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EuropeLegal migration: Council and Parliament reach deal on a single permit directive

Legal migration: Council and Parliament reach deal on a single permit directive

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Today member states’ representatives to the Council (Coreper) confirmed the provisional agreement between the Spanish presidency of the Council and the European Parliament on an update of an EU law that deals with legal migration to the EU labour market.

The updated rules streamline the procedure to apply for a permit to reside for the purpose of work in the territory of a member state. This will give a boost to international recruitment of talent. In addition, more rights for third-country workers and their equal treatment compared to EU workers will reduce labour exploitation.

Elma Saiz, Spanish Minister for the inclusion, Social security and migration

Many employers are facing a tense labour market situation. The proposal we have agreed on today is a response to this
situation of shortages as it will result in a smooth and predictable process for third-country nationals to apply for work and residence permit in one go.Elma Saiz, Spanish Minister for the inclusion, Social security and migration

Elma Saiz, Spanish Minister for the inclusion, Social security and migration

The single permit directive sets out the application process for EU countries to issue this single permit and establishes common rights for workers from third countries. Member states keep the final say about which and how many third-country workers they want to admit to their labour market.

Application procedure

A third-country worker can submit an application from the territory of a third-country or, according to the agreement reached between the co-legislators, from within the EU if he or she is a holder of a valid residence permit. When a member state decides to issue the single permit this decision will serve both as residence and as work permit.


The Council and European Parliament decided that issuing a single permit should be made within three months after receipt of the complete application. This period also covers the time needed to check the labour market situation before a decision on the single permit is adopted. Member states will then issue the requisite visa to allow initial entry into their territory.

Change of employer

Single permit holders will have the possibility to change employer, subject to a notification to the competent authorities. Member states may also require a minimum period of time during which the single permit holder is required to work for the first employer. In case of loss of employment, third-country workers are allowed to remain in the territory of the member state if the total period of unemployment does not exceed three months during the validity of the single permit or six months after two years of the permit.

Background and next steps

The current single permit directive dates back to 2011. On 27 April 2022, the Commission proposed an update of the 2011 directive.

The proposal is part of the ‘skills and talent’ package which addresses the shortcomings of the EU as regards legal migration and has as objective to attract the skills and talent the EU needs.

Eurostat data from 2019 show that 2 984 261 single permit decisions were reported by member states of which 1 212 952 were for issuing first permits. The other decisions were for renewing or changing permits.

Following today’s approval, the text will now have to be formally adopted by both the Council and European Parliament.

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