Today I got my renewed work and residence permit. This takes a huge load from my shoulders … for another year. Then I have to go through the whole process again. I’ve been getting new permits or renewing them in Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium for about nine years now but that doesn’t mean it’s getting easier. Instead, I think it’s in everyone’s self-interest, to allow free movement to non-EU migrant workers.
To begin with, the process is already quite similar in terms of requirements. You need to have a company willing to sponsor your visa and you need to show a stack of paperwork proving qualifications, that you don’t have any problems with the law in your country of origin and what not. It will differ from country to country a little but for the most part, I pretty much had the same papers translated in three different languages depending on the country (and region of the country) I was moving into. Then there’s an internal process that I have no clue about, so let’s assume it’s somewhat different between countries e.g. maybe a certain canton in Switzerland has quotas while Germany doesn’t. But once the decision is positive, things are very similar again. You show up at an embassy or immigration office with a passport and some cash, and they take your bio-metrics, which are printed into an identity card with serves as a residence and work permit.
Why do Germany and Belgium insist on verifying the paperwork that Switzerland validated? They already trust each other at the borders, how is this different. Sure there can be cases when new or renewed paperwork will be necessary, like if you changed your civil status but there’s absolutely no need to re-review the same marriage certificate, or your university degree and similar kind of documents.
Another thing I constantly think about is that as a non-EU migrant worker, you have a limited amount of rights in comparison to citizens, e.g. you cannot vote, you might not be able to switch jobs or start a company, etc. But you have the same amount of obligations e.g. pay taxes, social security, etc. If you stay long enough in a single state, you gain some trust e.g. you are allowed to switch jobs without a company having to sponsor your visa. The highest form of trust is going through the naturalization process and become a citizen, then you’re also allowed to vote. Unfortunately, if you switch countries, your counter goes back to zero and you need to start from scratch.
To me, this doesn’t make any sense. If you already proved yourself to one state, you’ll very likely continue being a good resident in a different one. Why would I continuously work hard and participate positively in a country, to go to their neighbor to rip off their social system’s benefits? If anything, once I’ve proven myself worthy to the Swiss, shouldn’t the Germans be excited that they will be the ones receiving my tax money? And if I have proven myself to the Swiss and the Germans, shouldn’t the Belgians be excited that I’m going to be part of their GDP? To me, fears like this are just that, unsupported fears. The main reason I left my country was the lack of opportunities in my field of choice. If I wanted to take advantage of my society, I’d have stayed there where the likelihood of breaking the law and not being punished is more likely.
While I don’t expect to be able to vote in the EU any time soon, I will make the controversial statement that someone who has proven loyal so long, should get their voice heard. If not to make any decisions on their state of residence, at least to the EU as a whole. But this could be an entire post of its own, so I’ll leave it at that.
The fact that a state will benefit from a migrant’s worker taxes and hard work, is just a small thing. In the long run, it will help reduce the gap between economies. If you’re a talented software developer, with the right skills, you could probably work in the state of your choice. However, once you start analyzing salaries and the cost of living, it turns out that some countries make more sense than others. This causes a vicious cycle of sorts in which talent migrates to the top states, helping them stay at the top. Allowing non-EU migrant workers to move around more easily between European states, could help balance things out. I for once, wouldn’t mind moving to a southern country for the weather and the food, but the likelihood of this happening is minimal because both my wife and I would need to find the right job that will sponsor us, on the other hand, if we could just do it, we would very likely find something.
So here I am, late at night thinking, why is there no free movement for non-EU migrant workers? I think it would be a benefit for everyone and more important than beneficial, I think it’d be more human.