The Home Office yesterday laid before Parliament The European Union (Croatia Accession) Bill in advance of Croatia officially becoming a Member of the European Union on 1st July 2013.
Formerly part of Yugoslavia, Croatia gained international recognition by the United Nations in 1992, and is considered by the International Monetary Fund to be one of the fastest developing emerging economies in Europe.
A number of arrangements have been announced which will give Croatian nationals access to the UK labour market, but there will be restrictions. The Government has announced that it intends to continue to subject Croatian nationals to employment restrictions under the existing Immigration Rules in the same way that it does for third country workers.
Croatian nationals will be entitled to obtain permission to work in skilled occupations as they are now, but unless individuals are exempted from restrictions or the employment sought is incidental to the exercise of another Treaty right (ie. a Croatian in full time study seeking part time work to support themselves), they will not be given permission to carry out low skilled work.
It is presently the case that Croatian nationals are subject to the Immigration Act 1971. Therefore leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom is subject to meeting the requirements of the Points Based System (PBS).
Following accession in 2013, this will no longer be the case. Croatian nationals will be free to enter and remain in the United Kingdom for up to 3 months, but will not be free to work.
Essentially, this means that Croatian workers will continue to require sponsorship by employers under the PBS but will not require to be granted leave to enter/remain. They will instead be required to apply for an Accession Worker Registration Certificate in the same way as is currently the case for Romanian and Bulgarian nationals.
The UKBA plans to process these applications as now – 95% within 6 months.
Family member of Croatian nationals working will not themselves be required to obtain work authorisation. This position matches that currently in operation, whereby dependants of those admitted for the purpose of work are not themselves granted leave for the primary purpose of work.