Chapter 3. Scenarios for the adaptation of the EOI System to the EU context

This chapter proposes possible scenarios for the adaptation of the EoI model – or elements of it – in the European context. The chapter identifies three main scenarios for the implementation of an EU-wide EOI-type of system. The legislative and administrative changes required for each scenario are examined, as well as the extent to which they reproduce two-step migration management from the original EoI model. The scenarios range from a pooling and matching mechanism for existing labour migration schemes, with no legislative change, to a new or modified EU-wide scheme served by two-step selection. The chapter discusses a feature common to all scenarios, an EU-wide infrastructure for pre-screening migration candidates and pooling their profiles, vetting employers. The potential role of public employment agencies in accessing the pool and managing the matching mechanism is discussed.

    

Introduction

Building upon the description of the original EoI model as implemented in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, on the one hand, and on the understanding of the specific unaddressed needs of the European labour migration system on the other, this chapter proposes possible scenarios for the adaptation of the EoI model – or elements of it – in the European context.

The chapter presents three scenarios, and variants, in terms of the main features and building blocks, the feasibility of creation, and the added value of each scenario relative to the current EU skilled labour migration system.

The chapter then examines the different design choices in the EoI adaptation, applicable to the different options.

The chapter concludes with a discussion of potential implications of the different scenarios.

Overview of the scenarios

This section presents a number of scenarios for adapting the Expression of Interest model and its components to the European context, based on the analysis of EoI systems in OECD (2017[1]).

The Expression of Interest model, as adopted in New Zealand, Australia and Canada, cannot be directly applied intact to the EU context, due to constitutional differences. A direct copy of the EoI model would see the EU itself creating an EU pool of candidates from which it would select individuals for issuance of EU-wide permits or requiring issuance of permits with EU-wide validity by Member States. This is not possible: issuance of permits is a decision which is the competence of Member States. Further, a faithful transposition of the EoI model as used outside the EU would also mean that the permits issued would be permanent, i.e., long-term resident permits, free of occupation restrictions and granting full mobility. Immediate permanent residence is almost unknown in national legislation, and not contemplated in the EU legal migration framework.

In light of this constraint, the scenarios presented indicate the different ways in which EoI elements can support the EU legal migration framework for labour migration.

Three main scenarios are proposed, with variants:

  1. 1. A basic pool option. This scenario foresees the creation of an EU-wide pool of highly-skilled migration candidates admitted to the pool based on basic credentials and migration requirements, which would serve existing schemes (EU and/or national) for skilled labour migration.

  2. 2. A sector-specific option. This creates one or more separate EU-wide pools of skilled migration candidates in target sectors where credentials are accepted throughout the EU. Enhanced pre-screening, prior validation of qualifications, matching and, possibly, intra-EU mobility features are possible under this scenario. Two possible sectors of application are discussed - regulated professions in the health sector, and the IT sector – although this scenario could also serve other sectors with pressing labour needs.

    This option also allows for pooling demand, in light of uniform criteria. In the case of pooled demand (i.e., a fixed number of vacancies to fill), candidates in the pool may be ranked and selected according to an optional points-based selection.

    As part of this sector option, it is possible to foresee a skills development component. In this sub-scenario, a specific sector is identified and candidates are trained from or for the pool. An investment is made to develop the skills required for selection from the pool. This scenario builds on the concept of skills mobility partnerships.

    In the variant where demand is fixed or capped, this option also allows for creation of a specific pool for less selective labour migration channels, such as non-qualified work. Here, too, points-based criteria can be used for selection.

  3. 3. A scheme-specific option. This EU-wide EoI system is connected to the EU labour migration framework (existing or revised) through a pool. Admission to the pool represents a form of pre-approval for a specific legal migration channel, on the condition that a qualifying job offer is made. Under this scenario, access to the legal migration channel may also only be possible through the EoI process. Admission to the pool would require meeting the eligibility criteria for recognition of foreign qualifications, where applicable, and pre-certification of other eligibility criteria.

    A variant on this option is the possibility to include an EU supply-driven permit for a fixed number of top-ranked candidates, as authorised annually by Member States. Candidates would be automatically selected from the pool according to agreed criteria of excellence. This variant would not be meant to satisfy labour demand – the number would be insufficient, and the criteria restrictive – but to stimulate interest in the pool itself.

These scenarios and variants differ in terms of the grounds for admission to the pool; how qualifications are assessed; how selection occurs; the link, if any, with the legal migration channel; and whether the scenario is possible under current EU legislation (Table 3.1)

In none of these options is a job offer prerequisite for entry to the pool. In none of them except the variant of the last option, the creation of a specific supply-driven scheme is required. Yet, a job-search permit or visa served by the EoI-type pre-screening and pooling mechanism would be a key tool to overcome bottlenecks in international employment matching by allowing in-person contact between the migration candidate and the prospective employer.

Table 3.1. Alternate scenarios for adopting an EoI system at the EU level
Components of the different scenarios.

1. Scenario

2. Admission to the pool is based on…

3. Qualifications assessment

4. Selection from the pool occurs through…

5. Link to legal migration channel

6. Possible without changes to EU legal migration framework

Basic option

Pool admission based on eligibility for legal channels (plus other criteria)

Credential assessment for pool or later

Direct or mediated employer selection, Member State harvesting and proposing to employers

People identified in the pool need to apply for legal channel separately

Yes

Sector option

As above

Certification under standard criteria

As above, with additional possibility of ranking for fixed demand (i.e., to meet pre-verified demand)

Entry to pool could be integrated into migration procedure

Yes, in most cases

Sector option V1, Skills Development

As above

Certification under standard criteria Included in skills development (training) component

As above

As above

Yes, in most cases

Sector option V2, lower skilled

As above

Custom assessment

As above

As above

Yes, in most cases

Legal Migration Channel

As above

Credential assessment or (option) RFQ for pool, RFQ upon selection

Direct or mediated employer selection, Member State harvesting and proposing to employers

Entry to pool is integrated into migration procedure. Pool may be mandatory for use of a specific channel, provides pre-qualification

No

Legal Migration Channel V1, supply-driven

As above

As above

Selection Criteria (e.g., PBS)

Requires creation of new legal migration channel

No, not possible under TFEU

Source: OECD Secretariat Analysis.

As part of these scenarios, other policy measures of direct relevance are discussed, including the recognition of language ability, assessment and recognition of foreign qualifications, and matching platforms used for bringing employers and jobseekers together.

Basic option: Creating an EU-wide pool of pre-screened candidates for highly-skilled migration

The basic model of the EoI would primarily address matching between employers and potential recruits, and would not be directly linked to any specific legal migration channel. However, admission criteria to the pool would reflect the criteria applied under one or more specific schemes, so that candidates would be eligible for existing legal migration channels in the presence of a qualifying job offer. Relevant schemes could be limited to the channels under the EU legal migration framework (the EU Blue Card) or national schemes.

This scenario requires a single publicly-managed platform with a mechanism to pre-screen and pool interested candidates who meet key admission criteria for existing labour migration programmes.

To restrict the EoI pools, it is necessary to impose selection criteria which provide added value. In this option, there is a skills threshold for admission to the pool. The threshold of skills for an EU-wide pool of candidates could be based on EU schemes; at present, this would be the EU Blue Card in its current form, since it establishes standard eligibility criteria. Admission to the pool would therefore be based on the basic criteria for the EU Blue Card: education.

In addition to education, the pool would require a minimum level of language proficiency in any official language of the EU. This consideration is included to filter out applicants with limited adaptability and transferability of skills in the EU labour market.1

Criteria for admission to the pool could potentially be expanded to encompass less restrictive criteria – such as non-tertiary education and less experience – to reflect legal migration channels for skilled workers established at the national level. The EU Blue Card option of counting five years’ experience as an alternative to higher education qualifications could also be considered.2

The pool would be independent of the legal migration channel. When a match is made, and a contract proposed by the employer, the parties would apply for a permit using the existing channels, choosing the most favourable channel according to the circumstances. Presence in the pool would have no legal bearing on the administrative procedures.

The appeal of such a platform would be to broaden and deepen the pool of candidates available to employers, on the one hand, and the range of employers available to candidates, on the other. Third country nationals resident abroad are not currently able to utilise European public platforms for job matching.3 Private platforms are in place, and do not impose restrictions on their use by job-seekers, but do not screen according to eligibility for legal labour migration channels.

This option is an enhanced matching tool, aligned with eligibility criteria for legal labour migration channels, but without a link.

Pool entry under the Basic Option

Pool entry criteria under this option would be shaped by the basic EU Blue Card education requirements, along with sufficient mastery of an EU language.

The level of higher education certified should correspond at least to the minimum Blue Card threshold, set at level 6 of ISCED 2011 (bachelor’s or equivalent level). Under the EU Blue Card, higher education qualifications are proven by any evidence of formal qualifications issued by a competent authority attesting the successful completion of a post-secondary higher education programme, with a minimum duration of three years (Directive 2009/50/EC, Article 2 h).4

Candidates’ admission to the pool would therefore be conditional on providing proof of education level and proof of relevant language knowledge.

The proof of education in this option would be the simplest possible, consisting in an Educational Credential Assessment, issued by an accredited body and valid in all EU Member States as a proof of local-equivalent higher education qualifications (see section on Educational Credential Assessment).

The ECA may be a first step towards formal recognition, when this is required.5 More importantly, it has two signalling functions. First, it indicates that the candidate is capable of undergoing a formal procedure – producing an official document, communicating with an authority, etc. In that sense, it serves as a filter for the soft skills required to go through such a procedure.

Second, it signals to prospective employers the presumed value of credentials acquired in a different educational system. This can be particularly helpful when candidates have credentials from little-known institutions in developing countries, for instance.

However, an ECA is not recognition, but an indication of equivalency. For ECAs to be valuable to prospective employers, professional regulators as well as labour migration candidates, they need to be issued by bodies which are well-established and trusted in the receiving-country labour market. To effectively serve an EU-wide system, ECAs should be equally recognised and accepted across all Member States. This would be based on the ENIC-NARIC contact points (see section on educational credential assessment). Before filing an expression of interest candidates would have to obtain an ECA from the ENIC-NARIC contact point of any EU (or participating) country. This may be a country they wish to indicate as their first or only preference.

