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Bulgarian and Romanian EU nationals and rights in the UK

On 1st January 2007, Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU. As European Economic Area (EEA) nationals, Bulgarians and Romanians are able to move and reside freely in any Member State. They do not require leave to enter or remain to reside legally in the UK. However, they do not have an automatic right to work here.

This page explains the restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian nationals taking employment in the United Kingdom. If you are a Bulgarian or Romanian national you are free to come to the United Kingdom to live. You will need to be able to support yourself and your family in the United Kingdom without becoming an unreasonable burden on public funds.

Please note from Jan 2014, the UK Government will continue to impose restrictions and if you would like to get legal advice on the impact, contact us on 0207 237 3388 or e-mail us on

Until 1 January 2014, if you were a Bulgarian or Romanian national you only had a right to reside in the UK if you came into one of the following categories:

  • you were working in authorised employment and had registered with the Workers Authorisation Scheme

  • you had completed 12 months' authorised employment with fewer than 30 days of nonworking time within that period

  • you were self-employed

  • you were self-sufficient

  • you were a student

  • you were a family member of an EEA national in the UK who themselves had a right to reside.

From 1 January 2014, you no longer have to register with the Workers Authorisation Scheme if you are working in the UK. From this date, all Bulgarian and Romanian nationals have the same rights as other EEA nationals to live and work in the UK. However, like them, if you want to claim certain benefits you must show that you have a right to reside in the UK and that you intend to settle here and make it your home for the time being. 

Permanent residency and British nationality

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

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