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The UK has recently adopted a five Tier Australian style points-based system for assessing immigration applications, which the Home Office describe as the biggest change in immigration policy for 60 years.  

The new system, which radically changes the way individuals from outside the EU and European Economic Area (EEA) can work, train or study in the UK, was launched on 29 February 2008 and is being rolled out up to March 2009, when Tier 4 for students takes effect.  

In brief, the points system has re-categorized over 80 different routes to employment and education in the UK to just five tiers: 

Tier 1: highly skilled individuals (previously HSMP).

Tier 2: skilled workers with a job offer to fill gaps in the UK labour force.

Tier 3: low skilled workers to fill temporary labour shortages. (currently suspended).

Tier 4: International non-EU students wanting to come to the UK to study including student nurses.

Tier 5: youth mobility and temporary workers. 

Migrant workers and students must gain points to qualify for each specific tier before they can apply for permission to enter, or remain in, the UK. Points are awarded, depending on the tier, based on the qualifications, experience, age, earnings, maintenance and language competence of the candidate. 

You can check if you have enough points to qualify by carrying out a self assessment of eligibility online on the using the points-based calculator on the UK Border Agency website. 

Under the points-based system, the UK Border Agency will decide who is admitted or allowed to stay in the UK. In order to assess this, the migrant will need to provide evidence of a sponsoring employer or educational institution in the UK licensed by the UK Border Agency.

The UK has a population of 60 million and is the world’s fifth largest economy.

The UK remains one the most popular destination for international students, which adds £40 billion to the economy, according the Home Office figures.

The Government has recently updated its official Shortage Occupations list for Tier 2 of the points-based system for migration to the UK. 

EU or EEA Migration from A8 and A2 countries such as Bulgaria and Romania

There are separate rules for EU and EEA immigration, outside the points based system, covering migration and family migration from ‘A8’ nations, for instance Poland, Slovakia and Hungary and more recent ‘A2’ EU members Bulgaria and Romania.

Earlier A8 member citizens have full ‘freedom of labour’ rights in the UK, Bulgarians and Romanians do not.

There is much confusion surrounding the area of the rights of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens to work in the UK.

Migrants, employers and even advisers at Job Centres and help lines are not always clear about whether or not Bulgarian and Romanian nationals can work in the UK and what documents are required.

Despite the fact that they are EU members, when it comes to employment Bulgarian and Romanian citizens do not have the same rights as other Europeans or other A8 Accession countries.

Many care industry and catering businesses would like to recruit Romanian, Bulgarian and other European workers, as the Government’s cap on migration, combined with newly imposed restrictions on Tier 2 and Tier 4 routes, has made it increasing difficult to recruit non-EU staff (on work permits and student visas).

But many employers are unaware of the distinct difference between ‘A8’ nationals (Polish, Latvian, Slovakian, Czechs, Hungarians, Slovenians Lithuanians and Estonians), who joined the EU in 2004 and more recent members from Bulgaria and Romania. Although both groups have the same rights to freely enter the UK, they do not enjoy the same rights to work, or free movement of labour. See also: Free Movement of EU nationals explained.

Paragraph 2 of the ‘Guidance for Nationals of Bulgaria and Romania on Obtaining Permission to Work in the United Kingdom’ states:

‘As a Romanian or Bulgarian national you are able to move and live freely in any Member State of the European Union (EU). You do not need permission under our immigration rules to reside legally in the United Kingdom. You will have a right of residence in any EU Member State for the first 3 months of residence on an unrestricted basis and you can remain legally resident in that state as long as you wish, providing you are exercising a Treaty right as a student, a self-employed person, or if you are self-sufficient(and not economically active). You will not have an automatic right to reside as a worker in the United Kingdom (unless you are exempt from work authorisation requirements – see paragraph 6 below).’

There is an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 Romanians alone in the UK, many of whom are working as self employed contractors, which is allowed, whilst others study and work on a yellow coloured registration certificate commonly known as ‘Yellow Card’.

After 12 months of continuous legal work they can apply for residence under a so called ‘Blue Card’ registration.

