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European justice commissioner Franco Frattini is expected to back a commission proposal for "blue cards" for immigrants to the EU from countries outside the community.

The commission is worried that by 2050 Europe will have two working people supporting, through taxes, every retired person rather than four working people supporting each retired person as at the moment.

To counter this, the commission wants to attract more skilled workers most of whom currently go to the US. Frattini reckons the EU gets five per cent of skilled immigrants while 55 per cent go to the US.

Immigrants will need specific skills - IT and engineering workers are currently in short supply, especially in the UK and Germany. To qualify for a blue card immigrants would need qualifications, three years' experience, a job offer, and would have to be filling a job which could not be carried out by an EU citizen.

This is similar to the current Highly Skilled Migrants programme in the UK, but HSMP does not require applicants to already have a job offer.

The card would allow skilled immigrants to work for two years in one EC country and then either renew their visa, work in another EU country or leave the EU.

Current immigrants to the EU get a working visa for one country and must re-apply if they wish to move.

The idea has been knocking about since 2005 but seems to be gaining some traction. British government ministers are already saying they'd prefer a "points system", according to the BBC (see more here).

There's a discussion document from two MEPs looking at the issue here.

The commission is also looking at changing regulations around seasonal workers - people who travel to the UK, France, or Spain for seasonal work, typically agriculture. ®

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