When a country joins the European Union (EU), the general rule is that the nationals of that Member State will be able to move to, live and work in other EU countries. However, it is open to individual Member States to set restrictions on such free movement for a limited time.
Croatia joined the EU in July 2013, but the UK has since then set restrictions on Croatian nationals coming to and working here. Croatia was not the first new EU country to be subject to such control measures; Bulgarian and Romanian nationals also had to wait before being given full access to the UK labour market after they became part of the EU.
Essentially, until now, Croatia has been treated in the same way as non-EU countries, namely that in most cases a Croatian national would have to obtain permission to work in the UK (in the form of a visa) before being able to do so. Generally, that would be done through the points-based sponsorship system, which was not open to employers without a sponsor licence.
It was open to the UK to extend the above restrictions for another two years, but the Minister of State for Immigration (Caroline Nokes) has however just announced that they will be lifted with effect from 1 July 2018.
In her statement on the decision, Ms Nokes referred to there being around only 10,000 Croatian residents in the UK in 2016, as well as the recent decline in EU net migration, which was most likely caused by Brexit. The UK is also currently enjoying low unemployment rates, and taking all of those points into account meant that there was little justification to merit further restrictions on Croatia.
The UK’s decision means that Croatian nationals will now be able to work in the UK with the same rights as other EU nationals, at least until such time as our departure from the EU takes effect.
Of course, Croatians will still have to evidence their right to work in the UK in the same way as other workers. As always, we recommend that employers follow the three-step process of obtain, check and retain.
Employers should obtain an original copy of any document evidencing a right to work in the UK, which in most cases will be a passport, unless the individual is here on a visa. The document should be checked for any discrepancies and that the description (including date of birth) matches up with the individual. A copy should be taken, with the date of the copy being indicated alongside the signature of the person taking it. Finally, the document should be retained for two years after the end of the individual’s employment.
We still do not have absolute certainty as to what the outcome of Brexit will be for EU nationals either currently living and working here or intending to do so. The likelihood is that EU workers will have to apply to remain, either temporarily or permanently, depending on how long they have been here.
The good news for Croatians is that they will now be subject to the same rules as their EU neighbours.
If you have any questions on any of the issues mentioned in the above article, please contact Seanpaul McCahill.