Working in the UK as a genuine self employed contractor for certain industries, such as IT or the building trade, is fine. But the majority of employers are unwilling to deal with the practicalities of having a whole bunch self employed staff, for instance waiters, chefs or carers, presenting invoices every week.

Finding legitimate employment as a self employed person is proving increasingly difficult for the half a million plus Romanian and Bulgarian citizens already in the UK.

There is also the issue of obtaining a National Insurance (NI) number, which by itself does not infer entitlement to work, as a self employed person.

One self employed Romanian lady told Immigration Matters that she had been refused an NI number five times despite providing all the necessary paperwork to the Glasgow based office.

Study route to Yellow and Blue Cards

Romanian and Bulgarians who study vocational or sandwich-type courses, such as QCF (which replaced NVQ’s this year) in Customer Service, IT, Catering, Hospitality, Construction or Health and Social Care, are allowed to work full time, as stated on the back of their Yellow Cards.

Employers can employ Romanian and Bulgarian workers provided they obtain a yellow card registration certificate allowing them to work in the UK whilst studying for a British qualification.

Provided they stick to the course and work legally for 12 months in line with their course, they will usually be granted a residence ‘Blue Card’ permit.

Some students, perhaps unwilling or unable to pay the fees, drop out of the course as they believe that having obtained a Yellow Card and NI Number they can continue working without further checks.

The Romanian/Bulgarian students and their employers may find themselves in breach of the immigration rules and may therefore lose their eligibility for residence or Blue Card.

As employers can be fined up to £10,000 for each illegal worker they employ, they are now looking deeper into their staff files. 

Employers also have the option of applying for a work permit provided the job meets the requirements.

Bulgarian and Romanian nationals on the UKBA website 

The Home Office or specifically the UK Border Agency’s (UKBA) website contains a substantial amount of information, guidance and rules, which can be overwhelming and confusing to follow at times. 

There is a specific section which explains the restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian nationals taking employment in the UK. The website states:

‘If you are a Bulgarian or Romanian national, you are free to come and live in the UK. But you must be able to support yourself and your family in the UK without becoming an unreasonable burden on public funds.

‘If you want to work as an employee in the UK, you will need our permission before you start work. Details of the type of work you can take and how to apply for permission to work can be found in the Bulgarian and Romanian nationals section.

‘When you have been working legally as an employee in the UK for 12 months without a break, you will have full rights of free movement and will no longer need our permission to take work. You can then get a registration certificate confirming your right to live and work in the UK, although you are not obliged to do so.’

‘To find out how to apply for a registration certificate, see the Residence documents for European citizens section.’

When you click on the ‘Residence Documents’ link, you are taken to the following page which states: 

‘You do not need our permission to working in a self-employed capacity. However, you can apply for a registration certificate to confirm your right to work as a self-employed person in the UK if you wish.

‘To find out how to apply for a registration certificate, see the Residence documents for European citizens section.

‘If you are a student in the UK, you may take employment for up to 20 hours a week during term time and full-time work during vacation periods from your course, but you must first obtain a registration certificate confirming that you are a student. To find out how to apply for a registration certificate, see the Residence documents for European citizens section.’ 

The UKBA has recently updated information for European Citizens who wish to reside in the UK on their website.

The ‘Residence documents for European citizens’ section of the website states that: 

‘A citizen of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland may want to apply for ‘confirmation’ that they have the right to live in the UK.

‘If you are an EEA or Swiss national, you can apply for a registration certificate, a document which confirms your right of residence in the UK under European law.

‘If you have ‘lived in the UK for a continuous period of 5 years in accordance with the European regulations, you can apply for a document certifying permanent residence’.

However, it later points out that: 

‘Under European law, you do not need to obtain documentation confirming your right of residence in the UK if you are a national of a country in the EEA.’

It continues:

‘However, if you want to support an application for a residence card by any of your family members who are not EEA nationals, you must demonstrate that you are residing in the UK in accordance with the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006 and are ‘exercising Treaty rights’ in the UK. You are said to be exercising Treaty rights if you are:

  • employed or self-employed; or
  • studying; or
  • economically self- sufficient (meaning that you have sufficient funds to support you without requiring public funds); or
  • a jobseeker; or
  • retired; or
  • someone who has had to cease working in the UK owing to permanent incapacity.’