Since ECA is meant to translate foreign degrees into the corresponding European degree, for reference by employers, ECA would not be necessary for international students with qualifications obtained in a Member State. Similarly, candidates (abroad or residing in an EU Member State) with recognised qualifications would be exempted from providing an ECA, and could provide proof of recognition.

The second requirement for entry to the pool is language knowledge. This could take the form of a valid language certificate listed as an accredited language certification in an inventory specifically set for pool admission purposes (see section on certification of language skills). Pool entry would be conditional on attesting of a level of language knowledge equivalent.

Settling the language threshold is not immediately apparent. However, if the pool is meant to identify individuals with adaptability in the European labour market, the lowest language level to expect would be B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This is the level commonly used for admission to higher education institutions and, in many Member States, for concession of permanent residence. Depending on the evolution of the pool and interest by employers, this level could be raised or lowered.

The pool is open to all third-country nationals who are able to fulfil the education and language criteria, regardless of whether they reside in a third-country or are already residing in an EU Member State. For the latter group filing and EoI and participating in the pool could enhance opportunities for in-country job or status change, as well as intra-EU mobility.

The matching mechanism: selection from the pool.

Once candidates are admitted into the pool, they can participate in matching with employers.

There are several possibilities for matching with job vacancies:

  • the EoI pool could be a reserve for authorised employers and other actors to consult directly for recruitment. Candidates would not see vacancies;

  • the pool could be linked with one or more existing vacancy databases, with direct or filtered access. Candidates would be able to consult vacancies; or

  • the pool could be linked with a specific vacancy database populated with listings either expressly posted or imported from another vacancy database by authorised actors. Candidates would be able to consult vacancies.

This design feature is discussed in more detail below (see section on matching in the pool).

Exit from the Pool and migration procedure

Under this option, once a job offer is secured, the candidate is able to lodge an application for a permit under the qualifying legal migration scheme.

Feasibility

The implementation of this basic adaptation of the EoI system would not require legislative changes nor the complex political negotiation process that these involve at the EU level. Nonetheless, this “light” option would still hinge upon substantial investments to establish, coordinate and monitor the administrative infrastructure needed for the pre-screening, accreditation and matching features of the system to function. Even assuming that in most cases existing agencies could be entrusted with the additional responsibilities and tasks identified, expanding their functions would still require significant resources, and, presumably, a few years.

The basic infrastructure would include:

  • An EoI website, providing information on the platform and eligibility, and a guide to using the platform for different user groups.

  • A platform allowing candidates to submit and manage profiles, and other actors to access these profiles.

  • A possible link to existing vacancy databases or a new vacancy database (see section on matching in the pool, on the form such a vacancy database would take).

  • A system for accrediting employers and potentially other recruiters to access the pool (see sections access of employers to the EoI platform and involvement of private employment agencies on the involvement of employers and private recruitment agencies).

The platform would have to be available in all EU official languages. Other languages would be optional. It could be built onto the existing EU Immigration Portal during future upgrade or expansion of the Portal, or developed independently of the Portal.

In countries where the EoI system is in place, it is under the management of the Ministry responsible for migration. While the institutional arrangement could not be directly transferred due to fundamental differences between the national and federal systems in New Zealand, Australia and Canada on the one hand, and the European Union on the other, a central body appears necessary. An EU-wide EoI platform would require an institutional host, which could be a dedicated body within existing EU-level services or a new service.

Oversight and direction at the Commission level could be under a single directorate, but would need to involve a governance body bringing together directorates with areas of competence relevant to the EoI platform, including home affairs and employment, as well as national administrations and agencies with these competences. The proposed European Labour Authority would also need to be involved.6 The need for a governance body has not emerged in other EoI systems, although working co-ordination between employment and immigration services is in place.

Settings for the platform (e.g., eligibility criteria, certification bodies, conditions of access to the pool) are decided through executive decision or legislation in existing EoI systems. In an EU system, such decisions could also be fixed through legislation, but would be better left to adjustment based on evidence, allowing the system to evolve reactively. This constraint in EU measures – which have a long policy feedback cycle (OECD/EU, 2016[2]) – would have to be addressed. One means to do so would be to charge the governance body with adjusting parameters, based on different forms of majority decision or even unanimity.

To provide evaluation and monitoring, the platform could be accompanied by a secretariat, with a mandate to report to the governing body on the functioning and outcomes of the platform, propose changes, and model the potential impact of these changes. The secretariat could potentially conduct consultations with social partners and other actors.

The development and management of the technical elements of the platform – the website and EoI platform – could be contracted to an external IT service provider, or established within the Commission.

The platform would have to be supported with a promotion campaign, targeting employers and other labour market actors in Europe, and qualified third-country nationals in Europe and abroad.

It should be clear that establishing an EoI pool would require substantial investment and, if even moderately successful, would be costly to run. Countries employing EoI models impose user fees in the migration system which have helped to subsidise the cost of developing the platforms. Further, the platforms were designed to help manage a case load more effectively, freeing up resources which were previously dedicated to screening applications. As there is no current pool in the EU, introduction of one would represent a new cost. As the argument for the pool is to favour international recruitment, there is a strong argument against imposing fees. This means that the platform would require initial and ongoing funding.

The basic EU-wide EoI system would also require the commitment of political capital from EU institutions and interested Member States’ governments not only to obtain the necessary resources but also to ensure the requisite participation of employment bodies.

Added value

The EU-wide EoI system in this section would perform two key functions for improving skilled labour migration management across the EU:

  • pre-screen migration candidate and recruiter credentials;

  • facilitate and enhance the quality of international employment matching.

Neither function is directly related to legal migration, but improve the effectiveness of labour migration in meeting skill needs by reducing the information barriers which hamper international recruitment.

Pooling candidates and vacancies (or potential employers) at the EU level would broaden the candidate pool and increase the likelihood for candidates and employers to find a match. No current platform allows third-country nationals outside the EU to match with EU employers at no cost and with an element of verification that criteria are met for existing labour migration channels.

Under this option, the main beneficiaries relative to the current situation are those employers who have been struggling or reluctant to fill skills shortages through migration notably SMEs and firms operating in Member States which have traditionally been less attractive for international talent. Similarly, the system could be particularly beneficial to migration candidates with limited resources and thin networks. Overall, as a result of the enhanced quality and scope of international employment matching opportunities, and of a spillover of such additional opportunities across Member States, the system could bring added value to the EU labour markets and economies.

In order for these returns to materialise, certain conditions would have to be in place. First, the key parties to international employment matching – i.e. the migration candidates and the potential recruiters – would have to be aware of the system and trust its ability to provide better quality and opportunities of international recruitment than existing tools. Second, related to this, the system would have to be populated with a sufficient number of candidate profiles and attract vacancies.

An important note of caution must be made here, based on consultations with employers, policy positions and survey results. Employers, employer representatives and intermediation agents have indeed expressed interest in a model with pre-screening, pooling and matching components. In the views of employers, an EU-wide public mechanism encompassing these three components could provide a positive input in their efforts to fill unmet vacancies through labour migration by reducing the uncertainties – and related costs – of foreign recruitment. The fact this could be done without changing current migration legislation makes this option attractive.

Notwithstanding the general enthusiasm, there is a contradiction in the position of employers. Employers would like a system which provides job-ready candidates, at no or little cost. At the same time, there is mistrust that a public EU-wide body could assess and validate the qualifications and skills of candidates. In other words, the obstacle represented by mistrust of foreign qualifications is not likely to be easily allayed by a new certification body, especially a body far from employers.

In fact, while employer representatives have generally expressed enthusiasm for EU action to develop an EU-wide adaptation of the pool element of the EoI system, many are unconvinced that, in practice, their members would consider migration candidates holding qualifications certified as equivalent to those of a different Member State, rather than the local equivalent. This reluctance applies even if local jobs do not require formal recognition of foreign qualifications. Further, speaking another EU language rather than the local language is not seen as holding value for potential employers.

Some EU countries are more flexible than others in insisting on national language skills and recognised training, and acute shortages can force employers to be less rigid. Other are not. One example is Germany, where SMEs, even when faced with hard-to-fill shortages in skilled trades and crafts, have been reluctant to give up on requiring dual vocational system-equivalent qualifications and full German language mastery. Obviously, employer mistrust of EU-wide pre-screening and validation of candidate qualifications and language credentials would undercut any pool.

Firms recruiting with EU-wide adaptability and placement in mind – such as multinationals and large firms – would be more willing to consider candidates without mastery of the local language (especially if the firm and candidate working language were English). These firms already are able to draw on international recruitment and have well-established channels for recruitment. A large and high quality EoI pool, and the involvement of intermediaries serving large and multinational enterprises, would make the pool of added value for this group.

For qualified candidates, the added value of the pool would be access to a range of employment opportunities and the possibility to signal employers that they have the credentials to qualify for a legal migration channel. The effort required to certify and attest qualifications needs to be measured against the returns to joining the pool.

Candidates already residing in an EU Member State on a EU Blue Card, long-term residence, or student permit would not have to make much effort to qualify for the pool, making the pool more attractive.7 The documentation necessary to obtain a prior EU Blue Card could be used again, as could the higher education degree issued in the EU. EU Blue Card holders already enjoy facilitated intra-EU mobility; under the EU-wide EoI system, they would be able to market the fact that compared to new hires from abroad they face less paperwork and shorter procedures if hired in another EU country. For international students, the more favourable treatment under most permit regimes, and the fact they will hold an EU degree, makes it easier for them to participate in the pool and more attractive for hires.

A well-functioning and sufficiently populated basic EU-wide EoI system as described in this section would significantly help improve Europe’s branding and standing in the global competition for talent. The reverse is also true, however, as committing resources to the design and implementation of a new and complex system may backfire if migration candidates and prospective recruiters do not see its added value and do not populate and use the system.

The sector option

The sector option takes the basic option further, to create EU-wide pools in sectors where validation of EoI admission credentials could be more easily accepted throughout the EU.

The added value of the EU-wide matching system under the basic EoI scenario largely depends on the value to employers of pre-screened credentials and ECAs, in many cases ECAs from authorities in another Member State regarding foreign qualifications. Employers may be reluctant to accept ECAs made in a different EU Member State, and the crucial endeavour to build mutual trust on credential pre-screening across the EU is likely to take a long time, whether within or outside an EoI system.

