On 3 November 2009 the UK Government announced that restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK will continue until the end of 2011. In 2004 when nationals of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined the EU, their nationals could work freely in the UK. The UK was the only major EU Country to allow nationals of these Countries free access to the UK Labour market. However, in 2007 restrictions were placed on nationals of Bulgaria and Romania working in the UK when they joined the EU. These restrictions were extended in December 2008 and have now been extended again. Immigration Minister Phil Woolas had the following comments to make:
"Given the current labour market situation, it is important that we continue to give weight to the need to protect the interests of the resident workforce," Woolas said. "The restrictions ... will continue until the end of 2011."
Romanians and Bulgarians will have the following options for entry to the UK:
- Entry as a self employed person under an European Association Agreement. This allows entry for any type of work as long as your business is viable.
- Under the tier visa points based system.
- Under a work permit quota scheme in each of the next two years for 25,000 low skilled Bulgarians and Romanians to work in the agriculture and the food processing industry.
While there have been improvements in the UK economy employment levels in the UK are not at a high enough level it is felt to allow Bulgarians and Romanians free access to the UK Labour market. Immigration is a controversial topic at the moment; The British Government has to be seen to be taking steps to limit levels of immigration. Despite this the UK remains a popular destination for immigration and in general there is no quota on the number of immigrants allowed into the UK.
EU members are allowed to keep restrictions in place for Bulgarians and Romanians until 31 December 2011 and for another two years if it would cause a "serious disturbance" to the labour market.