UK immigration to extend work visa restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian workers

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UK immigration Minister Damien Green announced on Wednesday that UK immigration will keep work restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians wishing to work in Britain until the end of 2013. According to the statement, the restrictions will keep more jobs available for unemployed domestic workers.

The restrictions, which have been in force since the two countries joined the EU in 2007, only allow Romanian and Bulgarian nationals to work in the UK if they meet the requirements of a particular visa category. It is interesting to note that a number of visa categories that were discontinued for non-EU citizens are still available for Romanians and Bulgarians; The highly-skilled migrant programme, the work permit scheme and the season agricultural workers scheme.

"Maintaining these controls will make sure migration benefits the UK and does not adversely impact our labour market," said Green.

The decision means UK immigration will maintain restrictions on visas Romanian and Bulgarian workers for the maximum seven year period allowed under EU law. In 2013, the UK will be forced to lift the restrictions.

"The Migration Advisory Committee has made a clear case for extending the existing restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians. This government has also made clear that we will always introduce transitional controls on all new EU member states as a matter of course," said Green.

A report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published on 4 November recommended the restrictions be extended, citing the negative impact on the domestic labour market if the transitional controls were removed. According to the report, the UK labour market was in a state of "serious disturbance" and if they lifted the current restrictions it could negatively impact the labour market.

"Removing the current restrictions would cause migration to increase and cause those who currently come to the UK for temporary purposes to seek more permanent employment in the UK," Green added.

Currently, Romanians and Bulgarians looking to work in the UK can apply under the Highly Skilled Migrant Program or the work permit scheme. In order to obtain an HSMP visa applicant must receive a score of at least 75 points in the points-based assessment. Those with say a master degree in Business Administration gain more points under HSMP.

The Business and Commercial work permit arrangement allow UK employers to employ people from Bulgaria and Romania to fill highly skilled jobs that cannot be filled by a resident worker. In this case, the post being filled must require a UK degree-level qualification or a relevant higher national diploma level qualification or three years relevant full-time work experience, or be on the shortage occupation list. There are also a number of other work permit schemes available to Bulgarians and Romanians.

If you meet the highly skilled migrant person criteria, you do not need a work permit, but you will still need to apply for a visa. Additionally, Bulgarians and Romanians can apply for an UK visa to enter the UK under the European Community Association Agreement on a self-employed basis without needing to obtain a work permit.

In addition, the annual quota of 21,250 work visas for the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme will remain at the same level for 2012 and 2013. The scheme is designed to allow farmers and growers in the UK to hire low-skilled overseas workers to complete short-term agricultural work.

The extension of the restrictions does not affect the position of those who have already received visas or work permits to work in the UK.

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