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Legal migration

Greater mobility brings with it opportunities and challenges. A balanced, comprehensive and common migration policy will help the EU to seize these opportunities while tackling the challenges head-on. This policy – currently under development – is built upon solidarity and responsibility. It will have the added advantage of making a valuable contribution to the EU’s economic development and performance in the long term.

Organising legal immigration better

The policy aims to establish a framework for legal migration, taking fully into account the importance of integration into host societies. The EU measures on legal immigration cover the conditions of entry and residence for certain categories of immigrants, such as highly qualified workers subject to the ‘EU Blue Card Directive’ and students and researchers. Family reunification and long-term residents are also provided for.

In December 2011, the so-called Single Permit Directive was adopted. It creates a set of rights for non-EU workers legally residing in an EU State. In 2014, two additional Directives were adopted, on the conditions of entry and residence for seasonal workers and intra-corporate transferees. The aim is to simplify and harmonise migration procedures and give migrants clear employment-related rights.

The EU Immigration Portal, launched in November 2011, provides hands-on information for foreign nationals interested in moving to the EU. The site is also directed at migrants who are already in the EU and would like to move from one EU State to another. It provides specific practical information about procedures in all 28 EU States for each category of migrants.

Enhancing the integration of non-EU nationals in EU societies

The EU approach to migration also addresses the issue of integration. Successful integration of migrants into their host society is essential to maximise the opportunities afforded by legal migration and to realise the potential that immigration has for EU development. With this in mind, the EU is promoting European cooperation to develop common approaches and exchange information at EU level.

Curbing irregular migration

A sustainable and credible policy approach to the management of migration also requires addressing the issue of irregular migration. The EU is tackling the issue through specific measures targeting employers who hire undeclared migrant workers and by seeking to set up a humane and effective return policy, in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights. It is also targeting human trafficking networks and smugglers who take advantage of undocumented persons.

Managing migration through partnership with non-EU countries

Building dialogue and partnerships with countries of origin and transit, based on solidarity and shared responsibility, is also an essential aspect of the common EU approach to migration. The Global Approach to migration and mobility, renewed in November 2011, is to be regarded as the overarching framework for the EU external migration policy, complementary to the EU foreign policy and development cooperation.

In the course of 2016 the Commission has launched a Fitness Check on Legal Migration. The draft Roadmap is available on the Commission's Better Regulation webpage.

Additional tools

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Related legislation
and documents


Undocumented person

A non-national who enters or stays in a country without the appropriate documentation. This includes, among...


Trafficking in human beings

The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or reception of persons, including the exchange or transfer ...



A non-EU national accepted by an establishment of higher education and admitted to the territory of an EU State ...


Smuggler (of migrants)

An intermediary who moves a person by agreement with that person, in order to transport him/her in an ...


Single permit

A residence permit issued by the authorities of an EU State allowing a non-EU national to legally reside in its ...


Seasonal worker

A non-EU national who retains a legal domicile in a non-EU country but resides temporarily for the purposes of employment in the territory of an EU State in a sector of activity dependent on the passing of the seasons, under one or more fixed-term work contracts concluded directly between the non-EU national and the employer established in an EU State.



In a general sense, the act or process of going back to the point of departure. This could be within the territorial ...



A non-EU national holding an appropriate higher education qualification, which gives access to doctoral ...


Non-EU national

Any person not having the nationality of an EU State.



A broader-term of an immigrant and emigrant, referring to a person who leaves one country or region to settle in ...



Comprises three main tasks: - supervision and responsibility for increasing the performance of others...


Long-term resident

Any non-EU national who has long-term resident status as provided for under Directive 2003/109/EC.


Legal migration

Migration that occurs through recognised, authorised channels.


Irregular migration

The movement of a person to a new place of residence or transit using irregular or illegal means, without valid ...


Intra-corporate transferee

Any non-EU national subject to the temporary secondment from an undertaking established outside the territory ...



A dynamic, two-way process of mutual accommodation by migrants and by the societies that receive them.



The action by which a person establishes his or her usual residence in the territory of an EU State for a period ...



A person undertaking an immigration.


Host country

The EU State in which a non-EU national takes up legal residence.


Highly qualified migrant

A person with qualifications as a manager, executive, professional, technician or similar, who moves within ...


Global Approach to Migration

The external dimension of the EU's migration policy that brings together migration, external relations and ...


Family reunification

The entry into and residence in an EU State by family members of a non-EU national residing lawfully in that EU ...


EU Blue Card

Gives highly-qualified non-EU workers the right to live and work in an EU State, provided that they have higher ...



Any entrance of a person from one country to another, whether voluntary or involuntary, authorised or unauthorised.



The exercise of activities covering whatever form of labour or work regulated under national law or in accordance...


Country of transit

The country through which migratory flows (regular or irregular) move. This is taken to mean the country ...


Country of origin

The country that is a source of migratory flows (regular or irregular).


Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

Reaffirms, with due regard for the powers and tasks of the Union and for the principle of subsidiarity, the rights ...



Cecilia Malmström - on International Migrants Day