Rules for European workers in the UK

22nd June 2011, Comments 0 comments

The immigration rules for European or EU citizens wishing to work in the UK are not as straightforward as you would expect. Immigration Matters reports.

The immigration rules for European or EU citizens wishing to work in the UK are not as straightforward as you would expect considering we are all supposed to be part of the happy ‘one market' European family.

Free movement of labour conditions have varied from country to country since the EU expansion of 2004 when former Eastern Bloc countries, known as the A8 nations, were admitted to the European Union.

Whilst all EU citizens were free to travel around to EU area, only Ireland, Sweden and the UK allowed full ‘free movement of Labour' to the ‘new kids on the bloc' such as Poland, Slovakia, Latvia and so on. See Free Movement of EU nationals explained.

Under European Union rules that came into force on 1 May 2011, countries like Germany were forced to open its doors fully to A8 jobseekers from Poland and other Eastern European nations for the first time.

EU Workers in the UK

According to, if you are a European worker and want to come to the UK to work your new employer will need to know if it is legal for you to do so. Find out if you will have to register and what proof you will need to show an employer.

Coming to work in the UK says that ‘nearly' all European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals are free to enter and live in the United Kingdom without the need to apply for permission. In other words, everyone except Bulgarians and Romanians.

EEA countries

The EEA countries are:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

European Union member states

If you are from one of the new ‘A2' European Union (EU) member states, either Bulgaria or Romania, then you may need to register or ask permission.

If you are a Bulgarian or Romanian national you may be subject to worker authorisation requirements. This means that you need authorisation from the UK Border Agency before accepting or starting any employment in the UK.

The UK Border Agency says that ‘most categories of employment will require your employer to obtain a work permit before you apply for an accession worker card'

However, in certain permit-free categories you will only have to apply for an ‘accession worker card'. These categories are:

  • airport-based operational ground staff of an overseas airline
  • au pair placements
  • domestic workers in a private household
  • ministers of religion, missionaries or members of a religious order
  • overseas government employment
  • postgraduate doctors, dentists and trainee general practitioners
  • private servants in a diplomatic household
  • representatives of an overseas newspaper; news agency or broadcasting agency
  • sole representatives
  • teachers or language assistants on an approved exchange scheme
  • overseas qualified nurses coming for a period of supervised practice

You do not need authorisation if you are self-employed - i.e. you are running a business as a genuine self-employed person, not working as a waiter for one restaurant on a ‘self-employed' basis to get around the rules. 

Read more on the Immigration Matters website here.

Immigration Matters is the UK's leading online immigration resource.  Visit their home page here.

Charles Kelly / Immigration Matters

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