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In brief

On 15 May 2024, the Luxembourg Parliament adopted draft bill No. 8304 (“Law“), which aims to implement Directive (EU) 2021/1883 of 20 October 2021 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment (“Directive“).

The primary goal of the Directive is to update the EU Blue Card rules, providing a more targeted legal migration system to address skill shortages and facilitate entry for highly qualified workers. More specifically, it provides for more flexible admission conditions for highly skilled foreign workers, notably in terms of the minimum wage threshold, enhanced rights, more favorable conditions for family reunification, and the possibility of traveling and working more easily in other EU member states.

As the State Council waived its constitutional vote on 21 May 2024, the Law will enter into force on the first day of the month following the date of its publication in the Luxembourg official gazette.

For further information on what these developments mean for you or your organization, please get in touch with your usual Baker McKenzie contact.


Key takeaways

  1. Flexible admission criteria

The Law reduces the required work contract duration for EU Blue Card applicants, from one year to at least six months.

The EU Blue Card serves as a work and residence permit for highly skilled non-EU citizens, which allows them to live and work in the EU. This card is designed to attract highly qualified professionals from non-EU countries to the EU by simplifying the process, enhancing their legal status once they are in the EU, and provide them a specific set of rights.

  1. Admission criteria details

Professional qualifications must be proven through higher education or equivalent skills with at least five years of relevant experience. Salary thresholds, harmonized across the EU, will be determined by each member state based on the average gross annual salary, ranging from one to 1.6 times this amount. Lower thresholds may apply for specific professions or recent graduates. See practical implications below for the thresholds.

  1. Rights and conditions for EU Blue Card holders

The Law aims to enhance the rights of EU Blue Card holders, including the granting of more extensive rights, favorable conditions for family reunification, and facilitate intra-EU mobility.

EU Blue Card holders’ extensive rights

The Law proposes enhanced rights for EU Blue Card holders. It allows the third-country national to remain in Luxembourg during the renewal procedure even if their EU Blue Card expires.

Likewise, access to the labor market has been extended, enabling EU Blue Card holders to inform the minister of professional changes within the first 12 months.

After this period, they enjoy equal treatment with nationals, except for roles requiring Luxembourg nationality. Additionally, the Law permits EU Blue Card holders to seek and accept employment during the initial 12-month period of unemployment, with obligations to inform the minister about their status.

The Law also strengthens conditions for withdrawing an EU Blue Card due to unemployment. Generally, the EU Blue Card will not be withdrawn or refused renewal for unemployment, except if it exceeds three months within the first two years or six months after that. Enhanced rights for long-term resident status include considering time spent as a researcher, student or international protection beneficiary. Former EU Blue Card holders from another member state with long-term resident status can work in Luxembourg without meeting specific conditions. Additionally, the Law grants EU Blue Card holders the right to engage in subsidiary self-employed activities, access to education and vocational training, and recognition of diplomas and professional qualifications.

EU Blue Card holders’ mobility

The Law aims to enhance mobility for EU Blue Card holders in Luxembourg. For stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period, holders of a valid EU Blue Card from another member state would be exempt from visa and work permit requirements for “business activities.” This includes various work-related tasks such as meetings, negotiations, marketing activities and training. If the EU Blue Card is issued by a state that does not apply the Schengen acquis, additional documentation is required for a 90-day stay.

For stays of over three months, the Law seeks to reduce the period for mobility from 18 to 12 months, or even six months for subsequent mobility. Applicants can start working immediately after submitting their residence permit application in the second member state, and a decision must be reached within 30 days, extendable in complex cases.

The Law finally addresses family reunification, allowing family members to enter and reside in Luxembourg before applying for a residence permit if they already hold a valid permit from the first member state. The Law streamlines the process by issuing residence permits simultaneously with the EU Blue Card and provides an accelerated procedure if the family joins post-EU Blue Card approval, ensuring a permit within 30 days.

  1. Administrative practice formalization

The Law seeks to formalize administrative practice, ensuring that any residence permit issued by the minister also entitles the beneficiary to obtain the required entry visa when necessary. 

Practical implications

Overall, these amendments aim to streamline and improve the EU Blue Card system, making it more adaptable to labor market needs and simplifying the entry process for highly qualified workers in Luxembourg.

In this regard, it is worth also noting that in March 2024, the Minister of the Economy and the Minister of Internal Affairs adopted a ministerial regulation, which determines the minimum level of remuneration for a highly qualified third-country workers seeking employment in Luxembourg through the EU Blue Card program (“Regulation“).

The Regulation, which entered into force on 24 March 2024, sets the following minimum annual salary thresholds for highly qualified third-country workers:

  • 1.5 times the gross average annual salary in Luxembourg (i.e., EUR 88,452).
  • 1.2 times the gross average annual salary in Luxembourg (i.e., EUR 70,762) for positions for which a particular need for third-country workers is identified by the government (e.g., mathematicians, actuaries, statisticians and software designers).
Author

Annie Elfassi is the Partner in charge of the Litigation and Employment departments of Baker McKenzie's Luxembourg office. She has over 19 years of experience. Prior to joining the Firm in 2019, Annie Elfassi was a member of the Litigation and Risk Management practice and headed the Employment department of a leading law firm in Luxembourg.

Author

Sabrina Bodson is a counsel in the Employment Practice Group of Baker McKenzie's Luxembourg office. She has over 15 years of experience. Prior to joining the Firm in 2022, Sabrina was a counsel in the employment department of a Magic Circle firm in Luxembourg. She is a frequent speaker on employment law issues in seminars and conferences and contributor to various employment law related publications.

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