This option therefore focuses on targeted pooling and matching systems in sectors where the EU-wide acceptance of EoI admission credentials could be more straightforward. In these sectors, the harmonisation or greater homogeneity of credential requirements across the EU could allow for an enhanced and more credible EU-wide EoI candidate pre-screening mechanism.

Similarly, a sector approach allows for vacancies to be pooled, or bundled, and brought to the pool for matching. When a bloc of hires in a single occupation must be achieved, it is even possible to introduce ranking to the selection from the pool, where candidates meeting basic criteria (education and language) can be ranked according to other characteristics and the top-ranking candidates submitted to employers.

Example: A regulated occupation under the EU PQD

A pool could be designed to work within a sector – or occupation – which is regulated and where portability of recognition could be facilitated. The health sector is the most apparent example where an EU-wide sector-specific EoI system could take advantage of portability of qualifications within the EU. Across the EU the implementation of the EU Professional Qualifications Directive (EU PQD) provides for the formal professional qualifications acquired in any Member State by EU citizens in six regulated health professions – i.e. medical doctors (generalists as well as some specialists), midwives, nurses, dentists, veterinary surgeons and pharmacists – to be automatically recognised in each other Member State.8 This has been made possible by a 30-year process of EU-wide harmonisation of minimum training conditions for these professions.9 Moreover, according to the EU PQD, host country language mastery cannot be a condition for the recognition of professional qualifications – although it can be required to access professional practice.

Portability of qualifications is, under the Directive, a right related to the individual rather than the degree. The EU PQD was introduced to abolish stubborn obstacle to the free movement of persons and the free provisions of services in the EU Internal Market and, thus, it applies to EU nationals. Third-country nationals do not have the same right of automatic recognition even when their training is from an EU Member State institution. Furthermore, for EU nationals qualifications acquired in third countries and recognised in an EU Member State can only be considered as formal qualifications under the EU PQD in another EU member state if the EU national holding these qualifications has practiced the profession in the member state awarding recognition for a minimum of three years. In this case, recognition in another member state can be granted under the EU PQD “general system”, allowing for compensatory measures.10

In order for the EoI in the health sector to work, Member States and the competent regulatory bodies in each of them would have to agree on the immediate portability of the qualifications recognition decisions issued to third country nationals in any other Member State by the competent authority in the six health professions covered by the EU PQD automatic system. As things stand now, this is not even the case for EU nationals holding third-country qualifications.11 Thus, EU-wide recognition of foreign qualifications for third-country nationals would require agreement of Member States, building on the model of mutual recognition agreements. (Desiderio, 2015[3]). However, so far, the EU has only begun negotiation of MRAs with individual third countries (e.g. the MRAs being negotiated between the EU and Canada – through the competent professional bodies - under the CETA).

Box 3.1. The lack of an EU-wide mechanism for the recognition of foreign qualifications held by Third-country nationals: a key obstacle to international talent mobility in the Internal Market

In the EU, the formal recognition of foreign qualifications held by non-EU citizens (i.e. Third Country Nationals, TCNs) has at best national validity.1 A foreign qualified TCN professional willing to practice a regulated profession in multiple member states currently has to seek qualifications recognition in each member state. This is despite the fact that, across EU member states, academic qualifications are widely harmonised, and, under the EU PQD, mutual and automatic recognition of professional qualifications issued by a given member state in another member state is rather the rule than the exception for European Economic Area (EEA) citizens.2

Thus, unsurprisingly, EU-wide skilled migration instruments like the EU Blue Card have seen their potential to cater to the whole Internal Market – and attract international talent therein – significantly reduced by the requirement that TCNs seek formal recognition for their professional qualifications as needed to practice regulated occupations in each member state (OECD, 2016[4]).

Against this background, even the best EU-wide migration management system and international employment matching tool is bound to failure if the issue of the transferability of qualifications recognition decisions across the EU is not addressed. International talent is often sought after for working in occupations which require formal recognition of professional qualifications – i.e. regulated professions. Obtaining recognition of foreign qualifications and access to professional practice in such professions can be far more burdensome for a TCN than the migration procedure itself. Hence, undergoing the professional qualifications recognition procedure several times to practice in different EU member states might not even be considered as an option by sought-after TCNs who might have the opportunity to work in large national markets (like the US or Canada) instead.

Yet, there are currently no prospects for an agreement among EU member states and, crucially, member states’ professional bodies, on the mutual recognition of qualifications recognition decisions across the EU. Mistrust on other member states’ recognition processes, genuine fear of lowering the quality of domestic professional standards, and reluctance to delegate the prerogative of granting access to professional practice may explain professional bodies’ resistance to progress in this area. Professional bodies and national authorities may also be put off by fears of “qualifications recognition shopping”.3

Since national authorities do not control all the levers of qualifications recognition and access to professional practice, there are limits to the extent to which national governments can make big leaps forward in this area – unless they are very convinced of the case and determined to invest political capital on it. In Canada, where professional regulation is largely a prerogative of professional bodies at the provincial level, it is only with the 2007 amendment of the Agreement on Internal Trade that the automatic recognition of qualifications recognition decisions across Provinces and Territories was achieved for both Canadian nationals and foreign nationals. Undoubtedly, the political and policy efforts required to reach a similar agreement among the various professional bodies of each EU member state would be even greater.

If automatic mutual recognition of qualifications recognition decisions across the EU for TCNs holding non-EU qualifications cannot be envisaged in the short-medium term, then EU-wide acceptation of assessments of equivalency of third-country educational credentials with domestic credentials (ECAs) issued in each member state should be pursued in the first place, as a minimum requirement for any EU-wide migration management tool to be effective. On the one hand, educational credentials are widely harmonised across the EU. On the other, mutual acceptation of ECAs would not prevent professional authorities in each country to impose specific additional requirements for formal recognition into professional practice. Yet, mutual acceptation of ECAs would still contribute to build familiarity and trust among competent bodies in member states, and pave the way for further progress in this area.

1. In countries with high levels of administrative decentralisation, like Germany qualifications requirements for the practice of certain professions are set at the sub-national level (regions/Lander).

2. The scope of the EU PQD is much larger than the seven regulated professions (architects, dentist, doctors, midwives, nurses, pharmacists, and veterinary surgeons) where automatic recognition applies, and covers all regulated professions. For these professions a “general system” applies which allows case-by-case assessment of foreign qualifications acquired by an EU citizen in another EU member state. However, there is evidence that four out of five EEA nationals who were approved to work in regulated professions under the “general system” in a member state different from their country of origin and qualification, were granted automatic recognition (Sumption, Papademetriou and Flamm, 2013[8]).

3. In the EU PQD, the three-year experience rule for EU nationals holding recognised third-country qualifications is intended to protect public safety as well as to avoid qualifications recognition shopping. However, the implementation of such a rule in a wider system for the recognition of TCN’s foreign qualifications across the EU would be extremely cumbersome and ultimately would make the system meaningless.

Pool entry under the sector option: regulated professions

Relative to the basic option, criteria would be more specific and include:

  • proof of the formal recognition of the foreign qualifications required for the practice of a relevant health profession by the competent professional body of any EU Member State. Formal recognition by the competent authorities of each Member State would be automatically accepted across the EU.

  • proof of relevant language knowledge at the entry-level required for practicing the profession. This should take the form of a valid language certificate listed in a list – either the general list (certification of language skills section) or one created for the purpose of admission in the sectoral pool (i.e., language certification for the health profession).

The occupation would necessarily match the proof of formally recognised qualifications. The health professions tertiary degree, required under the Basic Option, could also be applied here, especially if the pool is to meet the minimum requirements of the EU Blue Card.

Besides this, the optional requirements for profile information would be the same as in the Basic scenario.

Since the pool focuses on a limited number of occupations, profiles within each profession could be ranked. Ranking is not unique to the sector option: it is also possible under the Basic Option, within professions according to the criteria expressed by the employer consulting the pool. Ranking under the sector option, however, refers to a pool of candidates who have already obtained recognition of credentials necessary for employment.

Accreditation for employers and PEAs for health sector occupations would be similar to that for the Basic Option (section on access of employers to the EoI platform and section on involvement of private employment agencies), but could incorporate commitments to respect ethical standards in the recruitment of health professionals (the WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel, see Box 3.4) This may exclude firms which are new to the international recruitment of health professionals from the EoI system. EU-wide enforcement of ethical recruitment requirement might also pose problems.

The matching mechanism

The matching mechanism would be similar to the Basic Option, with one major difference. Employers in the health sector are often large enterprises recruiting many workers at once or over a short period of time. This is true for public health systems or large hospitals, for example, in their hiring of nurses. Vacancies with identical requisites can be bundled. The sector pool allows the generation of a roster of candidates, potentially with ranking according to employer requisites.

Exit from the Pool

As under the Basic option, once a job offer is secured, the candidate is able to lodge an application for a permit under the qualifying legal migration scheme. In some Member States, specific channels are in place for qualified health personnel.

Example: an unregulated occupation

The first sector example focused on health occupations, which are regulated and have a developed mutual recognition framework in the EU. Most occupations, however, are not regulated – or not regulated under an EU-wide framework.

One example is the IT (information technology) sector, where there is substantial demand in the EU and where access to practice is not subject to formal recognition, nor supervision by a regulatory body. Qualifications are assessed directly by the prospective employers in reference to global standards set by the IT industry itself.12 For example, a computer programmer or a software developer would typically be required to be proficient in certain programming languages. Technical proficiency in the English language knowledge is the other worldwide standard for the practice of IT professions. Global professional standards and requirements make it easier to implement a pooling and matching system which can effectively and smoothly be used all across the EU.

Pool entry under the sector option for unregulated professions

Criteria for EoI pool admission for IT professions would include:

  • Evidence of internationally recognised IT competences based on relevant certificates. A list of accepted certificates will be compiled and made available in the EoI website. When filing their expression of interest candidates will be requested to upload the electronic copies of such certificates;

  • Proof of English language knowledge at B2 level or higher in the form of a valid language certificate, as in the basic scenario.

The requirement of a tertiary degree, foreseen under the Basic Scenario, could also be applied here, especially if the pool is to meet the minimum requirements of the EU Blue Card.

