SITTING OF TUESDAY, 11 FEBRUARY 2003

Entry and residence of third-country nationals

"Entry and residence of third-country nationals for paid employment and self-employed economic activity"


Lambert (Verts/ALE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs . - Madam President, I thank the rapporteur. I too am pleased to see that certain amendments that were put forward by the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs - but not accepted by the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs - have been tabled by a variety of the political groups in the House. The majority position of my committee is that we need to simplify and clarify the procedures.

We have heard from a number of reputable companies about the length of time it could take to get work permits for their employees, which pushed some towards using tourist visas to get their employees into the country in order to fulfil contract obligations, and others to lose business. We heard from small- and medium-sized enterprises without departments devoted to human resources as to how complex it can be to find the individual that you want and deal with the paperwork, and how long it can take before that person actually starts work.

We heard from individuals about what a frustrating and ridiculous process it can be when an application is halted for a minor technical reason and nobody has the responsibility to inform the person concerned of what that reason is. We also heard about the issues of having to return to one's country of origin, at great expense and inconvenience, in order to apply for a new work permit attached to a new job. That was from an employee at UNICE, the employers' federation.

Hence we support the amendments about tightening up timetables and response times on work permits, about the requirement to inform the applicant of problems in an application and about moving away from the employer having to demonstrate the need, yet again, for a third-country national to fill a job if one becomes vacant within 12 months - although, from some of the horror stories we have heard about the length of time it can take to get permits, perhaps we should extend that even further.

We have tried to strip away some of the duplication between what the employer has to do and what the state has to do in trying to treat a worker as a responsible adult. We supported the ECOSOC proposal to look at the idea of a job-seeker's permit, which could be of great assistance to small- and medium-sized enterprises.