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Page last updated at 12:49 GMT, Friday, 17 April 2009 13:49 UK

EU free movement of labour map

Belgium plans to lift restrictions on workers from most of the new EU member states - the latest to do so in the 27-nation bloc.

But it will keep restrictions in place for workers from Bulgaria and Romania, the newest EU members, which joined on 1 January 2007.

LABOUR MARKET ACCESS
Subject to restrictions : Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia (all 2004); Bulgaria, Romania (2007)
Open doors for 2004 entrants : Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, UK
Open doors for 2007 entrants : Finland, Sweden, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain

In May 2004 eight other former communist states joined the EU - and their workers still face barriers in some European countries.

Some of the countries which imposed no curbs on workers from those eight countries - or lifted them in May 2006 - imposed curbs on Bulgarians and Romanians.

But free movement of workers is a fundamental right in the EU. So the curbs can be maintained for a maximum of seven years - until May 2011 in the case of workers from the eight countries that joined in 2004, and until 2014 in the case of workers from Bulgaria and Romania.

Most of the countries which threw open their doors to Bulgarian and Romanian workers joined the EU in 2004.

Click on the map below to check the state of play in each of the older EU member states.

AustriaBelgiumFinlandSwedenDenmarkIrelandUKNetherlandsGermanyLuxembourgPortugalFranceSpainItalyGreece

Austria

Workers from the 10 former communist states have to apply for work permits. Like Germany, Austria justifies the restrictions by pointing to its problems with unemployment and the fact that it is geographically close to the new members. There are also curbs on employers posting workers to Austria in certain sectors.


Belgium

Belgium imposed restrictions on the eight former communist states which joined the EU in 2004, but it plans to lift them in May 2009.

It has already made it easier to get work permits in areas of the economy where jobs are hard to fill. For example, the Brussels region asked for privileged treatment for nurses, plumbers, electricians, car mechanics, builders, architects, accountants, engineers and IT workers.

Restrictions were also imposed on Bulgaria and Romania, and at least until 2011 their workers will still have to get work permits.


Denmark

Denmark allows workers from the eight states that joined in 2004 to look for a job for six months. If they find one, they can have residence and work permits. The restrictions also apply to Bulgaria and Romania.

A work permit is issued on condition that the worker has a residence permit, that the work is full-time and complies with normal labour agreements and standards.

Denmark plans to lift its restrictions on workers from the new member states in May 2009.


Finland

Finland lifted all restrictions on workers from the eight 2004 entrants on 1 May 2006. Previously, citizens of the new member states could get a job without a work permit only if the employment office decided there was no-one else available on the Finnish labour market.

It has imposed no restrictions on workers from Bulgaria and Romania.


France

France imposed restrictions on workers from Bulgaria and Romania, as well as the eight former communist countries which joined the EU in 2004.

But on 1 July 2008 - a year earlier than planned - France opened its labour market to workers from the 2004 accession countries. That move coincided with France assuming the EU's six-month rotating presidency.

Workers from Bulgaria and Romania are eligible for fast-track work permits if they apply for any of a list of 62 jobs where recruitment is a problem. These include restaurant services, industrial maintenance, construction, public works and health.


Germany

Like Austria, Germany has insisted on continuing restrictions on workers from the former communist states, beyond its eastern borders. Workers from these countries will have to apply for work permits before 2011. However, Germany issued 500,000 of these permits between 2004 and 2006.

"In practice Germany has given as many people work as other big countries," EU Employment Commissioner Vladimir Spidla said in May 2006. Germany has also imposed restrictions on workers from Bulgaria and Romania, but it has pledged to ease access for highly skilled workers from the new member states.


Greece

Greece dropped all restrictions on 2004 entrants, as of 1 May 2006. It introduced some restrictions on workers from Bulgaria and Romania, but lifted them in January 2009.


Ireland

The Republic of Ireland was one of three countries which opened up its labour markets to all new member states immediately in 2004. It did, however, introduce new rules whereby immigrants from all EU countries - not just the new members - would be ineligible for benefits for two years. Immigrants from the UK are the only exception.

However, Ireland introduced a work permit scheme for workers from Bulgaria and Romania, after it experienced an influx of an estimated 200,000 workers from Central Europe between 2004 and 2006.


Italy

Italy initially imposed restrictions on 2004 entrants, including a special entry quota, but has now dropped them all.

It introduced restrictions on some categories of workers from Bulgaria and Romania. But work permits are not required in agriculture, hotel and tourism, domestic work, care services, construction, engineering, managerial and highly skilled work.


Luxembourg

In November 2007 Luxembourg lifted restrictions for workers from the 2004 accession countries.

Luxembourg simplified work permit procedures for Bulgarian and Romanian workers in agriculture, hotel and catering and certain areas of finance.


The Netherlands

The Dutch government lifted all restrictions from 1 May 2007 for workers from the 2004 accession countries.

For workers from Bulgaria and Romania, a work permit will be issued whenever there are no suitable workers available in the Netherlands or other EU member states and the employer can fulfil the norms for working conditions and accommodation.


Portugal

Portugal dropped all restrictions on workers from the 2004 entrants on 1 May 2006. Between 2004 and 2006 it had a 6,500 annual limit on immigrant workers of all nationalities.

Bulgarians and Romanians had to apply for work permits until January 2009, when Portugal dropped that requirement.


Spain

Spain dropped all restrictions on workers from the 2004 entrants on 1 May 2006.

Spain operated a work permit system for workers from Bulgaria and Romania for the first two years after their accession, but dropped that requirement in January 2009. Some 400,000 Romanians are already working legally in the country.


Sweden

Sweden was one of the three countries, along with the UK and Ireland, which chose to apply no restrictions to workers from the new EU member states. It has taken the same liberal line with regard to workers from Bulgaria and Romania.


UK

The UK was one of the three countries, along with Ireland and Sweden, to place no restrictions on workers from the 2004 entrants. However, workers have to register and only become eligible for benefits such as Jobseeker's Allowance and income support after working continuously in the UK for at least a year.

After an unexpectedly large influx of workers from Central Europe - an estimated 600,000 in two years - the UK announced that it would impose restrictions on workers from Bulgaria and Romania. Up to 20,000 are allowed to take low-skilled jobs in agriculture or food processing, high-skilled workers are able to apply for work permits to perform a skilled job, and students are able to work part-time. Self-employed people from Bulgaria and Romania are already allowed to work in the UK, and this will continue.



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