General care nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, real estate agents and mountain guides can now pursue their professions more freely in other EU countries thanks to the European Professional Card (EPC). The card, available from today, aims to ease the free movement of these mobile professionals by simplifying the procedure for getting their professional qualifications recognised in another EU country.
One of the objectives of the recently adopted Single Market Strategy is to enable Europeans to work wherever they chose, anywhere in the EU. When a profession is regulated in the EU country of destination, professionals with equivalent qualifications from another EU country may need to get those qualifications recognised before they can start working there.
The EPC will help in this process. It is not a plastic card, but an electronic certificate issued via the first EU-wide fully online procedure for the recognition of qualifications. It works via the well-established Internal Market Information System (IMI) and allows professionals to communicate with the relevant authorities inside a secure network. The IMI also provides for an official, multilingual communication channel between the regulating authorities for professionals in EU countries to facilitate their cooperation and enhance mutual trust.
With the support of the European Commission, national IMI coordinators will register these authorities and give them access to the new EPC module. Authorities in the countries of origin will be responsible for checking the authenticity and validity of application documents, to ensure that only properly qualified professionals can look for work in other countries.
The EPC does not replace the ‘traditional’ recognition procedures foreseen by the Professional Qualifications Directive, but it does offer an advantageous option for professionals who wish to work either temporarily or permanently in another EU country. Professionals can start their application online with their home authority (the country where they are established or where they obtained their qualifications). The application can be submitted in any EU language thanks to the structured multilingual questions and translation facilities offered by the IMI.
Alert mechanism – providing for safe mobility
From today, EU countries will also be required to warn each other through the IMI about professionals working in the fields of health or education of minors who have been prohibited or restricted from practice in one EU country, or who have used falsified diplomas in support of their application for the recognition of their qualification. The alert mechanism will provide strong data protection safeguards for the professionals, and safeguard people who use the professional services.
The introduction of the EPC and the alert mechanism is one of the major achievements of the modernisation of the Professional Qualifications Directive. Sometimes EU countries make access to a particular profession conditional upon the possession of a professional qualification traditionally issued within their territory. This represents an obstacle to the core principles of the Single Market for services as those qualified to practice the same profession in another EU country cannot do so. In response, the EU adopted the Professional Qualifications Directive, which provides a system of recognition of professional experience and promotes automatic recognition of this experience across the EU.
Last year, the Commission adopted the implementing regulation to introduce the EPC for the first five professions. They were selected among those having expressed an interest, following thorough consultations with stakeholders and Member States.
In the future, the EPC may be extended to other mobile professions that meet the criteria set out in the Professional Qualifications Directive. This would take place after practical experience of the functioning of the procedure has been gained and consultations have been carried out with stakeholders. However, a date for such extension has not been set.
For more information on the European Professional Card:
For more information on regulated professions and mobility statistics: