Immigration Alert: Accession of Croatia to the European Union

25 October 2012

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has announced that it is expected that Croatia will join the European Union (EU) on 1 July 2013. It has stated its commitment to applying transitional restrictions on labour market access to nationals of any future Member States of the EU as a matter of course and therefore restrictions will be applied to nationals of Croatia. On 18 October 2012 it published a Statement of Intent with regard to the transitional arrangements which are proposed governing Croatian nationals’ access to the labour market. In summary:-

  • Work sponsorship will be governed by the Points Based System for those wishing to take on skilled occupations in the UK; this requirement will cease after a period of 12 months employment in the UK
  • Family members will not be subject to the work authorisation requirement
  • The requirements to meet the skills test will be based on the Immigration Rules in place as at December 2011 and therefore the skill level under Tier 2 will be NQF 4+
  • Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) will count against the annual Tier 2 General limit however Croatians will be given priority over third country nationals in the event that the limit is over-subscribed
  • There will be no requirement to obtain entry clearance prior to arrival but an application for an Accession Worker registration certificate (AWRC) will be required (this can take up to 6 months to be issued based on prevailing service standards but this is currently being reviewed)
  • The cooling off period will not apply and therefore on the expiry of the AWRC, if the Croatian national leaves the UK, there is no requirement to spend 12 months outside the UK
  • No permission will be given to take up low skilled work under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme nor the Sectors Based Scheme but the UKBA has asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to undertake an impact assessment on the relevant sectors

Exceptions

The 12 month rule will apply so that work restrictions fall away after continuous employment of 12 months. For Croatians who are legally working in the UK on the date of accession and have done so for a continuous period of at least 12 months, they will no longer be subject to work restrictions. The same will apply to those who work legally for an uninterrupted period of 12 months falling partly or wholly after the date of accession.

Furthermore, workers posted to the UK from a business established in another member state will not be subject to restrictions, nor will those Croatians wishing to establish a business in the UK.

Finally, graduates will be able to obtain a registration certificate confirming free access to the labour market provided they meet the criteria for a grant of leave under the previous Tier 1 (Post Study) category.

For more information, please contact a member of the immigration team.

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