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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 April, 2005, 22:22 GMT 23:22 UK
Who are the "A8 countries"?
Panorama: Britain's new migrants
Wieslaw, a Polish economic migrant
BBC One, Sunday, 24 April 2005 at 22:20 BST

With the expansion of the European Union in May 2004, the political language gained yet another acronym - the "A8". It refers not to the French motorway running east from Marseille, but the eight poor countries from Eastern Europe who joined the EU in the largest single expansion since its creation in 1957.

It's a list that makes for perfect pub quiz material. Everyone's heard about their friends who have just had the Polish plumber in to fix up the bathroom or been served a latte by a Latvian on their way to work. Here is the full list of the A8 countries:

  • Czech Republic
  • Estonia
  • Hungary
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Poland
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia

What makes the A8 countries different from Malta and Cyprus, both of whom joined the EU in the same round of expansion, is that due to the low income levels in these countries - per capita they are around 40% of the European average - it was feared that their accession would lead to migration on a massive scale, as their citizens sought to benefit from the better wages available elsewhere within the European Economic Area.

While A8 nationals have the right to travel in the EU, many European countries close their labour markets to them. Britain decided to allow A8 nationals access to the labour market, under certain conditions.

A8 nationals coming to the United Kingdom are legally allowed to work, but to do so they must ensure they are registered with the Government's Worker Registration Scheme. They are entitled to some basic benefits, such as Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Tax Credits, whilst they are working provided they are registered.

Only after they have worked legally for at least a12 month period, without a break of more than 30 days, can they claim social security benefits such as Jobseeker's Allowance.

Otherwise, A8 nationals who are work-seekers must be self-sufficient and are unlikely to be eligible for income-related benefits.

Panorama's Britain's New Migrants is broadcast on BBC One on Sunday 24 April 2005 at 22:20 BST

Britain's new migrants
20 Apr 05 |  Panorama
Migrant stories
24 Apr 05 |  Panorama
Your comments
24 Apr 05 |  Panorama
Programme transcript
24 Apr 05 |  Panorama
Immigration: Party policies
15 Feb 05 |  UK Election 2005



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