You will see below a section on Eastern European workers which states:

‘If you are a national of a country in Eastern Europe, you may need to be authorised or registered in order to work here. See the European workers section for more information.’

The above link takes you to a further paragraph on ‘Bulgarian and Romanian nationals’ which states:

‘If you are a Bulgarian or Romanian national, you may need our permission before you can work in the United Kingdom. This section explains who needs to apply for permission, and how to apply’.

A further link takes you to a page which merely states:

‘This section explains how a Bulgarian or Romanian national can live and work in the United Kingdom. It explains:

  • if they have the right to live in the United Kingdom; and
  • if there are any restrictions on them to work in the United Kingdom; and
  • if an employer would need a work permit to employ a Bulgarian or Romanian national; and
  • how to apply for an accession worker card.’

Trawling your way through this section of the UKBA website is hard work to say the least and could be laid out in a more user friendly manner.

TIP – HOW TO FIND APPLICATION FORMS FOR A YELLOW OR BLUE CARD REGISTRATION CERTIFICATE

If you are looking for a particular form or guidance note, try using the UKBA search facility or Google to locate it, rather than work your way through the maze of pages.

For instance, many people ask: ‘where can I find the form to apply for a Yellow Card?’

The form you are looking for is a ‘BR1’, but it is not called a ‘yellow card’ application. In fact a search on the UKBA website for ‘yellow card’ will only give you a ‘No Results found for the Search term ‘yellow card’ reply. So you need to search using the correct name or a more defined search.

The full title of the BR1 form is:

‘APPLICATION FOR A REGISTRATION CERTIFICATE FOR A BULGARIAN OR ROMANIAN NATIONAL EXERCISING A TREATY RIGHT IN THE UNITED KINGDOM’

You can locate the Forms BR1, BR2, BR3, BR4, BR5, BR6, BR7 and ‘Guidance for Nationals of Bulgaria and Romania on Obtaining Permission to Work in the United Kingdom‘ at: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/workingintheuk/eea/bulgariaromania/applying/

However, if you are reading this article in six months time it may not be at the same location or the immigration Rules may have changed.

See article:

UK Border Agency launch new website

The newly revised UK Border Agency website has a better look and feel and navigation seems faster, but previously published links to specific pages of the site may no longer exist.

For instance, the link for European Workers is now:

http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/eucitizens/bulgaria-romania/work-permits/applying/

The link for ‘Bulgarian and Romanian nationals‘ is:

http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/eucitizens/bulgaria-romania/work-permits/

The UK Border Agency and Home Office website contains a vast amount of information which can be difficult to wade your way through the guidance and Immigration Rules.

The navigation section for European workers from Bulgaria and Romania also appears to have been simplified although finding specific information is still a challenge.

Confusion remains over the need for Bulgarians and Romanians applying for BR1 Yellow Cards as students to take out Comprehensive Sickness Insurance cover. 

The BR1 Form in Section 9 states:

‘If sections 4 (Students) and 5 (Self-sufficient) have been completed: evidence of ‘Comprehensive Sickness Insurance’ cover in the UK and funds to show you are economically self-sufficient, e.g. a bank statement.’

In other words, the paragraph means you need comprehensive sickness insurance only if you are applying under both ‘student’ and ‘self sufficient’ sections.

Nevertheless, student applicants are being asked to take out private medical insurance policies and are being refused if they fail to supply the correct cover.

What type of insurance cover is required?

The truth is, nobody seems to be able to tell us in simple terms exactly what cover is required. The Rules and guidance notes do not specify the cover required, however, an insurance company manager told Immigration Matters that he has been trying to get clarification on the exact requirements from the UK Border Agency for several weeks.

To obtain a quotation for Comprehensive Sickness Insurance visit the websites of leading insurers, for instance Aviva, AXA or Freedom Health.  

See article:

UK Border Agency launch new website

The newly revised UK Border Agency website has a better look and feel and navigation seems faster, but previously published links to specific pages of the site may no longer exist.

