Residence permits – statistics on authorisations to reside and work
Data extracted in December 2021.
Planned article update: December 2022.
In 2020, 2.7 million non-EU citizens obtained the right to both reside and work in the EU through the single permit administrative procedure.
France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Portugal together issued 75 % of the single permits recorded in 2020, giving the right to both reside and work in the EU to non-EU citizens.
Only 12 000 highly qualified non-EU workers received an EU Blue Card in 2020, the lowest level recorded since 2015, giving them comprehensive socio-economic rights and a path towards permanent residence in the EU.
Single permits issued, EU, 2015-2020
The EU Single Permit and EU Blue Card Directives are among several EU directives that have been designed to sustain a more flexible migrant admission system while enabling migrant workers to make better use of their skills in the EU labour market. The Single Permit consists of a single application procedure for non-EU citizens, giving them the right to both residence and work, while guaranteeing them a set of rights, whereas the EU Blue Card refers to the admission of highly skilled workers from non-EU countries.
Eurostat presents data related to these two EU directives in this article:
- Data on single permits (based on Directive 2011/98/EU);
- Data on EU Blue Cards (based on Directive 2009/50/EC).
A reference to other linked statistics is also included in the analyses for a wider assessment of these two specific application procedures (see the section Data sources for a summary of different methodologies).
Single procedure for non-EU citizens to reside and work in the EU
Based on the EU Single Permit Directive, a single permit consists of a combined title encompassing both the right to reside and work within a single administrative act based on a common set of rights for third-country workers legally residing in an EU Member State. The Single Permit is not as such a permit but rather a single procedure and a set of rights that apply to:
(a) third-country nationals who apply to reside in a Member State for the purpose of work;
(b) third-country nationals who have been admitted to a Member State for purposes other than work in accordance with Union or national law, who are allowed to work and who hold a residence permit;
(c) third-country nationals who have been admitted to a Member State for the purpose of work in accordance with Union or national law.
Data on single permits cover most permits issued for work under national and European law, but also permits issued for other reasons where the holder has the right to work.
Statistics on single permits are collected from 2013 onwards and are broken down by reason, by type of decision (first permit, changed status, renewed), and by duration.
At the end of 2013, the EU Single Permit Directive had been transposed by Bulgaria, Germany, Estonia, France, Croatia, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Sweden. During 2014, the Directive was transposed by Czechia, Italy, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Romania and Finland, while during 2015 it was transposed by Greece, Spain, Lithuania and Slovenia. Belgium transposed the Single Permit Directive more recently and delivered the data (for 2019) for the first time. Denmark and Ireland are not taking part in the Single Permit Directive. Therefore, at most (depending on the reference year) the data of 25 of the 27 Member States contribute to the EU totals presented in the first section of this article. Consequently, the developments over time reported in this article reflect to some extent the progressive transposition of the Single Permit Directive by the EU Member States.
2.7 million single permits were issued in the EU in 2020
About 2.9 million single permits were issued in the EU in 2015. This number decreased slightly during the following three years (2016-2018), levelling off at around 2.6 million. In 2019 the number of single permits increased again and accounted for 3.0 million, only to come back to 2.7 million in 2020 (see Figure 1).
The development between 2015 and 2020 was mainly influenced by the evolution of two sub-categories of single permits: a) renewed single permits that represented over 50 % of the total number of single permits issued every year; b) first single permits that successively increased their share in the total number of permits, reaching 37.9 % in 2020.
In 2020, three quarters of all single permits in the EU were issued by five Member States: France (940 000 single permits issued; 34.6 % of the EU total), Italy (345 000; 12.7 %), Germany (302 000; 11.1 %), Spain (275 000; 10.1 %) and Portugal (170 000; 6.3 %). As Table 1 shows, renewed single permits accounted for over 75 % of the permits issued in Italy (91.7 %), Latvia (83.1 %), Austria (78.2 %), Malta (77.1 %) and Slovenia (75.1 %). The highest shares of first single permits were observed in Germany (96.2 %), Finland (87.8 %) and Hungary (64.6 %). For single permits issued due to change of status, Poland recorded the highest share with 39.2 %, followed by Spain (12.3 %) and Estonia (12.1 %).
