Immigration policy is a very unlikely case for EU integration. EU policy‐making is constrained by member states' sovereignty claims and interest heterogeneity. Still, tentative integration towards EU conditions of entry and residence for some immigrant categories can be observed. By using the example of the skilled labour migration directive, the article explains how deadlock in policy‐making was overcome. It explores the factors that led to agreement in the EU immigration policy area, from the Commission's first proposal on labour migration in 2001 to its adoption in 2009. Explanations for integration in the policy area are member states' venue shopping the EU level for changing domestic legislation, their interest in locking‐in national standards in EU law, and the EU Commission's agenda‐framing. Strategic partitioning of policy was also used by actors to overcome deadlock in policy‐making. The reframing of policies, by reducing their scope to a few narrowly defined immigrant categories, influenced their adoption. This mechanism was observed in studying the eight years of policy‐making leading to the labour migration directive. The longitudinal analysis helps to identify the key dynamics that define this nascent EU policy area.