EU's plan would allow skilled workers from outside Europe to enter the UK

Thousands of skilled migrants from Asia and Africa could be handed visas to live and work in Europe, under new EU plans.

A European ‘Blue Card’, equivalent to America’s Green Card, would allow skilled workers from outside the EU to bring their families to live and work in Europe.

Card-holders would have the opportunity to set up permanent residence after five consecutive years of living in any EU state.

Applicants for a card will need a guaranteed one-year job contract and employers will have to prove the job cannot be filled from within the EU.

Employers will also have to guarantee the job’s pay is worth at least three times the amount of the country’s national minimum wage.

Even though the UK has a yawning skills gap in industries such as construction, it is likely that the government will opt out of the scheme, as it sets its own policy on immigration.

Home Office minister Liam Byrne said: “These are simply the latest ideas from the Commission. Frankly we do not support these proposals. This is why we have secured an opt-in for all immigration measures and stay outside EU migration directives.”

The Home Office is to launch a points-based migration scheme next year to allow skilled migrants the opportunity to work in the UK.

Globally, only 5% of skilled migrants currently migrate to the EU, compared with 85% of the world’s unskilled migrants.