UK work restrictions for Bulgarians and Romanians to continue

On 18 December 2008 the Government announced that for the time being Bulgarians and Romanians will not get free access to the British labour market. It is interesting to note that Bulgarians and Romanians can enter the UK under an European Community Association Agreement on a self employed basis to do almost any type of work.

This decision was taken following advice from the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). Nationals from those former Eastern Bloc Countries that joined the EU before Bulgaria and Romania joined in January 2007 can still work freely in the UK.

Skilled and Highly Skilled workers from Bulgaria and Romania will probably come under Tier 1, Tier 2 or the European Community Association Agreement; Lower skilled workers can come under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) and the Sector Based Scheme (SBS) for food processing or in some circumstances under the EC Association Agreement.

Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said:

"It is essential that only those we need can come here to work and that is why we have decided to continue restricting the work that Bulgarian and Romanians can do here."

"This is a prudent decision that will ensure the UK continues to benefit from the positive economic contribution Bulgarian and Romanian workers make, while protecting British workers and making sure the numbers coming here are managed in the national interest."

"We have already suspended tier three of the points based system to stop low skilled migrants from outside the European Economic Area entering the UK."

At the same time the Home Office increased the quota for the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme; The advice from MAC was that there were skills shortages in the agricultural industry. Bulgarian and Romanian workers can work in farming and related work.

In 2009 the number of Bulgarians and Romanians admitted under the scheme goes up from 16,250 places to 21,250. The quota for the Sector Based Scheme for food processing currently only for Romanian and Bulgarian workers will stay at 3,500.

National Farmers' Union horticulture board chairman Richard Hirst said:

"We welcome the announcement by the Home Office that there will be an increase in the number of SAWS permits. The decision reflects the compelling evidence put by the industry that there is insufficient seasonal labour to pick and harvest crops."