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UNITED KINGDOM: Accession of Croatia to the European Union

The United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) has announced that Croatia is expected to join the European Union (EU) on July 1, 2013. UKBA has stated its commitment to applying transitional restrictions on labor market access to nationals of any future EU Member States as a matter of course, and therefore restrictions will be applied to nationals of Croatia. On October 18, 2012, UKBA published a Statement of Intent on the proposed transitional arrangements governing Croatian nationals' access to the UK labor 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 end after a period of 12 months of employment in the UK
  • Family members will not be subject to the work authorization requirement
  • The requirement to meet the skills test will be based on the Immigration Rules in place as of December 2011 and the skill level under Tier 2 therefore will be NQF 4+
  • A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) will count against the annual Tier 2 General limit, but Croatians will be given priority over third-country nationals if the limit is oversubscribed.
  • There will be no requirement to obtain entry clearance before 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 upon the expiration 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 or 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 end after continuous employment of 12 months. 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 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 unrestricted access to the labor market provided they meet the criteria for a grant of leave under the previous Tier 1 (Post-Study) category.

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