Member States back fast-track work permits for non-EU researchers

The EU wants to make it easier for researchers from third countries to work in Europe as part of its efforts to boost European research and attract more scientists.

In March 2004, the Commission presented a legislative packaged
designed to make it easier for third country nationals to conduct
research in the EU. The Commission initiative is made up of three

  • A
    Directive for admitting third-country nationals
    into the EU for scientific research purposes: the aim is to
    facilitate the admission and mobility of researchers by delegating
    the issuance of residence permits to an authorised research
  • A
    Recommendation calling on the Member States to
    adopt a number of practical measures without delay in advance of
    the transposal of the Directive:

    • exemptions or fast-track procedures for work permits,
    • abolition of maximal quotas for third-country nationals,
    • the issuance of residence permits and the facilitation of
      family reunification.
  • A
    Recommendation dealing with the more specific
    questions of short-term visas for researchers to attend conferences
    or seminars in the EU.

The Justice and Home Affairs Council on 8 June 2004 reached a
general approach on the first draft Recommendation.


If the EU is to achieve the goal it set itself at the Barcelona
Council in 2002 to devote three per cent of the Member States' GDP
to research and technological development by 2010, it will need
some 700,000 additional researchers. Several strategies have been
drawn up to meet this goal: making science more attractive to young
people at school, improving researchers' career prospects in the EU
to prevent them from moving to the US and to boost training and

Research investment levels in the US and in Japan have been
considerably higher than in the EU, and the gap is widening.
However, while US research has always been highly reliant on the
influx of foreign researchers, this has not been the case in
Europe. In 2001, for instance, 20 percent of scientists and
engineers with US doctoral degrees employed at US universities were
foreign born, while only 2.1 per cent of science and technology
graduates employed in the EU came from non-EU countries.

As the EU is unlikely to produce the required number of
additional researchers itself, it will also be necessary to take
measures to attract researchers from outside the Union


The first draft Recommendation will be discussed by the
Parliament after the summer. An EP opinion is expected in September

Discussions on the draft Directive will probably start in the
beginning of 2005, but it is not expected to be adopted before 2006
or 2007.


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