The matching mechanism

The platform for the implementation of this EU-wide EoI system for the IT sector would be similar to that in the Basic Scenario. If the EoI were only oriented towards IT occupations, it may be possible to limit the language to English language only. The list of accepted certificates could be developed in coordination with industry representatives.

Exit from the Pool

As under the Basic option, once a job offer is secured, the candidate is able to lodge an application for a permit under the qualifying legal migration scheme. Many IT workers will qualify for the EU Blue Card under national criteria. In some Member States, specific channels are in place for IT personnel who do not meet EU Blue Card criteria due to lower salary.

Recruitment for less skilled occupations

The expression of interest system can be used to manage recruitment of workers for lesser skilled occupations, as long as there are features which distinguish among workers and allow for ranking and selection by preference.

This model is well-consolidated in the two step “roster and recruitment” guestworker programmes for low-skilled and non-professional occupations. One example is the Korean Employment Permit System, which imposes an initial filter for admission to the roster, comprising a language test, a physical test and age limits. The pool is successful because it is the only and required means for recruitment under an oversubscribed, capped temporary labour migration programme. Selection is performed in two steps, with the programme administrator – an agency of the Ministry of Labour – identifying three candidates from the roster for every vacancy, and employers choose among candidates based on their characteristics.

The roster-recruitment model is appropriate when there are fixed-entry labour migration programmes for which, in principle, supply exceeds demand and a means for matching within the programme is required. It is applicable where bilateral agreements commit to facilitating legal labour migration, as it allows the pool to be promoted in a specific origin country and to admit a certain number of candidates (or allow selection of a fixed number of candidates).

In the European context, at present there are few channels where a roster-recruitment model could apply. Seasonal work, where conditions are regulated by the Seasonal Worker Directive, is one area where the skills requirements remain below secondary education level but where some skills are valued, particularly agricultural experience. More broadly, commitments to open legal labour migration channels with origin countries may require roster management. An EU-wide EoI system would have the advantage of being able to stock the pool with candidates from multiple participating third countries of origin, and to select from the pool for programmes in multiple Member States.

Pool entry under the sector option for less skilled occupations

Criteria for EoI pool admission for less skilled professions would be based on nationality and on specific skills relevant to the channel, and include:

  • Basic language skills, as attested by certificates

  • Nationality of a participating partner country

  • Other professionally relevant characteristics as attested by an implementing partner or by the country of origin.

The matching mechanism

The platform for the implementation of an EU-wide EoI system for less skilled employment would be similar to that in the Basic Scenario.

Exit from the Pool

As under the Basic option, once a job offer is secured, the candidate is able to lodge an application for a permit under qualifying legal migration scheme where applicable. Opportunities for migration may be limited to seasonal employment in some Member States.

Skills development under the sector option

The above variants present pools where admission is based on qualifications obtained by candidates. A further variant of the sector scenario is one in which skills are not selected but developed as part of the legal labour migration channel, through partnerships. Skills partnerships add a component to the EoI model: upskilling participants, either before they are admitted to the pool or while they are in the pool.

In this case, the migrant and the home country are not the only actors responsible for funding the development of skills needed in European destination countries.

Skills development is compatible with the above variants. For example, nurse recruitment as cited above requires that nursing degrees be recognised. This is an opportunity to integrate skills development into the EoI process. Nurses, or nursing students, in origin countries do not meet the criteria for admission to the pool. They could be admitted to a training pool based on their academic achievements. Additional training would be provided to this select group of nurses, and those who pass an exam or are otherwise chosen are admitted to the sector pool, from which they could be recruited through the regular channels, using an existing legal migration pathway. The costs for training for the destination country qualification are borne by the potential employer or by the public sector of the country in which they will be employed.

Under the variant of non-regulated occupations, workers could be trained up to IT standards in the origin country, with the certificate of their skills issued by training institutes which are supported by European institutions and apply industry standards. Following certification, they could join the pool.

Under the non-professional variant, skills relevant to a specific occupation where demand is strong (e.g., the hospitality sector, transport, certain industrial trades) may lend themselves to skills mobility partnerships.

Combining skills development partnerships and the EoI model means creating a distinct approach relative to traditional bilateral recruitment channels, since it does not commit to recruitment in a specific Member State, but opens recruitment possibilities in all Member States, provided that the qualifications of training are accepted throughout the EU. Participants in training are not assured of being hired, but are trained to a standard which should allow them to qualify for the pool and be of interest to employers.

There are a number of models of mobility partnerships around the worlds which could be adapted to the EoI model (OECD, 2018[5]). Outside the EU, examples include the training and recruitment of seafarers, for example. A number of EU member states have experience at a bilateral level with third countries which can be used as reference models.

Feasibility

The scenarios presented work within the framework of existing legal migration channels. However, for the health sector EoI to work properly, the framework for portability of recognition of third-country qualifications, and the possibility for third-country nationals to see their EU qualifications automatically recognised, would have to be addressed. This would entail changes to the relevant legal framework.

Professional bodies regulating the health sector have opposed accepting and implementing the principle of mutual recognition of qualifications recognition decisions for third-country nationals. In regulated professions, governments do not control all the levers of access to professional practice. In most cases, regulatory bodies act as autonomous gatekeepers. Any agreement among EU Member States on the mutual recognition and portability of qualifications recognition decisions requires support from all the regulatory bodies of the professions concerned. Such support is not obvious (Box 3.1).

The range of language requirements for the practice of health professions across Europe represents a further obstacle to the actual implementation, population, and success, of an EU-wide EoI sectoral system for health professions. Migrants’ access to professional practice in a country different from the one where they first obtained recognition of formal qualifications and language credentials would not be automatic as professional authorities and employers would be entitled to require proof of adequate mastery of the local language.

The infrastructure required for managing sector-oriented EoI systems is the same, or simpler, as in the basic option, with the exception of a skills-development approach, which requires investment in training in the origin country, and the less-skilled approach, which requires origin-country counterparts to develop the criteria for admission to the pool. Skills development would require coherence with development assistance, while less-skilled recruitment would require working within multilateral agreements on labour channels.

Added value

The added value of the EoI system in the health sector as compared to existing matching tools as well as to the basic scenario stems from the upfront formal recognition of qualifications of candidates in regulated professions, which would represent a greater guarantee for prospective employers with respect to the candidate’s job readiness as compared to the mere ECA, and would encourage them to use the pool and matching mechanisms. Prospective recruiters would prefer to recruit migrants having obtained recognition from the professional body of the country where the firm operates, rather than await a long and uncertain process of formal recognition of qualifications in regulated professions. The presence of recruiters could encourage candidates to seek formal recognition of foreign qualifications before applying, although this would also depend on the trade-offs between the efforts required by the recognition procedure and the expected returns in terms of hiring and migration prospects.13

For this greater added value to be achieved, the formal recognition of health professional qualifications acquired by a third-country national in any Member State would have to be automatically recognised in each other Member State, and employers would have to trust the value of third-country qualifications recognised as equivalent to those of another Member State. For the time being this is not even the case for EU nationals holding third country qualifications, let alone for third country nationals holding such qualifications. Yet, only under these two conditions would the targeted adaptation of the EoI system create a real EU-wide pool of qualified health professionals coupled with a smooth matching mechanism, and effectively facilitate international recruitment in this sector. However, these two preconditions would be extremely difficult to achieve. Language barriers would also remain an obstacle to the meaningful implementation of a targeted EU-wide EoI system in the health sector. All these caveats question added value of creation of a targeted EU-wide EoI pool in the health sector.

Regarding unregulated occupations, greater added value can be expected. Taking the IT example, uniform basic competence and language requirements for the practice of the IT profession throughout Europe means that the EoI system as described in this section would offer the opportunity for qualified third-country nationals to market their skills to employers across the EU. Similarly, employers in all Member States, regardless of the firm size and resources (and of the specific attractiveness of the country their firm operates in for IT professionals), would have access to a larger, and reliable, recruitment basin and matching tool at virtually no or little cost. The overall expected returns for the EU economy in terms of greater attractiveness for IT professionals, reduced sectoral shortages, and, hence, increased competitiveness should offer sufficient arguments to justify Member States’ and EU institutions’ investments required to implement this scenario, even in the absence of legislative changes.

Moreover, and to ensure that the system offers unique added value as compared to private international platforms and agencies for the recruitment of IT professionals,14 EU Member States could possibly consider supporting changes in the EU legal migration legislation which would allow for fast-track admission (for instance on Blue Card application) as well as more favourable intra-EU mobility rights for migrants sponsored through the EoI system.

The added value of using the EoI sector pool for less skilled occupations lies in the case management offer, where only those applications where a job offer has been made require attention. The EoI platform would also be a means for EU commitments to open potential legal channels which can create contact between partner origin countries and all EU Member States, without requiring changes in the legal labour migration framework at EU or national level.

The skills mobility approach offers a solution to the recognition issue identified in the health sector. Skills development in the origin country can be oriented towards language and qualifications required for employment in different Member States, and while it is not possible to train for all languages, it is possible for employers and Member States to participate in training in origin country so that candidates have recognised and accepted qualifications once they enter the pool. The skills mobility approach is even more relevant for non-regulated occupations where skills requirements are standardised.

Linking the two-step selection to specific EU legal instruments

This option links the EoI pool directly to a legal labour migration channel. Either entry to pool is the first step in the labour migration channel, or labour migration under the relevant channel cannot occur without use of the pool.

The administrative infrastructure for the pool and matching would be largely similar to the previous option.

However, this option would require legislative change, either to create a new labour migration channel in the EU legal migration framework, or to integrate the EoI selection into existing EU channels. The reference channel is the existing EU Blue Card scheme. A future revision of the scheme could make the EoI part of the EU Blue Card issuance process.

Pool entry

Candidates must qualify for the minimum education requirements for the EU Blue Card, as above, and basic mastery of one official EU language. As in the other options, a job offer would not be required to enter the pool.

While ECA is the minimum requirement for attesting qualifications, this option could also require recognition of foreign qualifications (RFQ), in order to accelerate later recruitment, although RFQ is under national competence and may have to be repeated if the job offer arrives from an employer in a member state other than the one which issued the initial RFQ decision. Intra-EU reciprocity of RFQ decisions, currently not possible, would facilitate this requirement.