The majority of single permits issued in 2020 represent extensions of the previous residence
More than half of the single permits issued in 2020 (62.1 % or 1 688 000) represented extensions of residence permits corresponding either to renewal or change of status of already existing residence permits (see Table 1 and Figure 1). After the record year of 2015 (2 055 000), the number of renewed single permits or single permits issued for changing the status or reason to stay in the EU decreased during the following three years and fell to 1 460 000 in 2018. In 2019, their number again increased (by 14.3 %) and accounted for 1 669 000. In 2020 the share of renewed permits and those issued for changing the status or reason to stay increased as an effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, indeed Member States had difficulties delivering new permits for administrative reasons.
70 % of single permits were issued for family and employment reasons
In 2020, 7 in 10 single permits issued in the EU were granted primarily for family and employment reasons (respectively 34.5 % and 36.2 %). Around 9.8 % were issued for education reasons, leaving a residual share of 18.9 % covered by other reasons.
The vast majority (83.5 %) of the single permits issued in the EU in 2020 were granted with a validity of 12 months and over. The dominance of single permits with a validity of 12 months and over was recorded for each of the main reasons, accounting for: 87.3 % of single permits issued for family reasons, 87.2 % of single permits issued for education reasons and 77.0 % of single permits issued for employment reasons (see Figure 2). The share of single permits with a duration of less than 12 months was highest for permits issued for employment reasons, 20.0 % with a duration from 6 to 11 months and 3.0 % with a duration of 3 to 5 months.
1.0 million first single permits were granted in 2020
First single residence permits issued during a given year represent the number of non-EU citizens arriving in the EU who benefit from a simplified procedure that authorises them to reside and to work in the EU, whatever the main reason for their arrival (employment, education, family, other). Between 2015 and 2019, the total number of first single permits increased by an average of 7.4 % per annum, reaching 1 218 000 in 2019. In 2020, the number of first single permits decreased by 189 000 (15.5 %) and levelled off at 1 029 000.
EU Blue Cards issued to highly qualified non-EU citizens
Based on the EU Blue Card Directive adopted in 2009, the EU Blue Card is a work and residence permit for non-EU/EEA nationals for the purpose of highly qualified employment. The EU Blue Card provides comprehensive socio-economic rights and a path towards permanent residence in the EU. Applicants should present a valid work contract or a binding job offer for highly qualified employment with a duration of at least one year in the EU Member State concerned. The standard period of validity of the EU Blue Card is between one and four years. Denmark and Ireland are not subject to the EU Blue Card Directive and therefore the data of 25 of the Member States contribute to the EU totals presented in the second section of this article.
Germany issued 5 600 EU Blue Cards in 2020, almost 50 % of the EU total
Across the EU the total number of EU Blue Cards granted to non-EU citizens rose from 17 100 in 2015 to 36 800 in 2019, only to fall to 11 850 in 2020 (67.8 % less than 2019, the lowest level ever recorded since 2015). Table 2 shows that the majority of EU Blue Cards issued in 2020 were issued in Germany (5 600). Its share of the EU total stood at 47.1 %, followed by Poland (2 250; 19.0 %) and France (1 300; 10.9 %).
Family members of EU Blue Card holders are also entitled to receive residence permits and benefit from work and mobility rights. In 2020, 4 800 residence permits were issued for family members of EU Blue Card holders. This number dropped by 79.2% compared to 2019, reaching the lowest level ever recorded since 2015. Poland accounted for 37.7 % of such permits (1 800), followed by France(1 100; 22.9 % of the EU total) and Luxembourg (500; 11.0 % of the EU total).
Citizens of India were granted the highest number of EU Blue Cards in the EU
The top 10 countries whose citizens were granted EU Blue Cards in 2020 accounted for about 68 % of the 11 850 cards that were issued in the EU in 2020.
Of these, 2 500 EU Blue Cards were granted to citizens of India, which represented one-fifth of all EU Blue Cards issued in the EU and two times more than the next two citizenships (Russia and Ukraine, both with 1 200; 10.2 % of the EU total). Turkey, China and Brazil were the only other countries where more than 500 of their citizens had been granted an EU Blue Card in 2020. Germany granted the highest number of EU Blue Cards to citizens from 6 out of the top 10 non-EU countries, while Poland delivered the highest number of Blue Cards to 3 of the top 10 non-EU countries, and France to one, Tunisia (see Table 3).
