-EU workers will enjoy rights comparable to those of EU citizens

Non EU-workers are set to enjoy the same rights regarding working conditions as EU nationals, under the proposed ‘single permit’ law directive adopted by the European Parliament (EP) on 24th March.

This draft law seeks to simplify procedures for both migrants and their employers via a combined permit for residence and work.

The “single permit” Directive, as amended by Parliament at first reading on 24th March, would cut red tape and simplify procedures for immigrants applying to live and work in an EU Member State.

National authorities of each country will still have the power to decide whether to admit non-EU workers and how many to admit. But now they will issue residence permits that include information on permission to work. To avoid confusion, they must issue no additional documents.

Who will be covered?

The new rules will apply to non-EU nationals seeking to reside and work in a Member State or who already reside legally in an EU country.

The rules will not apply to: long-term residents and refugees, who are already covered by other EU rules; seasonal workers and employees of multinational firms coming to work in their company’s EU offices, who will be covered by other new EU directives.

In addition, the Directive will not apply to migrant workers covered by the ‘posted workers’ directive. But for example, a Chinese citizen working for a Chinese company hired to build a road in Germany, and who is not covered by the ‘posted workers’ Directive, would be granted the rights conferred by the ‘single permit’ rules. Foreign workers’ rights would thus be protected in all circumstances.

The MEPs agreed that this Directive should not apply to foreign workers while posted. This should not prevent immigrants who are legally resident and lawfully employed in an EU country and posted to another Member State from “continuing to enjoy equal treatment with respect to nationals of the Member State of origin for the duration of their posting,” says an EP amendment by way of clarification.

Equal treatment with fewer restrictions

Non-EU workers will enjoy a set of rights comparable to those of EU citizens, such as pay, health and safety at work, working time, leave and access to social security.

Member States may decide to limit access to social security, except for individuals who are currently in employment or have worked for at least six months and are already registered as unemployed.

Member States may also decide to grant family benefits only to those who have been authorised to work for more than six months.

Non-EU workers would be able to claim tax benefits. However, their families could only receive these if they lived in the Member State of employment.

Non-EU workers would be able to receive their pensions when moving back to their home country under the same conditions and at the same rates as EU nationals.

Member States may decide that only workers who are in employment should have access to public services and goods, such as public housing. 

The right to vocational training and education may be limited to non-EU workers who are in employment or who have been employed. Individuals living in the EU to study could thus be excluded, while workers who would like to get a qualification not directly linked to their jobs may be required to demonstrate language proficiency.

The amendments adopted by MEPs will now be considered by the EU Justice and Home Affairs ministers. Under the Lisbon Treaty, Parliament and Council legislate on an equal footing on matters to do with legal immigration.

The UK and Ireland have opted out of this directive. Denmark is also not taking part.