Direct naar de inhoud
Migration and Home Affairs

A single permit for work

The Single Permit Directive, adopted in 2011, establishes a simplified application procedure and one single permit for both the right to work and stay in the EU.

The directive also gives many non-EU nationals working in the EU the right to be treated equally to EU nationals in many respects, including:

  • working conditions
  • social security
  • recognition of qualifications
  • tax benefits

Directive rules cover most non-EU workers, whether admitted to an EU country for work according to national rules. Persons admitted for other reasons, such as family reunification, are covered for equal treatment, if they work. Some non-EU nationals are excluded from the directive such as seasonal workers and posted workers.

The directive applies in 25 EU countries (but not in Denmark and Ireland).

More information on the key provisions of the directive available in the Summary of EU legislation - Single Permit Directive.


  • to ensure a simplified unique procedure for applying for the right to work and reside in the EU
  • to give protection and fair treatment to the applicant in the application procedure
  • to ensure that the non-EU national only needs one permit that gives the right to both work and residence
  • to ensure that non-EU nationals working in the EU are not exploited as they are guaranteed equal treatment with nationals in terms of for instance working conditions, including pay, health and safety, trade union membership, social security, education and vocational training and tax benefits

How relevant is the directive for labour migration to the EU

Each year around 3 - 3.5 million non-EU nationals reside in the EU primarily for work. These workers help responding to the need for workers in the EU economies, which is not fully met by EU workers.


Source : Eurostat database [migr_ressoc] as of 1.10.2019.NB. Figures for 2018 are still preliminary. *Highly skilled workers are not reported separately in all Member States, and this statistic excludes EU Bluecard permits.. **Researchers are not reported as workers in all Member States. *** Poland reported large numbers of Seasonal workers between 2014 and 2017, some are reported as others in 2018 others as seasonal workers now when the Seasonal workers Directive applies fully.

The Single Permit Directive covers most other workers, highly skilled workers and as regards equal treatment researchers. This graph shows all permits issued (new or renewed) for different reasons since 2013.

Source : Eurostat database [migr_ressing] as of 1.10.2019.NB. *Figures for 2018 are still preliminary.

A recast Single Permit Directive

The proposed recast of the Single Permit Directive will make the application procedure for the single permit more efficient. It will enable applicants to apply for permits from both non-EU countries and Member States. Currently, the long duration of application procedures unencourages employers from international recruitment. Reducing this duration will help increase the EU’s attractiveness and address EU labour shortages.

The proposal also includes new requirements to strengthen the safeguards and equal treatment of nationals of non-EU countries as compared to EU citizens and improve their protection from labour exploitation.

Under the proposed new rules, the single permit will not be linked to one employer alone. This means that within the period of validity of the permit, workers will have the right to change employers while continuing to reside legally in the Member State. This will facilitate labour matching and reduce vulnerability to labour exploitation. Furthermore, the proposal includes new obligations for Member States to provide for:

  • inspections
  • monitoring mechanisms
  • sanctions against employers breaking the rules

Policy timeline