Figure 4 shows that each of the top 10 countries whose citizens were granted the most EU Blue Cards in 2020 recorded a decrease compared with 2019, with the most significant one observed for India. The number of Indian citizens who were granted an EU Blue Card grew during the period 2016-2019, rising from 4 300 in 2016 to 9 400 in 2019 (equivalent to an overall increase of 115.4 %), and fell to 2 500 in 2020 (-72.9%), the lowest level since 2015. Russians and Ukrainians, the next citizens in the top 10 ranking, recorded also decreases of 52.9 % and 40.0 % respectively. The smallest decrease was recorded for citizens of Belarus, who received 29.5 % fewer EU Blue Cards in 2020.
EU Blue Cards as first permits: in 2020, the share of first EU Blue Cards reached 20 % of all first permits granted to highly-skilled workers
This section provides information on first residence permits issued for highly skilled workers, which comprises two categories: first permits issued as EU Blue Cards and first permits issued for highly skilled workers under national legislation. Third country nationals have the possibility to apply for a residence permit as highly skilled workers either under the national framework of a Member State or under the EU Blue Card framework. The Directive on Blue Cards was revised to simplify the procedure. A ratio between these two categories is shown in Figure 5 for a better understanding of the significance of new EU Blue Cards in their role in attracting highly skilled workers to the EU.
In 2015 the relative (to the overall number of first residence permits issued to highly-skilled workers) significance of the EU Blue Card scheme was 13.1 % of all first permits granted to highly-skilled workers. This share systematically rose to account for 29.6 % in 2019, and decreased to 19.5% in 2020. With the exception of 2020, it shows that the EU Blue Card has been increasingly used more and more as a means for providing highly-skilled workers entering the EU with a specific and appropriate legal framework; this is particularly the case in Germany which is the main issuer of first EU Blue Cards.
Source data for tables and graphs
Statistics on residence permits cover persons who are not EU citizens who receive a residence permit or an authorisation to reside in one of the EU Member States. In practice this includes: a) citizens of non-EU countries (apart from any who have a dual citizenship which is of one of the EU Member States) and b) stateless people. It relates to statistical information that is based on Article 6 of Council Regulation (EC) No 862 of 11 July 2007 on Community statistics on migration and international protection and the compilation of statistics on foreign workers. This legal framework refers to the initial collection of information on residence permits (which started in 2008), but also provides a general framework for newer data collections based on specific EU legal acts, in other words, statistics on Single Permits and statistics on EU Blue Cards.
Since the 2008 reference year, Eurostat has collected statistics on residence permits on three main topics: 1) first permits 2) change of reason permits and 3) all residence permits valid at the end of the year. Newer, complementary data collections were implemented based on specific EU Directives. These new statistics — relating to employment reasons — were gradually introduced:
- In 2010, Eurostat introduced — within the data collection on first permits — the EU Blue Cards category to identify EU Blue Cards which were also considered first permits. Consequently, since 2010, there have been two categories of residence permits related to occupational reasons and referring to highly skilled workers within the first permit data collection: 1) EU Blue Cards and 2) other highly skilled workers. Data for these two categories are presented in the article above.
- In 2012, a separate data collection specifically on EU Blue Cards was introduced. Denmark and Ireland are not subject to the EU Blue Card Directive.
- The single permits data collection was introduced in 2013 pertaining mainly to the simplified procedure of issuing residence permits. First permits counted in the single permit data collection refer to those first permits which follow a simplified procedure and give the right to work. Belgium has not yet transposed the Single Permit Directive and Denmark and Ireland are not subject to the Single Permit Directive.
For more technical aspects and guidelines in relation to the collection of these statistics, please refer to this file.
Labour immigration has a key role to play in driving economic development in the long term and in addressing current and future demographic challenges in the EU. The EU is therefore working on a number of interconnected measures which, together, aim to produce flexible admission systems, responsive to the priorities of each EU Member State, while enabling migrant workers to make full use of their skills. These measures cover the conditions of entry and residence for certain categories of immigrants, such as highly qualified workers, or the establishment of a single work and residence permit.
