The European Union is considering the introduction of a US-style green card system to attract immigrants with special skills, a European Commissioner said.
Permanent work visas based on the US model is one of the options the EU is mulling to ease the shortage in skilled labour and to offset an aging population, Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini said.
The European Commission argues that there is an urgent need to boost the number of immigrants in the European Union, despite growing public opposition to immigrants in many member states.
Tens of thousands of green cards are awarded annually in the US. Relatives of US citizens and workers with special skills are prioritised.
In addition, the US issues temporary work permits to skilled workers, including nurses working at hospitals while their applications for permanent status are processed.
The commission proposals would involve targeting skilled immigrant candidates to fill job shortages, a practice already carried out individually by several EU states.
The International Labour Organization, a United Nations agency based in Geneva, has projected a labour shortage that could mean a 22 per cent drop in per capita gross domestic product by 2050.