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Immigration to Europe

Before making your big move, this article provides background information on migrating to the EU, and may serve you well in your understanding of immigration procedures.


Migration from third countries outside the EU to countries in the EU has increased substantially in recent years, rising threefold between the mid-1990s and early 2000s. Indeed, recent non-EU migrants who have arrived since 2000 account for almost one-third of all non-EU migrants of working age. This recent flow of third country migrants has been notably higher (almost 2.5 times) than the recent internal movement of EU citizens between EU countries.


At the same time, the pattern of immigration flows has become more diversified, with a greater influx of migrants from Central and South America and much greater migration to countries in southern Europe than previously. Indeed, third country immigration to southern Europe has now reached similar levels to that of the more traditional immigration countries of northern Europe.


Recently arrived immigrants have contributed significantly to overall economic growth and employment expansion in the EU, with only limited impacts on domestic wages and employment. They are responsible for around a quarter of employment growth since 2000. They have generally been complementary to EU-born workers rather than substitutes, and have added to greater labour market flexibility.


Indeed, they have clearly helped to alleviate labour and skill shortages, tending to be employed in those sectors and occupations where demand has been greatest, in particular at the low-skill end of the jobs spectrum, i.e. in private household, construction, hotel and restaurant sectors, or in elementary, craft and related trades, as well as services and shop and market sales.


Nevertheless, overall there remain considerable challenges in adequately integrating migrants into European labour markets. In most Member States the labour market situation for migrants is substantially worse than that of those born in the EU – they tend to have lower employment rates and are often more likely to be unemployed, or are employed in jobs of lower quality or for which they are over-qualified. Recent migrants, in particular women and those from certain regions of origin, face particular difficulties in integrating into the labour market.


Substantial differences are observed across Member States. The new migration countries of southern Europe which have received high flows of labour migration over recent years, seem do a better job of getting migrants into employment, but with greater risk of their being overqualified and exposed to ‘bad matches’ and precarious employment. On the other hand, the remaining old Member States show a lower rate of migrant over-qualification but have greater gaps in participation and employment rates, and higher unemployment rates, for migrants compared to the EU-born.


Between 2003 and 2007, the average population share of EU-10 foreigners resident in the EU-15 has increased from around 0.2% to 0.5%. During the same period, the population share of Romanians and Bulgarians resident in the EU-15 rose from 0.2% to 0.5%, a process that already started well before 2007. By comparison the population share of EU-15 nationals resident in another EU-15 country grew from 1.6% to about 1.7% and that of non- EU-27 nationals from 3.7% to 4.5%.


Intra-EU mobility flows have not spread equally across Europe, being largely limited to a few major receiving and sending countries. In terms of recent EU-10 mobility, Ireland and the UK have been the main receiving countries. Concerning Bulgaria and Romania, recent flows have been directed towards mainly Spain and Italy – a process which started well before the EU-2 accession in 2007. At the same time, in all EU-15 Member States the inflow of migrants from non-EU countries has been significantly larger than the inflow from new Member States, with the exception of Ireland. Moreover the inflow of citizens from other EU-15 Member States has exceeded the inflow of EU-8 and Bulgaria and Romanian citizens in many EU-15 Member States.


After the expansion of the Schengen area, a non-EU citizen can move from Trondheim to Warsaw without a passport check. Therefore immigration services in Schengen countries have a single set of rules for patrolling their borders and issuing short-stay visas.


In recent years, EU countries have begun to incorporate digital photographs, fingerprints and eye-scans – also called biometric data – into new passports and visas. This is part of a global trend: the International Civil Aviation Authority has recommended that all countries convert travel documents to this hugely expensive technology. Immigration officials in Europe, as well as the US, believe that switching to the new technology is vital to keep track of who is crossing their borders. By 2011, all EU passports and visas (including from non-Schengen countries) will carry biometric data technology.


In 2008, EU immigration services are due to start using a new biometric database called the Visa Information System (VIS). The database will centrally store records of all Schengen visas issued by European consulates, making it possible to cross-check such information automatically for the first time. EU countries not in the Schengen area – like Ireland and the UK – will not have full access to VIS, but will be able to check its records to deal with illegal immigration and process asylum applications, if need be. The new database is intended to stop ‘visa shopping’, or applying for a visa elsewhere despite rejection by other Schengen countries, and to detect the use of fake passports.


Over the next few years, the Commission wants the EU to open ‘Euro-consulates’, single offices abroad for applying for visas to the Schengen area. This should cut costs for those countries that struggle to provide consular services worldwide. Several member-states – Belgium, Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands – are also co-operating to reduce the huge costs of collecting biometric data for visas. As part of a pilot project called ‘Biodev’, applicants in several African countries can now submit biometric data for a visa to any one of these countries through only one consular service.


Most EU countries are part of the Schengen area, where passport checks and border controls have been abolished. On December 21st 2007, the Schengen area underwent a historic eastward expansion, taking in new EU members Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The area also includes two non-EU members, Iceland and Norway; a third, Switzerland, is due to join in late 2008. Britain and Ireland have chosen to maintain their border controls indefinitely, while Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania are not yet ready to join. The EU provided almost S1 billion to the new members to bring their border and visa regimes up to Schengen standards, and it inspected their border controls repeatedly. This was important for giving West Europeans confidence since the EU’s common frontier now reaches the Balkans, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.


Nonetheless, interior officials in the Schengen area reported an increase in illegal immigration immediately after the lifting of controls. Given the publicity surrounding the Schengen expansion, this increase was perhaps inevitable. But the new security challenges of the enlarged free travel area, plus concerns about mass migrations on the EU’s southern frontiers, are forcing Schengen countries to think about how they can better co-ordinate internal controls to detect illegal immigrants.


Schengen is not simply about the abolition of border controls. Police and judges already work closely together in the Schengen area, sharing information via a single computer system (called the Schengen Information System, or SIS). Police also have extra powers to pursue crimes and carry out surveillance across borders. For example, Dutch officers can carry out surveillance on suspects in Germany, with or without prior notification. Austrian policemen can follow a suspected drug smuggler in ‘hot pursuit’ into Slovakia – until the local police arrive. A new generation of the SIS is under development. The new system (SIS II) is due to have much greater capacity, as well as the capability to store and exchange biometric data. Although SIS II was due to be ready in time for the 2007 expansion, persistent delays in developing and testing the new system mean that it will not be in use until September 2009, at the earliest.


Ireland and the UK, which have a free-travel area between them, are eligible to join the Schengen area but have chosen to maintain their own border controls. However, the UK’s planned ‘e-borders programme’ – a system for monitoring air, sea and rail travellers to and from Britain – will require formal passport checks to be introduced between Ireland and the UK from 2009. In a long awaited judgement, the European Court of Justice ruled in 2007 that Schengen members had the right to block Britain and Ireland from joining the board of Frontex, since they do not participate in the common system of border controls.


Immigration procedures differ from country to country within the EU, so it would do you good to know the various different systems, and make a good note of what you need for your own circumstance.

Source: Europa, Cer

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