EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life


Immigration controls regulate the free movement of non-EU nationals into the EU. Immigration from outside the Community was handled on an intergovernmental basis following the Treaty of the European Union. Council Regulation 1683/95 laid down a uniform format for visas, and Council Regulation 2317/95 stipulated the countries whose nationals required a visa when entering the EU. The Treaty of Amsterdam introduced a new Title IV of the EC Treaty dealing with ‘Visas, asylum, immigration and other policies concerning the free movement of persons.’

Non-EU or third-country nationals do not have the right to entry or free movement in the EU Member States. Third-country nationals may work in a Member State if they possess the authorisation to reside and work corresponding to the activity carried out, the location and the duration. Member States have sought to harmonise the means of controlling these conditions on entry, residence and employment (Council Recommendation of 22 December 1995 on harmonising means of combating illegal immigration and illegal employment and improving the relevant means of control; and Council Recommendation of 27 September 1996 on combating the illegal employment of third-country nationals).

Since 1999, the EU has been developing a common immigration policy. Accordingly, EU Member States have agreed that the EU should have common immigration and visa rules that will be valid all across the EU. These are set out in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and include common rules on:

  • Entry and residence conditions for migrants
  • Procedures for issuing long-term visas and residence permits
  • The rights of migrants living legally in an EU country
  • Tackling irregular immigration and unauthorised residence
  • The fight against human trafficking
  • Agreements on the readmission of citizens returning to their own countries
  • Incentives and support for EU countries to promote the integration of migrants.

Common measures to date include:

  • EU-wide rules that allow citizens of countries outside the EU to work or study in an EU country.
  • EU-wide rules that allow citizens of countries outside the EU who are staying legally in an EU country to bring their families to live with them and/or to become long-term residents.
  • Shared visa policies that enable non-EU citizens to travel freely for up to 3 months within the Schengen area.

Specifically in the employment context, it has long been recognised that demographic changes in the EU population will result in a fall in the working-age population in the medium and long term. As a result, sustained flows of labour migration into the EU will become increasingly necessary in order to fill employment shortages and skills gaps. DG Employment has commissioned studies on labour migrant and integration, such as those by the LINET network on the recognition of qualification and improving access to labour market information, which contain a series of recommendations on how to improve the labour market situation for migrants in the EU.

One of the biggest current challenges for the EU is dealing with migrants and refugees fleeing war and crises in countries such as Syria and Afghanistan. Commission President Juncker has urged EU Member States to take larger numbers of refugees and has proposed the creation of a permanent new system of sharing refugees in cases of crisis. Juncker has also said that the Commission is drafting policies on how to open up legal channels to allow people seeking to get to Europe by highly hazardous routes to do so much more safely, although there has been some opposition from some Member States. Migration is now one of the ten political priorities for the Commission.

See also: free movement of workers.



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