There is good news for Indian professionals seeking jobs abroad as the European Union (EU) is planning to set up a US 'Green card' style visa programme to attract highly qualified immigrant workers.
In an effort to meet the growing demand for professionals like doctors, engineers and IT experts, the 27-nation bloc may introduce 'EU Blue Card', a special residence and work permit to immigrants granting them a "very generous" legal status.
If the visa plan, still at the consultation level, materialises, it will open new avenues for Indian professionals in European countries besides the United Kingdom, a popular destination for job seekers.
The EU proposal aims at accelerating and simplifying the formalities for entry of immigrant workers by doing away with different complex national procedures besides facilitating their mobility throughout the EU.
Apart from making the procedure easier, the Blue Card will provide immigrant workers better conditions for family reunification and right to equal treatment with EU nationals on availing a host of social and economic rights.
To come into effect, the proposal needs the approval of member states and the nod of European Parliament. "Immigration issues are the prerogative of member countries," said Neena Gill, Chairwoman of the EU's Indian delegation.
Under the plan, immigrant workers will be able to move, work and live in any EU country, provided there is a work contract and a need in that labour market, European Union officials told a team of visiting Indian journalists in Brussels.
The plan, European Union officials said, stems from the realisation that EU, facing an acute shortage of skilled labour, has fared badly in attracting qualified professionals vis-a-vis countries like the US, Canada and Australia.
EU attracts mainly low qualified immigrant workers while highly qualified workers prefer destinations like America, Canada and Australia.
Leave aside attracting professionals from non-EU nations, statistics show that only one per cent of the EU citizens are ready to move to another EU country for work.
Other statistics showed that highly qualified workers from non-EU countries accounted for only 0.9 per cent of all workers in the bloc, compared to 9.9 per cent in Australia, 7.3 per cent in Canada and 3.5 per cent in the US.
Analysis of the present situation and forecasts show that there is a growing request for highly qualified workers in EU countries and European companies are facing problems in recruiting foreign professionals, the EU said.
Though it was up to member countries to decide on immigration issues, the EU says it has mooted the proposal as the member states will face stiff international competition for workers if they act alone.
By making use of the attractiveness of the combined EU labour market, the member countries will be in a much stronger position to compete on the world market for skilled workers, the EU noted.