UKBA: Employment restrictions for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals extended until end of 2013

On 23 Nov 2011, Immigration Minister Damian Green announced that controls to restrict Bulgarian and Romanian nationals’ access to the UK labour market will be extended until the end of 2013. 

This means that Romanian and Bulgarian (A2) nationals wanting to work in the UK will, differently from other EU nationals, continue to require permission from the UK Border Agency before they can work in the UK.

Permission to work will usually be given only where the worker has a specific job offer and the work is in skilled employment for which the employer has been unable to find a suitably qualified resident worker. There are also quota-based arrangements for lower skilled jobs in the agricultural and food processing sectors which will stay at the same level for 2012 and 2013.

The minister justified this measure by referring to a recent report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) titled “Review of the transitional restrictions on access of Bulgarian and Romanian nationals to the UK labour market” (published 4th Nov 2011) and said:

‘Maintaining these controls will make sure migration benefits the UK and does not adversely impact on our labour market. The government is radically reforming the immigration system, and has already announced an annual limit on work visas and tough new rules for students to ensure net migration is reduced from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands.

‘The Migration Advisory Committee has made a clear case for extending the existing restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians. This government has also made clear that we will always introduce transitional controls on all new EU member states as a matter of course.’

The news announcement on the UKBA website reads:

A report from the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) looked at the impact on the domestic labour market if the transitional controls were removed. It found that lifting the current restrictions could cause more EU2 nationals to come to the UK to work, particularly in lower skilled occupations where there is greater risk of displacement of resident workers and a negative impact on wages.

However, the MAC report says that

“Many empirical studies find no statistically significant impact of migration on the employment levels of non-migrant workers…. during economic downturns, new immigrants have a small negative short-run impact on the employment rate of natives.”

The Adam Smith Institute blog also points out that

This is not a short-term policy. Unemployment won’t suddenly fall because we stop productive labour coming into the country. As the MAC admits itself, the “impacts would be small in comparison to the ongoing adverse impacts of the recent recession.” They even say that the extent to which keeping the controls will help the labour market is “subject to considerable uncertainty.”


Find out more:

For the full ministerial statement, 23 Nov 2011 click here.

For the MAC report on restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian nationals click here.