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Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union (EU) on 1 January 2007. From that date Romanians and Bulgarians have the right to travel throughout the EU. However, employers should note that the Government has decided to limit access to the UK’s labour market for citizens of both countries.

Low-skilled workers from Romania and Bulgaria are restricted to existing quota schemes to fill vacancies in the agricultural and food processing sectors. There is to be no net increase in these existing schemes and workers are required to have an authorisation document.

Skilled workers will continue to be allowed to work in the UK, along with their dependants, if they obtain a work permit or qualify under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme.

Bulgarian and Romanian students will continue to be allowed to study in the UK and to seek part-time employment during their stay but will need a work authorisation document to do so. Self-employed workers will continue to be able to work here, but must be able to prove that they are genuinely self-employed.

These new arrangements will be reviewed within 12 months.

Employers and employees have a duty to abide by the new rules and it is an offence, punishable by an on the spot fine of £1,000, for a Bulgarian or Romanian national to work in the UK illegally. Employers who do not comply with the rules can be subject to a fine of up to £5,000.

The Worker Registration Scheme (WRS) will continue to apply to nationals of the eight central European countries which joined the EU in 2004. The WRS will not apply to Bulgarian and Romanian nationals.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.