Bulgarian & Romanian Citizens - no more restrictions on work from January 2014!

Including some basic info on applying for Permanent Residency and British Citizenship

Under the EU law there were separate arrangements for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals before 1 January 2014. Those restrictions have now been lifted and Bulgarian/Romanian nationals can work freely in the UK.

It is important to remember that if you are applying for Permanent Residency or British Citizenship, and your qualifying period includes time spent in the UK before January 2014, you still have to show you had complied with the applicable restrictions at the time. 

Here is a summary of rules which were in place before 2014:

Yellow Registration Certificates were issued to people who are not employed: students, self-employed, self-sufficient,  retired etc but not to those wishing to work as an employee. 

Self-employed, self-sufficient, retired people who are Bulgarian/Romanian nationals did not have to apply for a Yellow Certificate. It was voluntary.

Students could study without applying for a Yellow certificate, however, if they wanted to work part-time while studying then they must have applied for a Yellow Certificate before beginning work. Most students were allowed to work 20 hours per week. 

Blue Registration Certificates were issued to people who wanted to work as an employee (to get a job) but who did not require authorisation. 

Examples when a Bulgarian/Romanian national could qualify:

  • obtaining a degree or post-graduate diploma from a UK university within 12 months after completion;
  • qualifying under the rules of the old HSMP category (Highly Skilled Migrants Programme) which is still open to only Bulgarian and Romanian nationals. You can apply for this category while outside the UK, wait for your application to be approved and then come to the UK. You'd have to send your passport or ID card to the UK Border Agency (or to us if we are helping you) but you don't have to be present in the UK. Many Bulgarian and Romanian citizens have both passport and a ID card, so it is possible to apply with an ID card and travel with passport in the meantime, if required.
  • having worked in the UK, legally, for continuous 12 months, this includes part-time work while studying.
  • having a UK visa issued before 2007 and that visa allows to work.
  • being a family member of a Bulgarian/Romanian national and you are an EU national yourself (subject to nationality in certain cases). 

Purple Registration Certificates, also known as an Accession Worker Card. This was the only way to work as an employee if you could not qualify for any other 2 certificates above.

A most common way was to have a job offer from an employer who met the requirements or a Work Permit arrangement under the old rules (before Points-Based System). It normally meant an employer had to advertise this vacancy and demonstrate that they could not find a settled worker, so had to employ a foreign worker.

After working for 12 months on the Accession Worker Card you would not need authorisation anymore and could change jobs.


You can apply for a permanent visa stamp (equivalent of Indefinite Leave to Remain) after 5 years of 'excercising European treaty rights', ie after 5 years of working, studying, being self-employed or or self-sufficient (or a combination of above).

Did you know there is no obligation to apply for Permanent Residency? This status comes automatically, after exercising European Treaty rights in the UK for 5 years. There is no 'visa stamp' which comes automatically but status gets achieved without having to apply for a 'visa stamp'.

On the other hand, if you are planning to subsequently apply for British Citizenship, then you have to formally apply for permanent residency first. This is new from 12 November 2015, before that it was possible to apply straight for Citizenship after 6 years in the UK. 

You are welcome to book our advice session for a detailed consultation or to make an application with out help. For procedure and service fees please contact us, email info@1st4immigration.com



Please refer to our page Family Members under European law