Skip to main content
Migration and Home Affairs

Legal migration fitness check

Seven EU directives govern admission to and residence in the EU for non-EU migrants, and these laws cover a large part of the migrants arriving to or staying in the EU for work, study or to join family members – here referred to as the EU legal migration policy.

These laws have been evaluated to test if they are fit for purpose – in the so called "Fitness Check".

The EU laws evaluated concern:

Objectives of the evaluation

  • The overall aim was to identify, if the EU rules on legal migration provide an effective management of migration to the EU and fair treatment of migrants.
  • The evaluation aimed at achieving a better understanding on whether the rules are relevant compared to today’s migration to the EU, and if they bring an added value at the EU level compared to national rules.
  • It also evaluated, if the EU rules (mainly the older ones) have been well implemented and have achieved what they were expected to do, and if the implementation has been costly. The more recent rules have not yet been implemented for a long enough time to evaluate this.
  • Finally, the evaluation sought to identify if the seven different directives work well together and how they interact with other EU policies and laws.

Main fainding of the evaluation

  • The evaluation confirms the importance of an effective legal migration policy as a key element of the EU comprehensive policy on management of migratory flows.
  • Current EU rules had a number of positive effects on the management of legal migration, for instance by increasing the level of rights granted to legally residing non-EU nationals, and by contributing to the protection of family life.
  • Impact has been more limited so far, for example in relation to attracting the skills and talents needed for the EU labour market and economy.
  • A horizontal critical issues: a legal framework that is fragmented and presents a number of gaps, as well as implementation problems.

Background: legal migration into the EU

Each year around 20 million non-EU nationals reside in the EU primarily for different reasons.

Other rules and policies that are not included in this evaluation related to border and visa policies, asylum and irregular migration.


Source: Extracted from Figure 2 of the Staff working document, page 6 (Part 1) where detailed sources are available. * EU-25, that is not including Denmark, Ireland and the UK.

These EU directives were adopted between 2003 and 2016, and they are implemented by 25 of the EU countries. Denmark, Ireland and the UK have the option to not implement them.

During the evaluation, widespread consultation took place through an open public consultation and through direct consultation of key interested parties.


Fitness Check

On 29 March 2019 the Fitness Check on the EU Legislation on Legal Migration was adopted, publishing:

Implemetation reports

On the same day three implementation reports were adopted by the European Commission on three of the Directives:

Supporting study

A supporting study carried out by an external contractor Main report andExecutive summary, alongside Annex 1 (contextual analysis), Annex 2 (implementation), Annex 3 (consultation) and Annex 4 (evaluation).

Annex 1: Contextual analysis

Annex 2: Implementation

Annex 3: Consultation

Annex 4: Evaluation

Other key documents related to the Fitness Check