April 15, 2021

Europe Moves to Digitize and Streamline More Immigration Systems

As the world continues to change and develop in response to the ongoing effects of COVID-19, the ways in which individual countries handle their immigration policies and procedures have also been obliged to adapt. With in-person appointments being restricted and physical immigration offices and consular outposts being run with limited staffing numbers, authorities have had to modify their document approval methods to continue the secure processing of applications.

We are seeing the effect of this filter through in many jurisdictions, not just as a temporary response to the pandemic, but as a permanent change. The result has been the introduction of new digital methods that streamline processes and enhance security. Belgium, Bulgaria, and France have all recently announced new electronic filing options.


The Belgian authorities are launching a single electronic platform allowing employers to submit and monitor immigration applications online for Single Permits, EU Blue Cards and EU Intracompany Transfer (ICT) permits. The single electronic platform, known as “Working in Belgium,” is a significant move by the country to digitalize the immigration system, streamline processes and facilitate the coordination of information between government agencies. It is also expected to be expanded to other permit types in future.

The platform has been undergoing testing in recent weeks by key stakeholders to identify and resolve any bugs in the system, prior to its expected launch to the public in May 2021.


Beginning June 1, 2021, Bulgarian authorities will move to streamline and increase digitalization of the application process for most employment-based work and residence permits. Previously, work permit and residence permit applications were submitted separately. The new process will create a combined permit application to be filed via the Migration Office for the EU Blue Card, EU Intra-Company Transferee (ICT) Permit and general Combined Work and Residence Permit. Requests for additional documentation and final permit approval will be issued by electronic notification. While this should facilitate a more streamlined process, success will be dependent on close interaction and coordination between government authorities.


As initially reported in a March update, the French authorities have launched a new online system for the processing of work permit applications, excluding the popular Talent Passport or ICT categories. With an objective to reform the digitalization of several public processes, including immigration, the French government has created a new system which includes seven platforms for the submission of work permit applications. These platforms are intended to streamline the process and regulate processing times, which currently differ between different labor offices.

As each country works through the implementation of their new technology, streamlined practices, and enhanced cooperation, we can expect there may be some technical glitches and potential delays in processing during adjustment periods and rollouts.

For further information on changing immigration processes in Europe and other regions, please contact the Sterling Lexicon immigration team.

Leanne Cottrell

Leanne Cottrell

As Head of Immigration with Sterling Lexicon, Leanne leads a team of specialists who are responsible for ensuring the entire immigration process is smooth and stress-free for clients, assignees and their accompanying family members. She brings over ten years of experience in strategic immigration management, planning and consultation to her role, and has cultivated invaluable knowledge and experience in processing countless global migration applications. As a trusted partner, she consults with clients on everything from policy considerations and cost or efficiency improvements, to the impact of opening offices in new locations. Leanne is a frequent presenter and author on global immigration topics and trends.

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