Other legislative changes could include automatic enrolment of candidates who meet the criteria for the Blue Card and have already demonstrated they hold proof of qualifications. This would include graduating international students and current EU Blue Card holders. Enrolment could be automatic for international graduates, and for EU Blue Card holders in the event they lose the employment for which the Member State of residence first issued their permit. This would greatly expand the pool without undermining the quality of candidates, since they all qualify.

The matching mechanism

The platform for the implementation of an EU-wide EoI system would be similar to that in the Basic Scenario.

Exit from the Pool

When a qualifying job offer is confirmed, the candidate’s application for a work permit under the EU Blue Card is processed. Statutory processing times, already capped under the EU Blue Card Directive, could be further shortened.

A supply-driven variant of the option

Existing EoI systems include a supply-driven variant in which some candidates are selected through a ranking system even in the absence of an employment offer or employer sponsor. The options presented above are all employer and sponsor driven and do not contemplate admission to the EU without a job offer. A variant of the second option would include a supply-driven component. Under this variant, a fixed number of top ranked candidates in the pool would be invited at regular intervals to apply for a visa or permit valid in all EU countries allowing unrestricted movement within the EU to seek a job, and the ability to take up qualifying employment in any Member State without returning to the home country. Invitations to Apply (ITAs) would come in the form of a certificate issued by the central body at the EU level in charge of managing the pool system and which would provide grounds for the issuance of a permit or a visa along the categories suggested below.

Unlike the previous options, this variant would closely resemble EoI systems in ranking (points or other criteria), regular draws, and fixed quotas, caps or targets for admission.

In order to implement this variant, some form of visa or permit would have to be available allowing the holder to move freely within the EU and take up employment in the member state where an employment offer is secured. There is currently no EU-level body which can issue visas or permits, both of which are exclusively issued by individual Member States.

The variant would require Member States to jointly agree on the different parameters for invitations to apply: the cap or quota at the EU level; the frequency and size of draws; the points and characteristics for ranking; the minimum threshold for qualification. It would also require decisions on the pool, such as the length of time expressions of interest remain valid.

There are a number of forms the supply driven scheme could take:

  • A mechanism which would mirror existing EoI schemes, but which is impossible under the Treaty, would see Member States granting an EU authority the right to issue a fixed number of permits. This EU authority would issue an EU-wide permit, valid in the entire EU for residence and employment. As Member States have exclusive competence for issuing residence permits, and for setting volumes of admission, this solution is not currently feasible.

  • A Job-Search Permit issued by national authorities in Member States, This new permit would grant holders intra-EU mobility rights from day one, allowing the holder to take up qualifying employment in any EU country. Recipients who find employment in a Member State different from the one which issued the permit would receive a new permit from the Member State of employment. Such a permit does not currently exist and would require an addition to the legislative framework, specifying the grounds for issuance (invitation to apply from the pool) and for taking up employment (qualification for EU or national schemes). While this would be close in spirit to the supply-driven component of existing EoI schemes, it would also require consensus among Member States and a long legislative process. Prospects for such a measure are limited (OECD/EU, 2016[2]). Under this mechanism, acquisition of permits in each Member State would remain subject to existing national decisions on volumes of admission, as well as all other national criteria for issuance (security checks, etc.).

  • Instead of a permit, a “job-search” visa could be issued to selected candidates, allowing recipients to seek work in any Member State. Visa issuance would be by individual Member States, to any applicant who has received an Invitation to Apply following selection from the pool under the EoI platform. The Visa could be a Short Stay or Long Stay visa, with different implications. Short Stay visas limit each stay in the Schengen area to 90 days, although this may be enough for a job search. Neither currently guarantee the possibility for recipients of a visa in one Member State to apply for a permit in another Member State without returning to the home country; this would have to be introduced as a requirement for those Invited to Apply.15 As in the case of the permit under this variant, the number of Invitations to Apply, visas to issue, and the frequency at which candidates are drawn from the pool would be determined by Member States. For this instrument to be attractive, visa holders who find work must be able to obtain a residence permit without returning to their home country or to the country which issued the visa. Permits to which the job-search visa leads could be limited to the EU Blue Card or opened to national schemes.

Under this variant, the total number of permits or visas to be issued annually at the European level would be decided by Member States. Holders who find employment would be able to start work without returning to their home country or the Member State which issued the permit or visa. Qualifying employment could be limited to the EU Blue Card scheme or extended to include national categories, although the pool-admission criteria would still be based on the EU Blue Card scheme. There are a number of additional measures which could be considered to further reduce the time between finding a job and being authorised to start employment. An exemption from labour market tests could be included. In the case of the permit variant, the ability to start qualifying employment immediately could be contemplated.

If the maximum number of invitations to apply were set at a low level, it would still be of relevance. In such a case, the purpose of the supply-driven scheme would not be so much to bring in labour as to make the pool itself attractive, by offering a possibility to obtain a permit granting favourable conditions. The number of permits could be set very low – for example, in the hundreds – since the system would continue to serve demand-driven migration as previously.

Feasibility

As noted, this option requires legislative change. In the main scenario, it would require changes to the EU legal migration framework to modify the EU Blue Card Directive to include an EoI mechanism and to mandate use of the pool. Under the supply-driven variant, leaving permit issuance to national authorities would be possible under the current framework. On the other hand, this variant would require more changes to the Directive to allow the EU to issue permits, since this competence is not granted to the EU under the TFEU. No “EU permit” currently exists and establishing such a permit would require changes to the TFEU and would thus not be for the short or even medium term.

Introducing a central Invitation to Apply would require a body or committee with representation from Member States to achieve consensus on the number of invitations to offer, the frequency of draws, the ranking criteria, and the minimum threshold. Member States would have to agree on the quota. The pool infrastructure would be similar to that proposed in the previous options, although information sharing with migration authorities would have to be incorporated into the EoI platform, or the EoI platform would have to be managed by migration authorities, since it would become part of the migration process.

A permit issued by a single Member State with EU-wide validity for employment is not impossible, although each Member State would retain the ability to cap or close access to employment.

Job-search visas would be simpler to implement, since they require holders to acquire a national permit to take up employment.

Added value

As in other options, the added value of incorporating an EoI pool into the legal labour migration framework depends on the ability to supply a broader and deeper pool of candidates. Automatic enrolment and the strong incentive of a small – even token - supply-driven component should allow the pool to expand. The creation of a pool as the upfront access to the legal labour migration channel would also reinforce the skilled migration attractiveness of the European Union as a whole by making the favourable channel more visible.

This variant could be of particular interest for third-country nationals holding student permits and graduating from EU institutions. Under Directive 2016/801, students may receive a permit allowing job-search for at least nine months following graduation. This permit is valid only in the Member State of issuance and if a job is found in another Member State, the holder may be required to return to the home country for issuance of a permit by the second Member State. The pool could be attractive for students as facilitating post-graduation intra-European mobility.

Mainstreaming the supply-driven element in the three scenarios: added value

While the introduction of a job-search visa or permit would be naturally suited to serve the third scenario of EoI adaptation, in theory nothing would prevent from using a supply-driven migration channel also in combination with the first and second scenario. In these cases, Member States would have to agree upfront on a rule based on which the job-search permit or visa could be granted by national authorities to certain pool candidates. For instance, provided a ranking mechanism, which would be possible under scenario two, a job-search permit or visa could be granted to top-rankers in the pool. International students and Blue Card holders qualifying for pool admission would also be a key target group for this scheme.

The use of a supply-driven channel – be this a national or an EU-wide scheme - in combination with the pre-screening and pooling features of the EoI tool promises to further enhance the matching potential of the system for Europe, by allowing in-person contact between pre-selected migration candidates and prospective employers. This would help to move a step further in attracting international talent in the Internal Market and facilitating optimal skills’ use.

The extent of political consensus and legislative changes required to link a supply-driven migration channel to the EoI pool would be a function of the scenario it would link to and whether this would be a national or an EU-wide scheme.

Design features of the EoI

Information on the candidate to include in the EoI

The basic information on each candidate in the pool must comprise name, contact details, and the details of how the individual meets the criteria for admission (education level, language, skills, etc., according to the option).

In addition, a more comprehensive profile could be provided. This would include any additional skills and employment-relevant elements beyond those required for basic eligibility, their personal characteristics, and their preferences. Such a profile could mimic the Europass format developed by the European Commission and CEDEFOP. The recently developed EU Skills Profile Tool for Third-Country Nationals, or an enhanced version of it, could also be used to build the EoI profile.16 This tool, which is web-based and free of charge, is currently meant for use by organisations working with migrants – including employment services – as an instrument to standardise assessment of skills and other employment and integration-relevant elements during the interview phase.

Candidates must accept that their EoI profile be stored and shared with employers, recruitment agencies and administrations in the EU, according to the matching model employed under the option.

Candidate information would be anonymous up to the point in which a potential match is made and an employer or employer representative requests to access the contact details of the candidate. Access could be granted automatically or candidates could have the option of approving each request for their contact information.

Additional information to include in the profile should allow prospective recruiters to get a more precise understanding of the suitability of the candidate for a vacancy, and of the likelihood that the job opening is attractive to them. The information provided could also be used for automatically filtering candidates through a matching algorithm. Additional information could include:

  • candidate’s age;

  • detailed proof of work experience, including type and size of firm(s) of employment;

  • certified proof of knowledge of additional language(s) spoken in the EU;

  • certified proof of additional education/training (e.g. ongoing education at a level higher than the ECA threshold; informal learning; other additional training);

  • occupational preferences;

  • list of EU Member State(s) with which the candidate has concrete links (e.g. previous or ongoing study or work experience in one or more MS; certified contacts with local employers; family members residing in one or more MS)

  • preferences for one or more EU MS;

  • current permit held in one EU MS and any past permit history.

With the exception of the candidate’s age, all the other above-listed elements are optional (i.e. the candidate might or might not know additional languages or have work experience, ties with a Member State etc. and/or want to disclose these). However, the candidate who would not have or would not want to disclose information on these elements would still have to complete the profile in full (and fill “none” in the relevant field in case this would not be applicable to them). The more complete the profile the greatest the chances to find a suitable employment match.

