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Home Office Rules on Bulgaria and Romania Confusing | Immigration Matters

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On 1st January 2007 Bulgarian and Romanian citizens were given the right to move and reside freely in any EU member state. Despite the tabloid headlines, (the Daily Express predicts that 600,000 will make there way to the UK), the “invasion” has so far failed to materialise.

When the previous EU expansion took place in 2004, the Home Office estimated that around 13000 people would migrate to the UK from the former eastern bloc countries. The fact that over 600,000 people subsequently moved here in the last 18 months has led to fears of a stampede on 1 January, forcing the government to impose restrictions for the first time on an EU member state.

There is unlikely to be mass migration to the UK, at least for the next year or so, for one simple reason. Whilst Bulgarians and Romanians have the right to enter the UK, they do not have the same rights as previous new EU members, such as Poles or Latvians, to work.

The Home Office has stated that although they will not require leave to enter or remain to reside legally in the UK, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals wanting to work in the UK will still need to obtain “authorisation” to work before starting any employment, unless they are exempt from doing so.

This authorisation will normally take the form of an “Accession Worker Card”. Bulgarian and Romanian nationals will be able to apply to the Home Office for an Accession Worker Card without the need for an employer to apply for a work permit for a limited number of employment categories including: airport based operational ground staff of an overseas airline; Au Pairs; Domestic Workers; Ministers of Religion; Postgraduate doctors; dentists; and trainee general practitioners. For a full list see the Home Office website.

If the employment does not fall into one of the above categories, the process for obtaining authorisation to work will be as follows:

  • The UK employer applies for approval of the employment under the work permit arrangements.
  • The Bulgarian or Romanian national applies for an Accession Worker card.

The qualifying criteria and guidance notes can be found on the Home Office website.

Bulgaria and Romania have a combined population of 30 million people and will be the two poorest EU nations. The average Bulgarian earns £130 per month. However, their economies are booming and not everyone will want to leave.

Peter, a Bulgarian recruitment agent based in Plovdiv said there was no mass exodus.

“Most people will not leave without the security of a job offer and the work permit restriction will make things difficult for them.”

The rules are confusing

Bulgarian and Romanian nationals are Europeans and will cease to be subject to immigration control, but will still need authorisation to work in the UK.

On the other hand, they can freely enter the UK (on just an ID card) to study or register as self-employed. Furthermore, the restrictions will not apply once they have worked in the UK for more than 12 months.

We spoke to a caseworker at the Home Office earlier today. The lady was helpful, but did not appear to be fully briefed on the rules concerning Bulgarian and Romanian applicants. She said that they were “getting a lot of enquiries on this” and went away to check the answers to my questions with a supervisor.

Like the Workers Registration Scheme, this looks like another last minute fudged plan brought in to appease the growing anti-immigration lobby.

If you should have any questions or views or need help please email Charles Kelly

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