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How to live and work legally in the UK if you are Bulgarian or Romanian | Immigration Matters

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There are thousands of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens working in the UK ‘without papers’ or on a so-called ‘self employed’ basis. How can they legalise their stay? How can their employers avoid a £10,000 fine or even prison for employing illegal workers?

The UK Border Agency has recently updated guidance for employers on preventing ‘illegal working’ to help them check if someone has a right to work. The new guidance includes information about employing Bulgarians and Romanians for the first time.

The revised guidance provides information on which documents are acceptable when ‘proving a right to work’ and helps employers understand what checks they are expected to carry out.

Employers who fail to demonstrate that they have carried out the appropriate checks and are found employing workers illegally could be fined £10,000 for each illegal worker and even face a 2 years in prison.

It also contains more detailed information on employing Romanian and Bulgarian nationals.

Even though Bulgarian and Romanian citizens been members of the European Union since 2007, when it comes to employment do not have the same rights as other Europeans, for instance from Poland, Slovakia or other A8 Accession countries.

Yellow Card granted for Romanian NVQ student

UK work restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian nationals, were extended until the end of 2013 by the British government last November.

You are allowed to set up a business, apply for a work permit, study or reside in the UK as a ‘self sufficient’ person, provided they can prove they have enough funds to support themselves.

Many who have obtained yellow cards as ‘self employed’ workers are in reality working as employed persons for one company on a set rota for a specific number of hours. This does not qualify as self employment or running a business.

Thousands of others are working without any papers or permits at all.

Some employers are unaware of the restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians and see them as ‘Europeans’ who have full rights to work, while others know exactly what they are doing and choose to exploit the illegal worker by paying below minimum wage rates, usually cash in hand.

Illegal workers who find themselves in this position are trapped and have no choice but to work long hours in poor and often unsafe conditions whilst scraping by on slave labour pay rates.

There are a number of options for legalising your stay in the UK.

Unlike non-EU illegal workers, you have the advantage of being a member of the European Union, which means you have treaty rights in the UK, for instance the right to work and study or set up a business.

Romanian Sudent with Yellow Card to work and study in UK

Bulgarians and Romanians can freely travel to the UK to exercise their rights under Article 39 and apply for a Yellow Card registration card to work and study full time whilst studying for a vocational qualification, such as NVQ or QCF in Customer Service or Health and Social Care

Normally after 12 months of legal work and study you can apply for a Blue Card for you and your family.

For certain jobs you can apply for a work permit via an employer if you can find one willing to go through the long process.

Importantly, these rights apply to you, even if you are here working illegally or have broken the rules in the past.

This right can also apply to you if you have previously been refused yellow card.

You can legalise your stay even if you are here on a self employed yellow card, but have not really been running a business and would now like to clean up you act and get things straightened out with your employer.

Whatever your situation there is usually a solution to your problem.

Once you have legal papers, you will be free to work where it suits you and where you will be paid properly, with tax deducted by your employer instead of been passed on to you to pay at a later date, at decent rates of pay.

The ultimate goal is to obtain a blue residency card which is possible provided you play by the rules.

Further information and important updates on preventing illegal working can be found on the UKBA website.


The UK Border Agency can fine you £10,000 for employing a migrant worker illegally.

Immigration Advisers Bison Management UK has been helping employers with work permits and visas since 1998. They offer a complete file audit service at your premises.

Don’t risk a fine, call in the immigration specialists – 0208 905 1822 or email

See also:


European Commission warning to UK on Free Movement rights and Comprehensive Sickness Insurance remains unanswered

Yellow or Blue Card Refused – Appeal or Reapply?

12 illegal workers arrested in UK Border Agency restaurant raids

How Romanians and Bulgarians working illegally without Yellow Card or papers can legalise their status in the UK

EU Commissioner calls for end to UK work restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians

7 tips for completing a Yellow Card BR1 application to work and study in the UK

Albanian car wash owner ordered to handover £60,000 for immigration crime

Employment restrictions for Bulgarians and Romanians extended until end of 2013 

If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: or visit 

Majestic College offer special packages for EU students. They also have a number of employers looking for staff right now and are willing to employ Bulgarians and Romanians. 

For more information call Joanna on 0208 207 1020 or email

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2 Responses to “How to live and work legally in the UK if you are Bulgarian or Romanian”
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  1. 100s of romanians are working at river island, milton keynes distribution center. all illegally and not paying any tax to the country

  2. […] How to live and work legally in the UK if you are Bulgarian or Romanian […]

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