In a significant move towards a more agile and inclusive labor migration system, the Official State Gazette (BOE) unveiled a historic development on May 8, 2023. Spain took a decisive step by transposing Directive (EU) 2021/1883 into its national legislation. This directive, which was passed by the European Parliament and the Council on October 20, 2021, focuses on the entry and residence conditions for third-country nationals engaged in highly qualified employment. It also marks the repeal of Council Directive 2009/50/EC, underscoring November 18, 2023, as the deadline for the directive’s full integration.
The COVID-19 pandemic, with its unforeseen challenges and global implications, has put a spotlight on the pivotal role of migrants in times of border closures. Furthermore, it ushered in the digital and ecological transitions, ushering profound changes in labor markets. These shifts affect the labor force, its skills, competencies, and the knowledge required to fill emerging job roles, and they necessitate adaptations and transformations, creating demand for specialized occupations.
The pandemic highlighted the critical importance of establishing a safe and efficient labor migration system. The system needs to be free from bottlenecks and cumbersome bureaucratic procedures, as it is vital to meet the present and future demands of both Spanish and European labor markets.
A retrospective look during the pandemic reveals that the Directive 2009/50/EC, now obsolete, had limited effectiveness in attracting talent to the European Union. It suffered from unequal transpositions across different EU countries, excessively rigid criteria in some instances, and a lack of updated and comprehensive information about the EU Blue Card for potential highly qualified candidates and employers.
Among the transformative aspects of Directive (EU) 2021/1883 are the broadening of admission criteria for EU Blue Card holders, easing mobility and family reunification within the European Union, streamlining procedures for recognized employers, granting increased access to the labor market, and extending its applicability to non-EU family members of EU citizens and beneficiaries of international protection.
Within the national context, the transposition has introduced notable advances, including:
- Inclusive Criteria: The extension of EU Blue Card eligibility to graduates of higher vocational training, moving beyond its previous exclusivity to university degree holders.
- Simplified Requirements: The elimination of size and turnover requirements for employers, thereby broadening the scope to include small and medium-sized enterprises.
- Extended Residency: The duration of residence authorizations regulated by law has been extended to three years, with the possibility of renewal for an additional two years.
This forward-thinking legislation is poised to redefine labor migration in Spain, fostering an environment that attracts and retains highly qualified individuals while promoting economic growth and social cohesion. The transposition of Directive (EU) 2021/1883 underscores Spain’s commitment to enhancing its labor market and responding to the evolving global landscape.