For instance, the link for European Workers is now:

http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/eucitizens/bulgaria-romania/work-permits/applying/

The link for ‘Bulgarian and Romanian nationals‘ is:

http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/eucitizens/bulgaria-romania/work-permits/

The UK Border Agency and Home Office website contains a vast amount of information which can be difficult to wade your way through the guidance and Immigration Rules.

The navigation section for European workers from Bulgaria and Romania also appears to have been simplified although finding specific information is still a challenge.

Confusion remains over the need for Bulgarians and Romanians applying for BR1 Yellow Cards as students to take out Comprehensive Sickness Insurance cover. 

The BR1 Form in Section 9 states:

‘If sections 4 (Students) and 5 (Self-sufficient) have been completed: evidence of ‘Comprehensive Sickness Insurance’ cover in the UK and funds to show you are economically self-sufficient, e.g. a bank statement.’

In other words, the paragraph means you need comprehensive sickness insurance only if you are applying under both ‘student’ and ‘self sufficient’ sections.

Nevertheless, student applicants are being asked to take out private medical insurance policies and are being refused if they fail to supply the correct cover.

What is the correct insurance cover?

There are no clear guidelines in the European or UK Immigration Rules, however, comprehensive means you will need to take out a policy which covers most illnesses and covers you for both in-patient and out-patient treatment.

Expect to pay around £50 per month depending on your age. A budget policy for £10 per month will most probably be rejected.

If you need help or advice there is also a UKBA telephone number given for the ‘Accession State customer contact centre’ which is: 0114 207 4074.

You can also seek advice from an Immigration Adviser, but make sure they are registered with the OISC, which provides a list of qualified advisers all over the UK.

UK immigration articles: 

UKBA launch ‘Premium Service’ for Tiers 2 and 5 sponsors 6 April 2012

Last day to submit Tier 1 Post-study work (PSW) – applications will not be accepted after 5 April 2012

UKBA confirm changes to the Immigration Rules which start on 6 April 2012

Immigration Rule changes to Tier 2 working visas

Pret A Manger to create 550 new UK jobs

500,000 new UK job opportunities for young people

Application forms change if you apply on or after 6 April 2012

Immigration Minister says ‘reforming family migration will promote better integration’

Foreign Doctor and Romanian Nurse row continues

Hospital bosses defend recruiting Romanian nurses

UK announce more non-EU restrictions on Tier 2 working visas

Do we actually need foreign nurses, especially those with poor English who are a risk? Lord Winston asks

New Tier 4 sponsor guidance published for Highly Trusted Sponsorship – will your private college qualify?

Last chance to take part in UK Government public consultation on settlement and Domestic Workers

MORE CHALLENGES FOR TIER 4 STUDENTS AS ‘3-YEAR RULE’ APPLIED

Can family dependants of Tier 4 Students work while studying in the UK?

UK University places filling up faster than last year

Colleges and Universities discount fees to attract more Tier 4 students

Pre Tier 4 students in the UK under the Immigration Rules that were in place before 31 March 2009

New Tier 4 student visa rules now in force

NHS hospitals cut British jobs but still hire abroad on expensive jollies

Do we actually need foreign nurses, especially those with poor English who are a risk? Lord Winston asks

UK firms plan to recruit more EU migrants to fill job vacancies

Health care workers needed in UK now

BR1 Form for ‘Yellow Card’ Registration revised

Immigration Rules for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals 

Comprehensive Sickness Insurance now required for Bulgarian and Romanian study work yellow cards

UKBA to close Tier 1 Visa for overseas migrants

New Tier 2 Working Visa limit set following Judicial Review

UK immigration fall unlikely in 2011 say leading think tank

English UK win High Court battle over Tier 4 student visas

Government limit for Tier 2 (General) of the points-based system

UK Border Agency issue clarification on changes to Tier 1 points

Immigration consultation launched by Migration Advisory Committee

UKBA challenge Appeal Court Tier 1 ruling on AP (Russia) and others

Yes, overseas students are turning to universities as UK government clamp down on private colleges

Immigrant cap will ‘hit growth’ business tells UK Government

New Government-approved shortage occupation lists for Tier 2 of the Points Based System  

UKBA introduce new fee for technical changes on work permit employment notifications  

Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship from an employer does not guarantee you a working visa  

Employing illegal migrants could cost you £10,000 per worker

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