Today, The Guardian carries the news of the unusual discrimation against Bulgarian and Romanian students who are prevented from easily working in the UK during their studies. Click here.
This situation arises from a transitional arrangement put in place when Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007. Unlike other EU citizens, Bulgarians and Romanians do not gain the right to work in the UK until 2014, however they benefit from other rights of freedom of movement. For example, unlike let us say a Serbian citizen, a Romanian is allowed to reside (without working) in the UK and is allowed to study, paying Home/EU fees rather than overseas fees. The limit on work was fixed for political reasons because of the unpopularity of free movement of workers that took effect for the citizens of states like Poland that joined the EU in 2004. And it was only political because the population of Bulgaria and Romania is far lower than the population of the 10 states that joined in 2004. Put another way, the effect on the British labour market of allowing free movement of labour for Bulgarians and Romanians in 2007 would have been negligible and is in any case delayed only until 2014. Why not just allow it in 2007?
The situation for Bulgarian and Romanian students is dire for the following reasons. While other EU students, for example from France or Poland, have the unlimited right to work and study in the UK, non-EU students, for example from Croatia or Serbia, require study visas. If the latter get a study visa, it automatically provides them with the right to work during their studies on a part-time basis of up to 20 hours per week. Because the right to study for Bulgarians and Romanians is unlimited (as EU citizens), they don’t need a study visa – in fact they couldn’t get one even if they wanted it. Because they don’t have study visas and due to the limit on employing Bulgarians and Romanians, they can’t work without a work permit issued by the UKBA. To repeat Serbian or Turkish students in the UK can work for 20 hours without any permit from the UKBA.
The next step in this story is that the same rule will apply to Croatian citizens when Croatia joins in 2013 and will run for seven years. This is patently absurd since the population of Croatia is 10% that of Poland and the impact of allowing Croats free movement of labour into the UK would be precisely nil.