Employing European workers
This section tells you which workers from European countries can work in the UK without needing to obtain the UK Border Agency's permission, and explains how to check that other European workers have obtained the right to work here.
Nationals of countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland can live and work in the UK without needing to apply under the UK's points-based system. Nationals of the following countries can work here without any restrictions:
- Czech Republic
- Irish Republic
Nationals of Bulgaria and Romania (known as the 'A2 countries') may need to obtain an accession worker card before they can work here, and their employer may need to obtain a work permit for them.
Can you employ Bulgarian and Romanian workers?
If you want to employ Bulgarian and Romanian workers to do seasonal work in the agricultural sector, you can recruit them through the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme.
If you want to employ Bulgarian and Romanian workers to do any other type of work, you must follow the 3 steps below.
1. Check whether the worker needs an accession worker card
A Bulgarian or Romanian national must obtain an accession worker card before they can work for you in the UK, unless they are exempt from the need to obtain a card.
A Bulgarian and Romanian national is exempt if:
- they have permission to remain in the UK which does not place any restrictions on their employment here - for example, if they have temporary or permanent permission to remain here as the partner of a British citizen or a person settled in the UK; or
- they have dual nationality and are also a citizen of another EEA state (including the UK) or Switzerland; or
- they are a family member of a Bulgarian or Romanian national who has an accession worker card; or
- they are a family member of a Bulgarian or Romanian national who is exempt from the need to obtain an accession worker card;*
- they are a family member of an EEA national (except a national of Bulgaria or Romania) who is exercising a Treaty right in the UK; or
- they were given permission to enter or remain in the UK before 1 January 2007, and their passport was endorsed with a condition restricting their employment to a particular employer or category of employment;** or
- they have been working with permission, and without interruption, in the UK for at least 12 months ending on or after 31 December 2006 (for example, they have been working here with an accession worker card for a year, or are in the UK as a student and have been in part-time employment continuously for a year); or
- they hold a registration certificate confirming that they have unrestricted access to the labour market because they are highly skilled; or
- they hold a registration certificate confirming that they are a student with restricted permission to take employment for less than 20 hours per week (during term time); or
- they are in the UK under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) and hold a valid work card issued by a SAWS operator; or
- they are providing services in the UK on behalf of an employer established elsewhere in the EEA; or
- they are a member of a diplomatic mission, the family member of a diplomat, or the family member of anyone who has diplomatic immunity.
* If the Bulgarian or Romanian national is exempt because they are self-employed, self-sufficient or a student, their family members' exemption will end if the Bulgarian or Romanian national stops being self-employed, self-sufficient or a student.
** If their permission expires before they are exempt from needing an accession worker card, or if they want to do work other than the job for which the permission was granted, they will need to obtain an accession worker card.
2. Apply for a work permit (if necessary)
If the Bulgarian or Romanian national requires an accession worker card, you may need to obtain a work permit for them before they can apply for that card.
To find out whether you need to obtain a work permit, and how to obtain one, see the Work permits section.
3. Wait for the worker to obtain their accession worker card (if necessary)
You should not employ the worker until they have received their accession worker card from us. The Applying for an accession worker card page explains how they can apply.
If you need to obtain a work permit for the worker, they cannot apply for an accession worker card until we have sent you a letter of approval for your work permit application.
To find out how soon you can expect us to process an application for an accession worker card, see the Waiting times page.