On the 1st of January 2014, work restrictions for Bulgarians and Romanians were lifted, and they now have the same rights to work in the UK as other EU citizens.
The right to visa-free travel to the UK was granted to citizens of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 when the countries joined the EU. But legal restrictions were immediately placed on the type of work contracts they could accept in the UK, as well as in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Malta, Spain and The Netherlands. In the UK, Bulgarians and Romanians could only work if they were filling specialist posts that could not be filled by British workers, were self-employed, or in possession of a solid job offer.
But on 1 January 2014, the maximum limitations extension period expired and previous work restrictions no longer apply in any of these countries.
In the UK, Bulgarians and Romanians will now also be entitled to claim benefits and NHS care that other EU citizens are entitled to.
Amid fears of a major influx, David Cameron has stipulated that he wants to ensure people come to the UK for the right reasons, and not just to claim the benefits.
While not making any official predictions, government has admitted concern about the impact an influx of migrants could have on service delivery, particularly in the areas of housing and health. To combat this, various possibilities are being explored:
- The feasibility of linking benefits to contributions is being examined
- David Cameron has said that the system of charging foreign governments for NHS treatment given to overseas nationals must improve
- Migrants could be omitted from council house waiting lists for at least two years, while a residency test is being developed
- Migrants will need to prove that they are genuine employment seekers to receive any benefits
- They will also have to prove that they can speak English
- Measures to prevent out-of-work benefits being paid to immigrants in the first three months of their stay are also being examined.
Government has also said they’ll use this opportunity to examine the benefit rules for all (European Economic Area) EEA migrants.
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