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European workers in the UK

If you are a European worker and want to come to the UK to work your new employer will need to know if it is legal for you to do so. Find out if you will have to register and what proof you will need to show an employer.

Coming to work in the UK

Nearly all European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals are free to enter and live in the United Kingdom without the need to apply for permission.

EEA countries

The EEA countries are:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

European Union member states

If you are from one of the new European Union (EU) member states, either Bulgaria or Romania, then you may need to register or ask permission.

If you are a Bulgarian or Romanian national you may be subject to worker authorisation requirements. This means that you need authorisation from the UK Border Agency before accepting or starting any employment in the UK.

You do not need authorisation if you are self-employed.

Exceptions to worker registration and authorisation

There are a few other circumstances when you wouldn't need to register if you are from Bulgaria or Romania. To find out about the exceptions click on the link below.

EEA students

If your home country is in the EEA, or you are a Swiss national, you can work without restrictions unless you are a Bulgarian or Romanian national.

Students from Bulgaria and Romania

If you are a student from Bulgaria or Romania you will need permission from the UK Border Agency to work. You will be allowed to work for up to 20 hours per week and full time during vacations or if you are on a vocational course.

Family members

If you are a family member of an EEA national you may be able to work in the UK without restriction so long as the family member is ‘exercising a Treaty right in the UK’. Generally, this means that they are either employed, self-employed, self-sufficient or a student. You may not have this right if the family member is a Bulgarian or Romanian national.

If you are married to an EEA national then they are one of your family members. A family member of an EEA national can also be the parent, grandparent or child under 21 of the EEA national, or their spouse or civil partner.

If the EEA national is in the UK as a student, only their spouse, civil partner or dependent children can be family members.

Other non-EU relatives (including extended family members such as partners, brothers, sisters and cousins) do not have an automatic right to work in the United Kingdom. If you are in this category, you may need to apply for a residence card before you have a right to work here under European law.

If you are a family member of a national from Bulgaria or Romania your ability to work and what documents you can apply for will depend on the status of your European sponsor.

What proof an employer will need

If you are from an EEA country, you will need to show a prospective employer one of the following:

  • your passport
  • your national identity card

If you are from Bulgaria or Romania and need permission to work from the UK Border Agency you will need to show your work document.

Employers can face unlimited fines if they employ illegal workers, so they need to make sure that no one they employ is working in the UK illegally. However, to protect themselves against discrimination laws they should treat all job applicants equally.

  • Source Direct Gov
  • Last Updated: 06 Jan 2012