Labour Research February 2012

Law Matters

Curbs on working in UK

The coalition government is extending work restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian nationals for another two years until 2013.

Normally, the only restriction on nationals of countries within the European Economic Area settling in the UK is that they must be able to demonstrate that they can support themselves and their families without becoming an unreasonable burden on public funds.

Since Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007, individuals from there have been able to freely enter the UK. And, under the current rules, nationals from the two countries may be self-employed in the UK without first gaining permission. However, if they wish to work as an employee, they must first obtain permission from the UK Border Agency, (unless they are exempt from this requirement, for example, as a spouse of British citizen).

The decision to exclude them is in stark contrast with the way nationals from other countries have been treated by the UK. Workers from the likes of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia, have all had free access to the UK labour market since 2004.

At the end of 2011, the government announced that it has opted to perpetuate this different approach to Romanian and Bulgarian nationals. This means individuals from those two countries will continue to be prohibited from working in the UK, other than in the agricultural and food processing sectors or as self-employed people, until the end of 2013.