Profile updates will be possible for candidates in the pool, for instance to add information on graduation to a higher level of education, additional training completed, or language certificate acquired while in the pool.

To allow for fast track processing of actual immigration application in the case the candidate get sponsored by an employer under a given national or EU immigration scheme, candidates would be encouraged to attach pdf copies of certificates attesting profile elements at the moment of filing an EoI or updating their profile.

Following the model of the European Skills Passport, candidates should be able to build an electronic portfolio within the pool to collect relevant certificates. Indicating that supporting documentation is already available can be more compelling for employers and accelerate immigration procedures. In Canada, when supporting documentation was required only after selection from the pool, there were avoidable delays and even expiration of the offer (Desiderio and Hooper, 2016[6]).

The platform could potentially be made capable of recognising genuine certificates and, thus, automatically pre-screen documents for formal legitimacy.

Educational Credential Assessment

An ECA is a certification of equivalence between the foreign education credentials and the corresponding domestic qualifications. It is not formal recognition of foreign qualifications acquired by the migration candidate abroad, but rather a “translation” of these qualifications in the domestic system. Candidates who receive a job offer for a regulated occupation would still have to undergo the formal recognition procedure for the given profession in the given host country to be admitted under the EU Blue Card scheme, and to be able to practice professionally.

There is no single European ECA body, but there are elements of such a body, the ENIC-NARIC contact points (Box 3.2). ENIC-NARIC contact points already deliver certificates of equivalency of foreign higher education credentials with corresponding domestic qualifications. These contact points would be the natural candidates for pre-screening migrants’ educational credentials for the purpose of admission to the EoI pool.

Box 3.2. ENIC European Network of Information Centres and NARIC National Academic Recognition Information Centre

The European Network of National Information Centres on academic recognition and mobility (ENIC) was established jointly by the Council of Europe and UNESCO to implement the Lisbon Recognition Convention. In 1984 the European Commission launched the network of National Academic Recognition Information Centres (NARIC) tasked with improving academic recognition of diplomas and facilitating international student mobility. The NARIC network is made of contact points established by the Ministry of Education of each EU and EEA Member State and Turkey. In these countries most often a same contact point is established for both the ENIC and the NARIC networks.

Centres issue individual non-binding “recommendations” for foreign university diplomas, under the condition that a similar university course or diploma is offered by a university. They may maintain a database of foreign diploma and exchange information with other Centres.

Information on the network: www.enic-naric.net. Information on equivalency certificates: www.ciep.fr/enic-naric-page/reconnaissance-diplome-etranger-documents-delivres

While ECA through ENIC-NARIC seems straightforward, a few issues would need to be addressed for it to work optimally for the purpose of EoI qualifications pre-screening. First, since some ENIC-NARIC contact points face an ECA backlog and long waits, additional resources (human and financial) would be necessary to ensure swift issuance of ECAs to EoI pool candidates. An alternative or complementary solution would be to allow certain accredited higher education institutions across the EU to deliver ECAs. Second, coverage equivalency of tertiary vocational education and professional bachelor diplomas (ISCED level 6 diplomas, which qualify for EoI pool admission in some of the scenarios identified) is underdeveloped. ENIC-NARIC contact points still focus on comparison of foreign and local university diplomas for the purpose of enrolment in further education. ENIC-NARIC activities in this area would need to be expanded and funded.17Third, employers are seldom aware of ENIC-NARIC certificates and may not see them as indicating job-relevant credentials. To address employer scepticism, information campaigns would be useful, alongside with the establishment of co-operation protocols between ENIC-NARIC contact points and relevant employer representatives, chambers of commerce and industry.

The portability of ECAs issued by ENIC-NARIC contact points or accredited higher education institutions in a given Member State is not, in practice, ensured. ECAs are not equally recognised by employers across the entire EU. While university diplomas benefit from harmonisation of academic qualifications and levels across the EU, foreign qualifications which have been judged equivalent to the qualifications of a Member State are not. In practice employers may still be reluctant to hire a migrant whose ECA refers to an equivalent degree in another Member State. Particularly stubborn obstacles exist for vocational qualifications. Employer consultations carried out for the purpose of this study have confirmed the strong reluctance of employers in trades and vocational occupations to hire migrants lacking local or local-equivalent qualifications.18

Language is a further issue in portability of ECAs, which are issued in the language of the national authority assessing the foreign degree. No EU-wide recognised authority issues an official translation of the ECA. In principle, greater portability of an ECA – at least in terms of intelligibility and credibility for employers – could be achieved through a multilingual equivalency template similar to the European Diploma Supplement, which is issued in a widely-spoken language. Reference in ECAs to the National Qualification Frameworks of EU Member States and of selected third countries to the European Qualification Framework (EQF)19 could also help transparency and the ease of translation into different languages. It is unlikely, however, that all obstacles to the mutual understanding and recognition of foreign credentials across the EU will be removed in the short term.

Since ECAs are not official recognition of foreign diploma and credentials, but rather a “translation” into levels comparable to national qualifications, they are no substitute for recognition within regulated occupations. For the latter, formal recognition from the relevant national professional body is required to practice the profession in a given Member State. Employers seeking to fill positions in regulated occupations may require formal recognition before hiring a candidate or even considering this candidate for a job interview.

EoI candidates in regulated occupations would nonetheless be able to use an ECA for entry to the pool, in the absence of formal recognition. The platform should indicate, for those with an ECA, clear information on further credentialing requirements for practicing the desired occupation in all or in preferred Member States. ENIC-NARIC contact points already provide information on the path and relevant authorities for obtaining formal recognition. This information could be provided systematically by the EoI platform.

Certification of language skills

There are many different forms of certification of language knowledge for the 24 official languages of the European Union. Where required for admission to the pool, or upon selection, a recognised certificate is necessary. This means the creation of an official list of recognised language certifications.

To allow for the smooth pre-screening of candidates’ language qualifications, a comprehensive inventory of qualifying language certifications (at level B2 and higher) for all the 24 official languages of the European Union should be made available on-line. The responsibility of compiling and updating this list (and the definition of the language levels) could be attributed to existing bodies with experience in this field. Potential bodies include the Directorate General for Education and Culture (DG EAC), or the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency of the European Commission (EACEA)20, or the Council of Europe European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML)21.

This reference list would be published on the EoI website to allow interested candidates to verify their ability to meet the language pre-screening requirement before filing an expression of interest for admission in the pool. The EoI pre-screening platform could be linked to the list of qualifying certifications in each of the EU languages, so that the pre-screening of candidates’ language qualifications would be partly automated. Using the same electronic portfolio approach as the European Skills Passport, candidates would be requested to upload copies of the highest level certificates corresponding to the language credentials indicated.

Depending on the option, validity of individual certificates could be assessed by the same body tasked with establishing and updating the list of recognised language certifications, or left to users (e.g., employers) to verify on a case-by-case basic when the profile is deemed of interest. In the latter option, there is no safeguard against fraudulent claims of language knowledge based on bogus, blank or invalid documents uploaded to meet requirements.

Matching in the pool

For all three scenarios, the question arises how the actual matching process unfolds. Practical experience suggests that this has a strong influence on how well such matching markets function. In general, the matching process can be decentralised, so that candidates, employers or recruitment agencies individually engage in search and initiate contacts. Alternatively, the process can be centralised, so that some algorithm or a single match-maker assigns candidates to vacancies. The appropriate design of the matching market needs to be adapted to the specific objectives and the institutional environment. Such a tailor-made design can then be implemented using the technological possibilities of online-based matching platforms.

A decentralised matching process can be envisaged for any of the three scenarios. Its technical implementation can determine for various groups of the platform’s users which information may be accessed and who may be contacted. These settings can reflect the requirements of laws and regulation on labour migration. For example, Express Entry candidates in Canada’s JobMatch can only see a filtered set of vacancies from the nation-wide vacancy database – those that have been posted for at least 30 days and meet the criteria of migration programmes. Australia’s SkillSelect and the Skill Finder in New Zealand can be regarded as platforms where candidates do not have access to any information on vacancies; by contrast, authorised employers and recruitment agencies can see candidates’ profiles and contact them. Candidates’ inability to see vacancies and contact employers severely limits their role in the matching process, but employers may be unwilling to participate in the platform if this leads to them being inundated with applications. Employers may also be hesitant to disclose wage information to all but a few targeted candidates.

Several technological features can further shape decentralised matching processes. A built-in messaging system can substantially reduce the barriers for initial contacts but may also lead to more messages than employers can handle. A well-designed search function can be a key asset of an online platform but may necessitate standardisation of the information entered to make it searchable, notably information and expected qualifications regarding occupation, education, work experience and level of language proficiency. Indicators such as percentages shown alongside a particular vacancy or candidate profile can capture to what extent the profile corresponds to the user’s search criteria, to what extent one’s own profile corresponds to the criteria of the user behind the profile, or a combination of the two. Such indicators allow filtering out the most promising profiles, and this is used in the JobMatch and EURES platforms.22 Email alerts based on such indicators serve to elicit regular visits to the online platform and help spread information on new profiles quickly.

The matching platform could build upon the existing infrastructure of the EURES platform, which is jointly managed by the European Commission and Member States’ public employment services (PES). At present, EURES does not serve third-country nationals abroad. Admitting these users would require a change in mandate. A possibility would be to duplicate EURES in parallel, for the purposes of the EoI, with certain vacancies transferred through a protocol from the EURES platform to the EoI platform, through a protocol. Any involvement of EURES would also require agreement with national PES, most of which do not address third-country nationals abroad.

A centralised matching process pairs a particular candidate with a particular vacancy. It only leaves candidates and employers the choice to reject or accept the proposed match. Rejection of (several) proposed matches can lead to extended waiting periods or failure to obtain any match at all. This kind of matching process has been employed to match new doctors to hospitals in a public health system, organ donors to patients, and high school graduates to study programmes in oversubscribed subjects. In these narrowly defined contexts, it matters most that a match is obtained at all, so that the match proposed by the centralised procedure is likely to be accepted.

