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EU to fast-track admission of third-country seasonal workers

The European Commission has proposed a fast-track procedure for admission of third-country seasonal workers. This would be based on common definitions and criteria, in particular the existence of a work contract or binding job offer that specifies a salary.

In this Commission proposal, seasonal workers are defined as third-country nationals (non-EU citizens), coming to an EU Member State for the purposes of employment in a sector of activity dependent on the passing of the seasons (typically in agriculture, horticulture and tourism). Their work is regulated in one or more fixed-term work contracts concluded directly between the third-country national and the employer established in a Member State.

Outline of the proposal

The proposal establishes a fast-track procedure for the admission of third-country seasonal workers, based on a common definition and common criteria, in particular the existence of a work contract or a binding job offer that specifies a salary. This is vital in order to avoid an unfair advantage for employers and exploitative working conditions for seasonal workers.

Seasonal workers will be issued with a visa or a residence permit allowing them to work for a maximum period of six months in any calendar year. Such strict limitation of the duration of stay will contribute to ensuring that they are actually employed for work that is genuinely seasonal and not for regular work. The purpose of the limitation is also to prevent overstaying.

The proposal provides for a possible prolongation of the contract or a change of employer within the maximum duration of stay. This should help to reduce the risk of abuse that seasonal workers may face if tied to a single employer.

In order to prevent exploitation and protect the safety and health of third-country seasonal workers, legal provisions applying to working conditions are cleary defined.

Prospective employers are required to provide evidence that the seasonal worker will have appropriate accommodation during his/her stay. There is also a provision for facilitation of complaints.

The Directive introduces a multi-seasonal permit or a facilitated re-entry procedure for a subsequent season with the aim of encouraging legal migration for seasonal work. In addition, it will promote circular migration of seasonal workers between the European Union and their home countries. This will allow reliable flows of remittances and transfer of skills and investment to third countries, thus reducing poverty and contributing to the European Union’s development policy.

The proposal does not create a right to admission, as it remains the right of the Member States to determine the numbers of seasonal workers to be admitted to their country. Following the principle of Union preference, a third-country worker should be admitted only if there is no EU worker or third-country national already residing in a Member State and enjoying access to the labour market of that Member State who is competent and willing to fill that specific vacancy.

Expected benefits

Thanks to a fast-track procedure (30-day time limit and a single residence/work permit simplifying the rules currently applicable in Member States) seasonal workers will be able to get to the EU more quickly, when there is a demand for their work.

Clearer, simpler admission rules should result in fewer people working illegally in seasonal jobs and/or staying on longer in the EU than they are entitled to.

Rules governing working conditions will help prevent exploitation and protect the health and safety of non-EU seasonal workers.

Employers will be required to prove that seasonal workers will have appropriate accommodation during their stay.

A complaints mechanism will be available for non-EU seasonal workers and third parties to ensure that this Directive is correctly applied.

The circular movement of seasonal workers between the EU and their home countries would bring those countries a reliable flow of earnings, skills and investment, thereby contributing to development and reducing poverty.

Statistical data

There are no comprehensive and comparable data on seasonal workers in the EU, but according to estimates there are well above 100.000 third-country seasonal workers coming to the EU each year (including irregular migrants). Some Member States admit considerable numbers of non-EU seasonal workers. For example:

  • Spain, only in 2008, admitted 24 838 non-EU seasonal workers;
  • Italy received over 11.000 applications already in mid-February 2008 for that calendar year.
  • in 2009, Germany admitted 4 248 non-EU seasonal workers, France 2 215, and Sweden 7 252.

What happens next?

The proposal will now be discussed by the European Parliament and the Member States, who must agree on the text before it becomes law.

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