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European Union - Transitional Measures for EU8 Workers Removed from 1 May 2011

1 May 2011 sees full freedom of movement across the European Union (EU) granted to nationals of the eight countries that joined the EU in 2004 (EU8). These eight countries are: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Note that although Malta and Cyprus also joined the EU in 2004, they were not subject to transitional measures.

László Andor, EU Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, commented, in an address in Berlin on 30 March 2011: "The freedom of movement for workers is a fundamental principle of the European Union. Together with the free movement of goods, services, and capital, it is a cornerstone of the Single Market, and has contributed to the success of the European project."

What Were Transitional Measures?

In the Accession Treaty of 2003, which concerned the implementation of the 2004 EU enlargement, existing EU member states were given the right to impose transitional measures on new EU member states prior to granting full freedom of movement and employment rights. Such transitional measures were limited to seven years in total: an initial period of two years, and extension of a further three years, and then a further and final extension of two years only if proof could be provided that the entrance of workers from the new member states would have a seriously negative impact on the labour market of the host country.

What is Changing Now?

It is now seven years since 1 May 2004, and so all EU member states are legally required to remove any transitional measures in place and grant full freedom of movement to nationals of the EU8 member countries. Several countries removed restrictions over the course of the last seven years, so in fact, the main countries to be affected by the changes are as follows:

  • Austria: Until 1 May 2011, a work permit was required. From 1 May 2011, EU8 nationals will require a local registration and an EU certificate of registration only.
  • Germany: Until 1 May 2011, a work permit was required in addition to the EU residence permit and town hall registration. From 1 May 2011, the work permit requirement will be removed, and EU8 nationals will require the residence permit and town hall registration only.
  • Switzerland: Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but has signed various multilateral treaties that mean that the 1 May 2011 date is significant. EU8 nationals will still require work permits, but these will be administered differently and in accordance with EU quotas. Swiss immigration for EU nationals is not complex, but process varies depending on location of employment contract: for further information, contact Peregrine, and we will be happy to refer you to an established Swiss immigration provider.
  • United Kingdom: The UK administered work permission for EU8 nationals via the Worker Registration Scheme. This scheme in effect gave EU nationals the right to work in the UK, but required them to register; something which nationals from "older" EU member states were not required to do. The Worker Registration Scheme will be removed from 1 May 2011.

Bulgaria and Romania

Note that Bulgaria and Romania did not join the EU until 2007, and transitional measures for freedom of movement for nationals from these countries remain in place across much of the EU, and will do until 31 December 2013. 1 May 2011 will not change anything for these nationals.

Registration Requirements

It is important to note that, even where full freedom of movement has been granted, many EU member countries still require EU residents to take action: for examples, registering at the local authorities, notifying the labour authorities, or obtaining a residence certificate. Requirements are not onerous but it is important to be aware of them and to complete necessary formalities. Peregrine is happy to provide further advice on this matter.

Action Items

For employers, this is good news - the removal of work permit requirements means less administration for you.

  • Note that freedom of movement across the EU will be granted for EU8 nationals from 1 May 2011
  • Note that registration formalities may still need to be completed; contact Peregrine for further information.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this immigration alert has been abridged from laws, court decisions, and administrative rulings and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the applicability of this information, please contact Peregrine © 2021 Peregrine Immigration Management Ltd.