In order to strengthen the EU's competitiveness, the EU is particularly interested in attracting highly-skilled workers from non-EU countries. With this in mind, and in the face of global competition for talent, the EU put in place a specific migration scheme for highly qualified non-EU workers in 2009. This provided a fast-track procedure for issuing a residence and work permit to highly-skilled workers. This is called the EU Blue Card (Council Directive 2009/50/EC on the conditions of entry and residence of nationals of non-EU countries for the purposes of highly qualified employment) and is designed to facilitate access to the EU’s labour market, while entitling its holders to socio-economic rights, favourable conditions for family reunification and facilitated movement within the EU.
In December 2011, the Single Permit Directive (2011/98/EU) was adopted. It is based on a single application procedure to obtain a single permit that grants the holder the right to both residence and work in the EU, while guaranteeing that non-EU workers should receive equal treatment to that enjoyed by nationals in areas such as working conditions, joining organisations representing workers, education and vocational training, recognition of diplomas, social security, tax benefits, access to goods and services including procedures for housing and employment advice.
For further information on these and other measures (seasonal workers and intra-corporate transferees) please refer to the European Commission webpage here.
Direct access to
- Residence permits — a methodological and analytical overview
- Residence permits — statistics on first permits issued during the year
- Residence permits - statistics on stock of valid permits at the end of the year
- Children in migration - residence permits for family reasons
- Annual asylum statistics
- Statistics on countries responsible for asylum applications (Dublin Regulation)
- Enforcement of immigration legislation statistics
- Migrant integration statistics
- Migration and migrant population statistics
- Residence permits (migr_res)
- Residence permits by reason, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resval)
- First permits by reason, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resfirst)
- First permits issued for family reasons by reason, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resfam)
- First permits issued for education reasons by reason, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resedu)
- First permits issued for remunerated activities by reason, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resocc)
- First permits issued for other reasons by reason, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resoth)
- Change of immigration status permits by reason and citizenship (migr_reschange)
- All valid permits by reason, length of validity and citizenship on 31 December of each year (migr_resvalid)
- Long-term residents by citizenship on 31 December of each year (migr_reslong)
- Single permits issued by type of decision, length of validity (migr_ressing)
- Long-term residents among all non-EU citizens holding residence permits by citizenship on 31 December (%) (migr_resshare)
- Long-term residence permits issued during the year (migr_resltr)
- First permits issued for family reunification with a beneficiary of protection status (migr_resfrps1)
- Permits valid at the end of the year for family reunification with a beneficiary of protection status (migr_resfrps2)
- Residence permits by reason, age, sex and citizenship (migr_resage)
- First permits by reason, age, sex and citizenship (migr_resfas)
- All valid permits by age, sex and citizenship on 31 December of each year (migr_resvas)
- Long-term residents by age, sex and citizenship on 31 December of each year (migr_reslas)
- EU blue cards (migr_resbcard)
- EU blue cards by type of decision, occupation and citizenship (migr_resbc1)
- Admitted family members of EU blue card holders by type of decision and citizenship (migr_resbc2)
- EU blue card holders and family members by Member State of previous residence (migr_resbc3)
- Residence permits for intra-corporate transfer (migr_resictra)
- Intra-corporate transferee permits issued, renewed and withdrawn by type of permit, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resict1_1)
- Intra-corporate transferee permits issued by type of permit, economic sector and citizenship (migr_resict1_2)
- Intra-corporate transferee permits issued by type of permit, length of validity, transferee position and citizenship (migr_resict1_3)
- Authorisation for the purpose of the seasonal work (migr_resseaw)
- Authorisations for the purpose of seasonal work by status, length of validity, economic sector and citizenship (migr_ressw1_1)
- Authorisations issued for the purpose of seasonal work by economic sector, sex and citizenship (migr_ressw2)
- Residence permits - Students and Researchers (migr_ressr)
- Authorisations for study and research by reason, type of decision, citizenship and length of validity (migr_ressrath)
- Residence permits by reason, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resval)
- Residence permits (migr_res)
- Residence permits (ESMS metadata file — migr_esms)