Such procedures could therefore be suitable for the sector-specific and scheme-specific options, provided they are also sufficiently narrowly defined, e.g. along the lines of occupations: candidates in regulated professions such as doctors, nurses, care workers, and teachers, as well as seasonal workers, could be assigned to vacancies through a centralised matching process. Compared with a decentralised matching process, this could be considerably faster, involve very limited costs, and largely avoid that some candidates as well as some employers ultimately do not obtain a match. The implementation requires an algorithm that is programmed to meet a number of conditions: stated preferences of candidates and employers should be taken into account (e.g. in terms of destination regions), participants should not be able to influence outcomes in their favour by stating false preferences, and large-scale corrections ex post through decentralised processes should be avoided.

Access of employers to the EoI platform

There is a risk of fraudulent or unscrupulous employers accessing the pool with bogus or misrepresented job offers, either to exploit foreign workers or to take rents on sponsoring a real or unfounded permit application. To prevent this from happening, some accreditation or filter must be applied to employers and other actors from accessing the pool. Only legitimate employers with genuine vacancies for which they are able to offer contracts meeting prevailing requirements have access to the pool. At the same time, accreditation for employers should be simple enough not to exclude those employers (SMEs and occasional recruiters) who have traditionally been least likely to use international recruit.

Various options exist for the employer accreditation process:

  • official proof of business existence. This least burdensome option requires the business representative to demonstrate the existence of the company by providing a national business number or proof of registration with tax or social security authorities (depending on the country). In Australia’s SkillSelect, all employers who have a valid Australian Business Number may register to use Australian government online business services, including the possibility to search pool profiles, contact candidates and sponsor them for immigration through other migration channels. Registered employers receive an AUSKey, a login through which they can access all government online services for businesses. Merely requiring a business number offers no guarantees that the business operates, making the system vulnerable to abuse by firms established as visa mills. EURES uses EURES helpdesk, an external contractor, to make vetting checks (legal registration, VAT number) for any employer which registers on the EURES Portal. National EURES contact points are also in charge of further checks in doubtful cases.

  • official proof that the business has existed for a minimum length of time. In this case, employer accreditation is conditional on proving that the business has officially existed and has been operational for a minimum length of time – usually demonstrated through tax records. This can help screen out visa mills, but excludes genuine newly-established businesses;

  • vetting both the business and the job offer. In this resource-intensive case-by-case approach, applications are reviewed individually, either for compliance or as part of the labour market test process. Canada’s Express Entry provides for an example of this. JobMatch services are only accessible to Canadian employers with a valid Social Insurance Number. Moreover, in many cases, a job offer in Express Entry is only valid if it is supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). This stringent labour market test verifies the genuineness of the job offer, labour market factors and employer compliance reviews. More broadly, in a number of OECD labour migration systems, recruitment of foreign workers requires vacancies to be previously advertised through the PES. Mandatory publication does not in itself prevent visa mills without review of the vacancy. Risk triage can be developed so that review focuses only on cases such as new businesses, atypical sectors or occupations, non-compliant businesses, or other risk factors.

The trade-off in the employer accreditation process is between keeping the barriers as low as possible to participation by the most employers and vacancies, while ensuring that sufficient diligence is in place to prevent visa mills and exploitation. Under the Basic Option (see section on basic option) employers would be able to access the pool by filing a profile indicating a valid business registration reference for the country where the business is established, and the length of establishment of the company. Under the basic option, further verification may occur when a permit request is made to the national immigration authority. At that point, proof of length of establishment and of labour market test performance or exemption may be required, depending on national legislation governing the EU Blue Card or other legal migration channel, but as this option does not affect permit application the EoI does not affect the procedure.

The system would require a list of accepted business establishment credentials for the purpose of employer accreditation. The list could be drawn up by the relevant Directorate General of the European Commission – for instance, DG Growth – an EU-wide private business association, such as Business Europe, or a newly established EU-wide representative body. Valid business registration reference numbers could allow for automatic accreditation of enterprises with valid credentials to the pool and matching mechanism. Otherwise, national authorities in charge of issuing business registration numbers, would check their countries’ employers’ profiles for the purpose of EoI accreditation.

Information provided by business representatives for the purpose of accreditation to the EoI pool and matching mechanism would be stored in the EoI platform so as to be promptly available to the relevant immigration authorities in case the matching process leads to an actual immigration application.

The commitment of substantial resources – i.e. financial, human and political capital – by the European Union and its Member States to the establishment and operation of this “basic” EU-wide EoI model would have to be justified on the expected added value brought by the new system for the effective management of skilled labour migration in Europe.

Involvement of private employment agencies (PEAs)

In addition to employers, private employment agencies (PEAs) may also play a role as intermediaries or labour providers. In fact, private intermediation agents often conduct matching, so cutting them out of the EoI system would significantly limit the depth of the pool, by reducing the market share as well as the attractiveness of vacancies available for candidates. Their buy-in is important. However, deciding the criteria under which PEAs can access the pool is not simple.

Employment placement agencies and temporary work agencies are the two main types of PEAs. There is currently no EU-wide definition of PEAs and the regulatory framework for the accreditation and operation of private employment placement agencies and temporary work agencies is extremely diversified across the EU (Box 3.3). In some cases it may vary even within each country, depending on the sector or type of activity performed. However, agencies may perform both intermediation and recruitment outsourcing. Moreover, agencies may provide additional services (such as payroll management and training). Countries may regulate these practices differently. Moreover, accreditation and operation processes for PEAs in sensitive sectors such as health, or construction, may derogate from national rules.

Box 3.3. Accreditation and operation regulations for PEAs across the EU: a heterogeneous picture

As part of the EU acquis, Directive 2008/104/EC addresses working conditions of temporary agency workers – with the aim of ensuring equal treatment with other workers – and supports the job brokerage role of temporary agencies by encouraging Member States to adopt a flexible framework for their operation. However, it does not cover private employment agencies more broadly, nor it provides for the harmonisation of registration, licensing, certification, financial guarantees or monitoring requirements of temporary work agencies, which rest under the exclusive competence of Member States. Similarly, at the global level, Convention 181 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on Private Employment Agencies only sets general principles for the regulatory framework, while leaving the determination of PEA’s legal status and operation to national law and practice. Moreover, to date only 13 EU Member States have ratified the Convention.

A wide range of approaches to PEAs regulation exist across the EU, from the more liberal and market driven, where PEAs operation is not conditional on licensing, professional qualifications or initial capital, and monitoring of compliance with quality or ethical standards is based on self-regulation – as in the United Kingdom to the more rigid and legislation driven, where a license and proof of holding relevant professional qualifications by the PEA manager are required for registration, and operation is strictly monitored by the government – as in Belgium. In Germany, proof of professional qualifications is not required but registration is conditional on getting a license from the Federal Employment Agency, which also monitors PEA activities. In the Netherlands and the Nordic Countries the regulatory framework for PEAs is largely reliant on collective agreements, while in Southern Europe PEAs are highly monitored by the government and their registration is conditional on proof of initial capital.

Moreover, in number of countries, PEAs operating in sensitive sectors are subject to more stringent regulations. Thus, in the United Kingdom, an exception to the market driven approach exists for PEAs operating in the health sector, where formal registration with the relevant authorities is required. Similarly, in Denmark PEA activity is generally not conditional on holding a license, but exceptions apply for PEAs in the health and transportation sector.

Self-regulation typically takes place by making membership of relevant federations or trade associations conditional on signing codes of professional practice. However, failure to abide to such codes and expulsion from a given association does not result in PEA deregistration or regulatory prohibition to operate.

Granting access to PEAs to the EoI pool could be structured in two different ways:

  1. 1. require PEAs to conform to the national registration requirements of the country where they are established, and to have been lawfully operating for a minimum number of years. The advantage of this option is that it encompasses the patchwork of PEA regulations across the EU. The unavoidable downside, however, is that accreditation bodies competent to determine PEA access to the EoI pool would be heterogeneous.

  2. 2. allow only PEAs which have signed up to internationally recognised PEA codes of conduct (see Box 3.4) to access the pool and its matching feature. Self-regulation means a less onerous process. However, it is still difficult to identify codes of conducts which qualify. A list of accrediting codes of conduct which would include the leading international standards as well as a plethora of national certifications and affiliations would have to be developed.

Regardless of the choice made regarding the criteria for private employment agencies to access the pool, some verification and registration process would be necessary. Since national regulations in this area are heterogeneous within and across EU Member States, initial verification and follow-up (i.e., striking agencies which fail to meet criteria or violate conditions of admission) would be resource intensive. Collaboration with industry representatives (the World Employment Confederation Europe would be a natural candidate) may help establish a framework.

Box 3.4. Codes of Conduct of Private Employment Agencies for ethical recruitment

Over the past fifteen years, a number of codes of conduct and rules for ethical recruitment have been promoted, often by PEAs themselves concerned that the abusive behaviour of rogue employment intermediation agencies would discredit the whole sector.

In 2006, the members of the World Employment Confederation Europe committed to a code of conduct upholding the principles of ethical and lawful recruitment, transparency of operation, refraining from charging jobseekers for service provision, respect for workers’ rights, health and safety, respect for diversity, confidentiality, fair competition and service quality. Leading multinational employment intermediation companies (e.g., Adecco, Hays, Randstad) also adopted quality standards of practice on which they regularly report publicly as part of their corporate social responsibility strategies.

In the area of international recruitment, international organisations have promoted codes of conducts and quality standards. The World Health Organisation (WHO) drafted the Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel. More recently, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), together with the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and a coalition of stakeholders committed to ethical recruitment launched a comprehensive social compliance scheme for employment agencies with the aim of promoting ethical recruitment. The International Recruitment Integrity System (IRIS) includes an international standard and code of conduct, which builds upon pre-existing leading international and industry standards, a voluntary certification scheme for recruiters, and a compliance and monitoring mechanism.

With the exception of the WHO Code, widely implemented by international health sector intermediation agencies, labelling and certification based on other ethical recruitment initiatives is uneven. This makes it difficult to identify a limited number of certifications or affiliations which would feed into a pre-screening list for the purpose of granting PEAs access to the EoI pool and matching mechanism. The situation might change in the future if the IRIS scheme becomes widespread.

Self-regulation based on the observance of codes of conduct would be extremely difficult to implement at the EU-wide level, as there is no single European-level association with the resources to monitor and enforce observance of its code of conduct by each PEA.

