Residence permits – statistics on authorisations to reside and work
Data extracted in April 2019.
Planned article update: October 2019.
In 2017, 2.6 million non-EU citizens obtained the right to both reside and work in the EU through the single permit administrative procedure.
France, Italy, Spain and Germany issued almost 75 % of the single permits recorded in 2017, giving the right to both reside and work in the EU.
24 000 highly qualified non-EU workers received an EU Blue Card in 2017, providing them with comprehensive socio-economic rights and a path towards permanent residence in the EU.
Single permits issued, EU, 2013-2017
The EU Single Permit and EU Blue Card Directives are among several EU directives that have been recently 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. Single permit consists of a single application procedure for non-EU citizens, giving them the right to both residence and work, and guaranteeing them a set of rights, whereas EU Blue Card refers to the admissions of highly skilled workers from non-EU countries.
Eurostat presents in this article data related to these two EU directives:
- 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 residence 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. 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.
Single permits data actually covers 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.
Single permits statistics 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 has not yet transposed the Single Permit Directive and Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom are not taking part in the Single Permit Directive. Therefore, at most (depending on the reference year) the data of 24 of the 28 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.
2.6 million single permits were issued in the EU in 2017
About 1.8 milion single permits were issued in the EU in 2013 (the start of the time series). This number increased during the following two years reaching its peak in 2015, at 2.9 million. During 2016, the number of single permits decreased and in 2017 it levelled off at 2.6 million (see Figure 1).
The increasing trend observed during the period from 2013 to 2015 was mainly driven by the new Member States implementing the Single Permit Directive (as specified above), while the development between 2015 and 2017 was influenced more 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 increased their share in the total number of permits to 32.9 % in 2017 (see Table 1).
As Table 1 shows, France (915 031 single permits issued; 34.7 % of the EU total), Italy (550 521; 20.9 %), Spain (259 306; 9.8 %) and Germany (235 504; 8.9 %) together accounted for almost 75 % of all single permits issued across the EU in 2017, with renewed permits accounting for a sizeable majority of the permits issued in Italy (91.1 %) and France (77.7 %). By contrast, the single permits issued in Spain were quite evenly spread between the three different types of decision: renewed permits (38.9 %), first permits (38.6 %) and change of status permits (22.4 %), while in Germany first permits accounted for the majority of all single permits issued by this Member State in 2017 (89.0 %).
Almost three quarters of single permits were issued for family and employment reasons
In 2017, almost three quarters of the single permits issued in the EU were granted primarily for family and employment reasons (respectively 38.2 % and 33.9 %). Just over 1 in 10 single permits were issued for education reasons, leaving a residual share of 17.3 % covered by other reasons.The vast majority (81.2 %) of the single permits issued in the EU in 2017 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: 86.7 % of single permits issued for family reasons, 72.1 % of single permits issued for education reasons and 70.9 % 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 (26.8 % with a duration from 6 to 11 months and 2.0 % with a duration from 3 to 5 months).
About 840 000 first single permits were granted in 2017
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). Therefore, the observed upward trend in the number of first single permits issued since 2013 gives a positive signal concerning the simplification of the procedure for non-EU citizens to access the EU labour market. Figure 1 indicates that their total stock increased by an average of 27.5 % per annum, reaching 841 028 first single permits in 2017.First single permits accounted for 32.9 % of all single permits issued in the EU in 2017. As Table 1 presents, this share varied between Member States, with the lowest shares observed in Italy (8.6 %), Portugal (12.6 %) and Latvia (17.7 %), and the highest shares recorded in Germany (89.0 %), Lithuania (70.0 %), Hungary (69.8 %), Croatia (69.2 %) and Sweden (69.0 %).
