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EU - Romania and Bulgaria EU migration restrictions lifted

02 January 2014

From 1st January, citizens of Romania and Bulgaria can work without restrictions across the European Union. Transitional controls were imposed by some member states on nationals of the two countries when they joined the EU in 2007, with their rights to work and claim benefits limited for the first seven years of EU membership.

Romanians and Bulgarians were able to travel to other EU states without a visa after the two countries joined the bloc. However, nine of the 26 other member states imposed temporary restrictions on the kind of jobs they could take. France, the Netherlands, and Belgium required that they obtain work permits. In Britain, prospective employers had to apply for work permits and Bulgarians and Romanians migrants for an "accession worker card". Low-skilled workers were restricted to existing quota schemes in the agricultural and food processing sectors.

Despite fears from some quarters of the UK that public services could be overwhelmed, László Andor, the European Commissioner for Employment, said that Britain was unlikely to experience a large influx because three million Bulgarians and Romanians had already settled in other EU countries.

Tjobs, a Romania jobs website, has recorded a steady drop in the number of Romanians who are seeking to travel to the UK. There were 144,617 candidates for the jobs advertised in 2011, 96,867 candidates in 2012 and 62,618 candidates this year. “Most of the Romanians choose to leave the country for economic reasons and according to our statistics more than 80 per cent are planning to work abroad for a few years, save money and come back to buy a house and maybe start a small business," Raluca Stefanescu, of Tjobs, said.

Ms Stefanescu agreed with László Andor’s statement, adding that fears of a big influx were misplaced because many of the Romanians who wanted to come to the UK or any part of the EU were already there. She forecast that the number of Romanian migrants to the UK would fall in the future, although she admitted that demand remained high in the British healthcare sector.

Valentin Porubin-Lazurca, managing director of VPL Healthcare in Bucharest, one of the recruitment agencies that finds nurses, doctors and pharmacists for the UK said, ‘of course we depend on demand for healthcare professionals," he said. “More and more nurses are about to retire in the UK and they will have to recruit from overseas just to cover the replacement rate. At the same time there are too few future graduates in the UK. The NHS needs one nurse for every eight beds so it is not rocket science that there will definitely be a need for highly skilled immigrants."

With minor exceptions, nationals of countries in the European Economic Area (‘EEA’) and Switzerland can generally live and work without any restrictions in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Irish Republic, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. However, Switzerland has continued to impose restrictions on Bulgaria and Romanian workers until 1 May 2016 at the earliest, and may invoke the safeguard clause until 1 May 2019.

Most large European countries still restrict the movement of workers from Croatia though the expected date for lifting of such restrictions is 1 July 2015. Today, Croatians are not restricted from working in Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and a number of other smaller European countries.

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