Legal migration: Council gives green light to single work and stay permit for non-EU nationals

Today, the Council adopted a revision of the Single Permit Directive. The law, which updates the 2011 directive currently in place, aims to attract the skills and talent the EU needs and to address shortcomings as regards legal migration to the EU.

The directive sets out the administrative procedure for a single permit for both the right to work and the right to stay in the EU and determines a common set of rights for third-country workers. The revision provides for a shortened application procedure and aims to strengthen the rights of third-country workers by allowing a change of employer and a limited period of unemployment.

Application procedure

A third-country worker can submit an application from the territory of a third-country or, if he or she is a holder of a valid residence permit, from within the EU. If a member state decides to issue the single permit, this decision will serve as both residence permit and work permit.

Duration of the procedure

The revised Single Permit Directive comes with stricter deadlines for the decision to issue a permit. This should happen within three months of receipt of the completed application. If member states choose to check the labour market situation before deciding whether to grant the single permit – for instance to assess the need for a third-country worker’s profile – this should also take place during this 90-day period. The time limit for a decision may exceptionally be extended for an additional 30 days in cases of complex applications.

Change of employer

A novelty of the review is that single permit holders will be able to change employer. Such a change may be subject to notification to the authorities, and member states may carry out a labour-market check. EU countries may also require a minimum period during which the single permit holder is required to work for the first employer.


The update also establishes rules applicable if a single permit holder becomes unemployed. In such cases third-country workers are allowed to remain in the territory of the member state if the total period of unemployment does not exceed three months during the validity of the single permit or six months after two years of the permit.

Next steps

The directive will enter into force on the twentieth day following that of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. Member states have two years to transpose the directive into national law.