The majority of the single permits issued in 2017 represent extensions of previous residence
The majority of the single permits issued in 2017 (67.1 % or 1.7 million) represented extensions of residence permits corresponding either to renewals or changes of status of already existing residence permits. After a period of increase during two years (between 2013 and 2015), the number of renewed single permits in the EU decreased by 12.8 % in 2016 and by a further 4.5% in 2017. A similar pattern was observed for permits related to the procedure for changing the status or reason to stay, as a decrease of 3.9 % was observed between 2015 and 2016 and of 12.3 % between 2016 and 2017.
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, Ireland and the United Kingdom are not subject to the EU Blue Card Directive and as such the data of 25 of the Member States contribute to the EU totals presented in the second section of this article.
Germany issued almost 21 000 EU Blue Cards in 2017, 85 % of the EU totalFigure 3 presents statistics covering the period since the start of the EU Blue Card data collection in 2012. It shows that the number of EU Blue Cards continued to rise each year since its adoption, reaching a peak of 24 310 in 2017. Table 2 shows that the majority of EU Blue Cards issued in 2017 were issued in Germany (20 541). Its share of the EU-28 total stood at 84.5 %, followed by France (1 037; 4.3 % of the EU total), Luxembourg (671; 2.8 %) and Poland (471; 1.9 %).
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 2017 accounted for two thirds of the 24 310 cards that were granted in the EU in 2017.Of these, 5 411 EU Blue Cards were granted to citizens of India, which was more than twice as many as for nationals of any other non-EU country. China, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United States were the only other countries where more than one thousand of their citizens had been granted an EU Blue Card in 2017 (see Table 3). In 2017, Germany systematically granted the highest number of EU Blue Cards to citizens from each of the top 10 non-EU countries.
Figure 4 shows that the number of Indian citizens who were granted an EU Blue Card grew during the period 2015-2017, rising from 3 244 in 2015 to 5 411 in 2017 (equivalent to an overall increase of 66.8 %). However, not all of the top 10 non-EU countries recorded an increase in the number of EU Blue Cards issued to their citizens. Between 2015 and 2017 there was a drop in the number of Ukrainian citizens who were granted an EU Blue Card (from 1 427 to 1 253); while between 2016 and 2017 the number of EU Blue Cards issued to Syrian citizens dropped from 849 to 745.
In 2017, share of first EU Blue Cards reached 23 % 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. 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 for attracting highly skilled workers to the EU.When first introduced, the relative (to the overall number of first residence permits issued to highly-skilled workers) significance of the EU Blue Card scheme was very low (0.4 % of all first permits granted to highly-skilled workers), but this share rose to 14.1 % by 2014, and after a temporary fall in 2015, continued to increase in 2017 when EU Blue Cards accounted for 22.7 % of all first permits granted to highly-skilled workers. Taking into account that the total number of first permits granted for highly skilled workers did not decline over this period, it shows that the EU Blue Card has been used more and more as an instrument 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 regards 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 2008 reference year, Eurostat collects 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 occupation 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, Ireland and the United-Kingdom 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 refers 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, Ireland and the United Kingdom 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 please refer to the European Commission webpage here.
There are ongoing developments in the statistics on residence permits for employment reasons under the EU Directives: statistics on seasonal workers based on Directive 2014/36/EU collected since 2018; statistics on intra-corporate transfers (ICT) based on Directive 2014/66/EU collected since 2018; statistics on researchers and students based on Directive 2016/801/EU collected since 2020. Therefore, it is planned to include the statistics on seasonal workers and ICT workers in this present article in the next revision of the article, while it is planned to include statistics on researchers and students in 2020.
- Asylum statistics
- Dublin statistics on countries responsible for asylum application
- Migrant integration statistics
- Migration and migrant population statistics
- Enforcement of immigration legislation statistics
- First permits by reason (tps00170)
- All valid permits by reason on 31 December of each year (tps00171)
- Residence permits (migr_res)
- Residence permits by reason, length of validity and citizenship (migr_resval)
- Residence permits by reason, age, sex and citizenship (migr_resage)
- EU Blue Cards (migr_resbcard)
- Residence permits (ESMS metadata file — migr_esms)