Legal migration: Council settles on negotiating position for review of Single Permit Directive

©-European-Union-2011, Illustration showing the EasyPASS system at Frankfurt Airport custom on September 24, 2012.©-European-Union-2011, Illustration showing the EasyPASS system at Frankfurt Airport custom on September 24, 2012.

The Council has agreed its position on an update of an EU law that deals with legal migration to the EU labour market. The updated rules streamline the application procedure and make it more effective. Thanks to this international recruitment of talent should get a boost. More rights for third-country workers and their equal treatment compared to EU workers should reduce labour exploitation.

When labour shortages slow down our companies and prevent them from growing and innovating they should be able to more easily hire foreign professionals. A predictable and smooth application process is paramount and this is what the single permit law we agreed on today guarantees.

Maria Malmer StenergardSwedish minister for migration

The single permit directive deals with the admission of third-country nationals to reside and work in the EU. It sets out the application process for EU countries to issue this single permit and establishes common rights for these workers. Member states keep the final say about which and how many third-country workers they want to admit to their labour market.

Application procedure

According to the Council‘s position, a foreign worker can make an application from the territory of a third-country or from within the EU. When a member state decides to issue the single permit this decision will serve both as residence and as work permit.


The decision to issue a single permit should be made within four months after receipt of the complete application. This period also covers – according to the Council position – the time needed to check the labour market situation before a decision on the single permit is adopted.

Change of employer

With the aim to further improve the protection of third-country workers, the Council foresees the possibility for a single permit holder to change employer, subject to a notification or an application to the competent authorities. In case of loss of employment, third-country workers are allowed to remain in the territory of the member state if the total period of unemployment does not exceed two months during the validity of the single permit.

Background and next steps

The current single permit directive dates back to 2011. On 27 April 2022, the Commission proposed an update of the 2011 directive.

The proposal is part of the “Skills and talent” package which addresses the shortcoming of the EU as regards legal migration and has as objective to attract skills and talent the EU needs.

Eurostat data from 2019 show that 2 984 261 single permit decisions were reported by member states of which 1 212 952 were for issuing first permits. The other decisions were for renewing or changing permits.

On the basis of this common position the Council will be able to enter into negotiations with the European Parliament in order to agree on a final text.

Visit the meeting page