International firms could benefit from proposals to cut the red tape governing the employment of non-European Union workers from EU countries.
The European Commission has proposed that non-EU citizens should be able to apply for a card, which would be valid for 12 months, guaranteeing their right to work throughout the EU.
Under the present system, when practice managers want to temporarily post such employees or contractors from one EU member in another, they have to go through lengthy procedures to obtain visas and work and residence permits.
The EC service provision card would vouch for the rights of non-EC nationals who have to move to another member state because of their job.
According to the Commission, the system would favour the legal profession, especially large firms with offices in many EU countries.
Single market commissioner Mario Monti says: "These proposals are among a series of measures intended to promote business competitiveness and to ensure that the single market works properly."
The Commission says that under the new system, employers would "no longer have to complete so many procedures in every member state where their staff provide services". The initiative would not cover family members of non-EU workers.
In 1997, almost five million employed and self-employed people from non-member countries were legally resident in the EU, amounting to 3 per cent of the total workforce.