New EU Directive simplifies immigration rules for third-country nationals

New EU Directive Simplifies and Strengthens Immigration Rules for Third-Country Nationals: A Partial Solution to the Truck Driver Shortage?

A recent study by the International Road Transport Union (IRU), published in 2022, underscores a severe shortage of truck drivers across Europe. The research reveals a deficit of 380,000 truck drivers, representing approximately 10% of the total demand within the transport sector. This shortage is further aggravated by an aging workforce, with only 7% of truck drivers being under the age of 25, while the number of drivers over 55 outnumbers the younger cohort by a factor of two to five in various regions.

The EU's Response to Labor Shortages

In response to such labor shortages and to improve the management of legal migration, the European Commission published the Pact on Migration and Asylum in the spring of 2023. This pact proposed several actions, including revising directives on long-term residents and the single residence permit to simplify the admission of workers with various qualification levels and facilitate intra-EU mobility for third-country nationals. Legislative work on these proposals was completed by early 2024.

Directive (EU) 2024/1233: Key Provisions

On April 30, 2024, Directive (EU) 2024/1233 was published, incorporating and amending the previous Directive 2011/98/EU. This directive introduces significant changes to the single permit process for third-country nationals wishing to reside and work in an EU Member State. Its core objective is to simplify and harmonize immigration rules across the EU, making it easier for foreigners to enter Europe for work purposes and for companies to source the workforce they need.

Key changes include:

Streamlined Application Process:

  • Shortened Decision Period: Decisions on single permit applications must now be made within 90 days, reduced from the previous four-month period.
  • Flexible Application Submission: Applications can be submitted by the third-country national, the employer, or either party.
  • Change of Employer: Single permit holders can change employers under certain conditions, including notifying the competent authority and undergoing labor market verification. This change can occur after the permit holder has worked for the initial employer for up to six months.

Enhanced Protection for Third-Country Nationals:

  • Permit holders can remain in the Member State during periods of unemployment for up to three months, or six months if the permit is valid for more than two years.

Equal Treatment and Employment Conditions:

  • Working Hours and Leave: Equal treatment in terms of working hours, leave, and holidays.
  • Gender Equality: Equal treatment in terms of gender equality, addressing the significant underrepresentation of women in the profession.
  • Employment Rights: Including pay, dismissal protections, and health and safety standards.

Prevention of Abuse and Sanctioning Violations:

  • Member States must implement measures to prevent abuse and provide effective grievance mechanisms, including legal action against violations.
Potential Impact on the Driver Shortage

By simplifying the application process and strengthening the rights and protections for third-country nationals, Directive 2024/1233 represents a significant step forward in harmonizing EU immigration rules. This directive could help mitigate the driver shortage by making it easier for companies to recruit international drivers. The streamlined procedures and enhanced protections may attract more third-country nationals to the profession, addressing part of the workforce gap.

However, the directive alone may not fully resolve the driver shortage. The low participation of women and young people in the profession remains a challenge. In 2021, globally, less than 3% of truck drivers were women, compared to 22% in the overall transport and logistics sector in Europe. Addressing these demographic imbalances requires additional targeted recruitment and retention strategies.


Directive 2024/1233 marks a substantial advancement in EU immigration policy, aiming to simplify and harmonize the process for third-country nationals to work and reside in the EU. While this directive has the potential to alleviate some of the truck driver shortages, comprehensive efforts, including enhancing the profession’s attractiveness to women and young people, are crucial for a long-term solution. EU Member States have until May 21, 2026, to transpose the new provisions into their national laws, paving the way for a more inclusive and efficient labor market.

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