Conclusion

The three main scenarios for the implementation of an EU-wide EOI-type of system laid down in this chapter differ with respect to the legislative and administrative changes required for the system to function, and - related to these changes - the extent to which they actually mimic the two-step migration management features of the original EoI model. From zero legislative changes and a mere pooling and matching mechanism for existing labour migration schemes in the first scenario, to a new or newly-formulated EU-wide scheme served by an actual two-step selection process in the third scenario.

All three scenarios hinge upon the establishment of an EU-wide infrastructure for pre-screening migration candidates and pooling their profiles, vetting employers and, possibly, public employment agencies interested in accessing the pool, as well as for managing the matching mechanism. Existing or newly-created EU-wide bodies would have to be entrusted with performing the various tasks linked with these actions, while an overarching authority and a secretariat would have to be established with the respective responsibility of designing and overseeing the functioning of the system. The second and third scenario would also require the design and implementation of a pool ranking mechanism along a PBS model. In the third scenario the EU central authority in charge of system design would also be entrusted with the prerogative of issuing Invitations to Apply.

If slightly lighter and non-contingent on member states’ agreement on legislative changes, the infrastructure required to establish the first scenario would still hinge upon substantial efforts and political consensus among member states and other interested stakeholders on design choices and resource allocation for the pre-screening, pooling and matching mechanism. For instance, for the educational credentials pre-screening element to function effectively, competent authorities in each member state would have to agree on the mutual acceptance of ECAs issued to foreign-qualified third-country nationals in each other member state. Moreover, if ENIC-NARIC centres were to take up the ECA-issuing function for the purpose of EoI pool admission, this would possibly require agreement on additional resources to be devoted to the existing centres for this endeavour. Hence, even the efforts required for the establishment of the “basic” infrastructure cannot be given for granted. An additional – and key – challenge would be ensuring that, once established, the system gets appropriately populated with migration candidates and employers so as to justify the political capital and financial resources invested in the exercise, and pave the way for further advancements.

References

[3] Desiderio, M. (2015), Contribution to the European Commission, Expert Group on Economic Migration, Migration Policy Institute Europe, Brussels, http://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regexpert/index.cfm?do=groupDetail.groupDetailDoc&id=19241&no=3.

[6] Desiderio, M. and K. Hooper (2016), The Canadian Expression of Interest System: A Model to Manage Skilled Migration to the European Union?, Migration Policy Institute Europe, Brussels, https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/canadian-expression-interest-system-model-manage-skilled-migration-european-union.

[5] OECD (2018), “What would make Global Skills Partnerships work in practice?”, Migration Policy Debates, No. 15, OECD, Paris, http://www.oecd.org/migration/mig/migration-policy-debate-15.pdf.

[1] OECD (2017), “Expression of Interest (EoI) Systems in Comparison: Building blocks of a migration management tool”, No. DELSA/ELSA/WP2(2017)2, OECD, Paris, https://one.oecd.org/#/document/DELSA/ELSA/WP2(2017)2/en?_k=68oaz4.

[4] OECD (2016), “How attractive is the European Union to skilled migrants?”, in Recruiting Immigrant Workers: Europe 2016, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264257290-5-en.

[2] OECD/EU (2016), Recruiting Immigrant Workers: Europe 2016, Recruiting Immigrant Workers, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264257290-en.

[7] Rannveig Mendoza, D. et al. (2017), Reinventing Mutual Recognition Arrangements: Lessons from International Experiences and Insights for the ASEAN Region, Asian Development Bank, Manila, http://dx.doi.org/10.22617/RPT178636-2.

[8] Sumption, M., D. Papademetriou and S. Flamm (2013), Skilled immigrants in the global economy: Prospects for international cooperation on recognition of foreign qualification, http://www.migrationpolicy.org.

Notes

← 1. The EU Blue Card does not impose language knowledge requirements. It is possible to obtain an EU Blue Card without speaking a single European language. The same is true of many national work permits, including those covering highly qualified employment.

← 2. When transposing the Blue Card Directive into national legislation, only twelve Member States have opted to apply the experience criterion – yet, also in these Member States, this option has rarely been used. If agreed upon by the Member States, the June 2016 Commission proposal for the recast of the EU Blue Card Directive would make it mandatory for Member States to accept proof of three years of relevant work experience as an alternative to educational credentials. However, so far Member States have demonstrated little appetite for this change, not least due to the difficulty of finding an agreement as to how to assess relevant professional experience as evidence of higher professional qualifications.

← 3. While vacancies published on the EURES website are visible to anyone, only EU nationals can benefit from EURES job-matching services and can fill a jobseekers profile or post their CV. Moreover, third country nationals resident abroad might not be aware of the EURES website and the possibility to search for job offers and employers’ contacts therein. On the other end, the employers might have a preference for hiring EU nationals.

← 4. The Directive allows levels 5a and 6 of ISCED 1997 to be used to evaluate whether the third-country national possesses the higher education qualifications for the purposes of Blue Card issuance. Under the 2016 proposal for the recast of the Directive, higher education qualifications are defined as the completion of a post-secondary higher education or equivalent tertiary education programme corresponding at least to level 6 of ISCED 2011 (equivalent to the level 5a and 6 of ISCED 1997) or to level 6 of the European Qualification Framework. [COM (2016) 378 final, Article 2].

← 5. Formal recognition of foreign qualifications is mandatory for the practice of regulated professions. For unregulated profession this is optional and the decision whether to ask proof of formal recognition or other forms of evidence of the equivalency of foreign-acquired qualifications with local qualifications rests with the employer.

← 6. Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a European Labour Authority [COM(2018)131 final], 13 March 2018. Under the proposed regulation, the European Labour Authority would be established as an independent European body tasked with contributing to ensure fair labour mobility in the Internal Market, with a remit over both EU citizens and third-country nationals who are legally resident in the Union.

← 7. For this group, the system would provide better and broader prospects for intra-EU mobility by enhancing matching opportunities.

← 8. European Parliament and Council of the European Union, Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications; OJ L 255, 30.9.2005, p. 22. European Parliament and Council of the European Union, Directive 2013/55/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 November 2013 amending Directive 2005/36/EC on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications and Regulation, 28 December 2013, EUR-Lex, OJ L 354/132, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-13-867_fr.htm In addition to the six medical professions, architects also enjoy the right to automatic recognition under the EU PQD. Besides these so called sectoral professions, the directive provides rules for the mutual recognition of other regulated professions across the EU (general system). See also (Rannveig Mendoza et al., 2017[7]).

← 9. Holders of qualifications in the seven so-called sectorial professions, obtained in the EU still have to apply for recognition each time they move to another EU country, but recognition is automatic unless the qualifications are non-compliant with the harmonised minimum training requirements under the Directive.

← 10. Under the “general system” system the recognition is not automatic. The host Member State can compare the training programme of the migrant with its national requirements and in case of substantial differences in training, impose compensation measures such as a test or a supervised training up to three years before the qualifications can be recognised.

← 11. The current system of recognition of qualifications in the EU is built on mutual trust between the Member States, on harmonised minimum requirements that Member States are bound to respect in their national curricula and on exchange of information through secure electronic systems established between the Member States to confirm authenticity as well as compliance of certain diplomas with the Directive. Establishing the same level of trust with regard to third country qualifications would obviously be challenging. Moreover, any solution whereby a third country qualification recognised in one Member State would be automatically recognised in any other without the requirement to work in the first MS for a certain time period, should be carefully designed to minimise the risks of “recognition shopping”.

← 12. For the European Economic Area, a common European competence Framework for ICT professionals in all industry sectors - the e-CF – exists, which functions as a European standard. http://www.ecompetences.eu/

← 13. Completing the full recognition process from outside the country might not be possible in some countries. The system may be more advantageous for migrants already residing in the EU who might already have obtained the formal recognition of their qualifications in their country of residence.

← 14. Some added value would already stem from the EU-wide pooling and matching system to be accessible at no or very little cost (i.e. the cost required for filing the accreditation information) on an equal basis to all prospective migrants and employers, regardless of their resources.

← 15. The Schengen acquis distinguishes between two visa types: Short Stay and Long Stay. The first is valid for up to 90 days in the Schengen area every 180 days and may be valid for multiple entries and for up to five years. Long Stay visas can be issued for stays up to 12 months. Under the current EU Blue Card Directive, Member States must allow in-country application for Long Stay visa holders – from that Member State only – while they may allow in-country application for Short Stay visa holders. However, Member States are not required to allow in-country application from visa holders (Long or Short) whose visa was issued by a different Member State. For this “job search” visa to be attractive, it must allow in-country application in any Member State, regardless of which Member State issued the visa. A further question is that of right of employment during the “job-search” period. While not relevant to the Short Stay job-search visa, it may be an issue for the 12-month Long Stay job-search visa. A solution could be to ensure rapid approval of an EU Blue Card application to job-search visa holders.

← 16. https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1412&langId=en.

← 17. In its draft recommendation of 22 May 2018 on promoting automatic mutual recognition of higher education and upper secondary education diplomas and the outcomes of learning periods abroad [COM(2018)270 final] the European Council proposes to explore an extension of the NARIC contact points to encompass other sectors of education and training.

← 18. Employer consultations carried out by the Authors between October 2017 and January 2018. In light of the specificities and high quality standards of the German dual vocational education and training system, unsurprisingly German businesses (and SMEs in particular) were particularly reluctant to accept qualifications not aligned with the domestic system.

← 19. The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) is a tool to facilitate mutual understanding and comparison among qualifications systems in Europe, by identifying eight common European reference levels in terms of learning outcomes: knowledge, skills and competences. On this basis, equivalencies can be established across national qualifications frameworks (NQFs) in Europe. The EQF was launched by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU in 2008 and involves, in addition to EU and EEA Member States, a number of other European countries.

← 20. EACEA (eacea.ec.europa.eu) previously managed the LINGUA programme, supporting linguistic diversity across the EU and EU language learning)

← 21. https://www.ecml.at/

← 22. As discussed, in Job Match, Express Entry candidates are matched to job offers after these have been posted for 30 days, as a way of giving priority to local jobseekers, integrating the labour market test into the platform. For a thorough description of the percentage matching system implemented in the EURES platform, see the document on Matching Mechanisms.

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