BRUSSELS, May 26 (UPI) -- The European Union has adopted a work permit program modeled after the U.S. Green Card residency program aimed at bringing in highly skilled foreign workers.
The so-called Blue Card, which was formally adopted at a ministerial meeting Monday in Brussels, will allow immigrants to work in any EU member state, except Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark, and to partake in limited social and welfare rights, for a renewable period of one to four years, the EU Observer reported.
An earlier Blue Card proposal was tabled by the European Commission in 2007, and the new version has been altered to address concerns by member states that it would allow Brussels to interfere too much in their national labor markets.
The EU Observer said Blue Card holders will get equal treatment with nationals when it comes to working conditions, including pay and dismissal, a key provision in attracting much-needed skilled foreign workers.
But it also imposes penalties for employers who use illegal immigrants, with EU ministers saying the new program will "put an end to abuses by unscrupulous employers who make contracts with illegally-staying (workers) providing them in the labor market with low salaries and poor labor conditions."