Bulgarian and Romanian Work Restrictions Removed

Peninsula Team

July 27 2012

Restrictions in relation to the access of Romanian and Bulgarian nationals to the labour market in Ireland have been eradicated following a government review of the policy which deduced that the continuation of these restrictions was ‘questionable’ in light of the findings of this review .

Although Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007, the Treaties of Accession provided that their citizens’ access to European labour markets would be subject to a seven-year transition period before other Member States would be obliged to permit workers from these countries access to their labour markets.

The rules however have progressively slackened with certain categories of workers having access to work in Ireland, including students, those who are self-sufficient and the self-employed. Outside of these categories, Romanian and Bulgarian citizens are entitled to live in Ireland and recently, an average of 350 work permit applications were approved annually, with less than 450 permit applications received between the two countries.

Although the restrictions are due to automatically lapse on 1st January 2014, in December the EU Commission encouraged Ireland to evaluate the labour market situation on an on-going basis to establish if such restrictions were still warranted. They cited the advantage of such a transitional system as allowing each country to prepare itself gradually for the introduction of Romanian and Bulgarian workers into their respective labour markets and alluded to the lack of disruption caused by the migration of workers of newly joined member states in prior enlargements. (For further information on this you may review our January 2012 edition of the Bottom Line Express where we considered the Commission’s proposals - http://www.peninsula-ie.com/bottomlineexpress/353/An-update-on-work-permit-for-Bulgarian-and-Romanian-Nationals.html)

Factors Leading to the Change

The review that culminated from the Commission’s recommendations identified a strong basis for the removal of such restrictions, taking into account the number of Romanian and Bulgarian citizens residing in Ireland, the number of personal public service numbers (PPSN) assigned to them and the number of work permit applications made. The population of Romanians and Bulgarians living in Ireland has fallen by around 3,000 between 2008 and 2011. An examination of PPSN numbers concluded that the demand for such had subsided considerably and that the level of PPSN numbers ever activated in Ireland was low.  Additionally, while applications for work permits peaked at 3,600 in 2003, they plummeted to just over 500 applications from both countries combined in 2011. The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation stated that this review identified a clear pattern of work permit applications from the countries under discussion that follows closely economic circumstances and prospects of employment.

Further factors considered by the Government included the unlikely increase in the projected number of Romanian and Bulgarians seeking employment in Ireland and similarly the reduction in the numbers of such nationals in Ireland in recent years. They also cited the viability of continuing such a transitional system, the fact that the restrictions on access will expire automatically on 1st January 2014 anyway, and the fact that restrictions have been eliminated by the majority of EU Member States with only 9 of the 27 presently implementing such restrictions. Finally, the Government considered the importance of maintaining positive relationships with the EU Commission and the other member states.

Consequently, the Government has determined that the restrictions on labour market access to Bulgarian and Romanian nationals are no longer required and such workers will now be given the unrestricted right to work in Ireland immediately, 17 months ahead of schedule.

Employers should seek advice from Peninsula Business Services if they have any questions in respect of Bulgarian or Romanian employees or job candidates and should also seek advice on work permit queries in general. Please phone the 24 Hour Advice Service on 01 855 50 50 and one of our experienced advisors will be happy to assist.

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