The following policy branches within the EU migration and asylum policy area lie in the competence of the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs:
- Visa policy
- Free movement of persons and legal migration
- Fight against illegal immigration
- Asylum and international protection
- Document security
- External dimension of migration policy
Procedures and conditions for issuing, extension, annulment and revocation of short-stay visas (for transit through or intended stays in the territory of the Member States not exceeding three months in any six-month period), as well as uniform format for visas is laid down in the EU legislation. Also a common list of the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those third countries whose nationals are exempt from that requirement has been elaborated on the EU level.
In order to promote and facilitate short-stay travel regime between EU and third countries, the EU has concluded several agreements with third countries on visa facilitation. Moreover, the discussion on entering into negotiations with other third countries on conclusion of such agreements is ongoing.
Although, in general, provision on long-stay visas lie in the national competence of each Member State, several issues, for instance, rights to travel within Schengen area and visa format, are regulated on the EU level.
One of the fundamental freedoms of the EU is free movement of persons. The EU legislation defines conditions for the rights of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, while stipulating also several restrictions to be placed on the right of free movement and residence on grounds of public policy, public security or public health.
Also harmonized rules on the conditions for exercising the rights to family reunification by third country nationals residing lawfully in the territory of the Member States are stipulated by the EU law.
Besides, adopted legislative acts in the area of legal migration establish conditions and procedures for entry and residence of several categories of persons (for example, researchers, students, highly qualified workers), as well as rights that have to be granted to them. At the same time, every Member State retains rights to define number of legal migrants to be admitted according to the Member State’s labour market needs and peculiarities.
According to the EU legislation, third country nationals if they have fulfilled the prescribed criteria, may apply for and receive EC long term resident status and rights that derive from that status.
Common standards and procedures in the Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals are defined in the EU law in order to strengthen the fight against illegal immigration; a mechanism has been established for mutual recognition of decisions on the expulsion of third country nationals and the approach towards sanctions and measures against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals has been harmonized. Besides, the Member States are actively cooperating in practice in order to prevent and combat illegal immigration.
Readmission agreements, that have been concluded between the EU and third countries and define a specific mechanism for return and readmission of illegally staying persons, play a very important role for effective functioning of the EU return policy.
The EU law defines broad set of issues regarding asylum and international protection – reception conditions for asylum seekers; criteria and procedures for granting and withdrawing refugee status and subsidiary protection status and content for such protection, as well as criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an asylum application lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national.
Solidarity among the Member States, as well as with third countries that suffer from particular pressure on their asylum systems due to the high numbers of asylum seekers, by rendering assistance to them is a very significant issue within the area of asylum policy. The participation of Member States in various solidarity measures is voluntary, according to each Member State’s possibilities and capacity of its asylum system. As during the course of year 2011 European Asylum Support office will start operating, additional attention will be paid towards practical cooperation among the Member States.
Conditions on security standards of passports, travel documents and residence permits issued by the Member States are set out in the EU legislation in the area of document security.
Recently, the issues of the EU cooperation with third countries – countries of origin and transit of migrants – on migration and asylum issues, as well as strengthening links between migration and development policies has become topical. This partnership is implemented through various projects and cooperation formats between the interested Member States and third countries. The key objective of such cooperation is to aid third countries and to enhance their capacity to manage and sustain their migration and asylum systems, as well as to share best practices and experience with them. Currently, the largest share of cooperation is carried out with southern, eastern and south-eastern regions neighbouring the EU; however more and more attention is paid also towards the region of Latin America. Migration missions, cooperation platforms and mobility partnerships are main instruments for such cooperation.