Employing EEA nationals

European map and EU stars

The majority of nationals from EEA countries and Switzerland can enter the UK without any restrictions.  Employers should not however employ an individual on the basis of their claim to be a national from an EEA country, as not all EEA nationals can work in the UK without restrictions.

Employers should ask nationals from all EEA countries and Switzerland to prove their nationality by producing one of the documents, or combinations of documents, specified in the right to work checks standard document on our NHS Employment Check Standards web pages.

Immediate family members are also able to work freely in the UK while their adult EEA family member is legally residing and working here. Employers must check documentation to demonstrate this entitlement.

Since 1 June 2002, nationals from Switzerland and their family members have also had the same free movement and employment rights as EEA nationals.

Implications of the EU referendum

We are aware that following the result of the EU referendum in June 2016 there are a number of questions around the implications on the NHS workforce. Current arrangements around recruitment and employment of individuals from within the EU remain the same.

On 11 July the Home Office published a statement on the status of EU nationals in the UK. Please visit the UK Visas and Immigration website for further information.

NHS Employers will publish news of any developments in this area as they arise and will make sure you have all the support and information you need throughout this process. Visit our Brexit and the NHS workforce section for further information.

Further information about employing EEA nationals

Click on the links below for further information.

Which countries are part of the EEA?

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria*, Croatia*, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania*, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

*See further information below regarding worker restrictions.

Croatian nationals

Croatia joined the EU and also became part of the EEA on 1 July 2013. Croatian nationals can now enter and live in the UK without permission under the Home Office Immigration Rules.

Whilst Croatians are now able to move freely in any EU member state, member states may apply transitional restrictions and the UK is applying such restrictions. Therefore, a Croatian national working without permission would be committing a criminal offence under the Accession of Croatia (Immigration and Worker Authorisation Regulations 2013). Employers should note that this could lead to a fine or even imprisonment for both the individual and the employer

What should employers do if they want to employ an individual from Croatia?

Under UK labour market restrictions, a Croatian national who wishes to work in the UK and who is subject to the worker authorisation requirement (see exemptions) will need to apply for an accession worker authorisation document, also known as a 'purple registration certificate' before starting any employment.

The worker authorisation certificate will restrict the holder to the job specified on the document and can be issued for skilled work under Tier 2 or temporary work under Tier 5 of the points-based system. If you wish to employ a Croatian national and they are not exempt from requiring permission to work in the UK, you must assign a Certificate of Sponsorship and the individual will use this to support their application for a registration certificate.

Please note: The process for obtaining a worker authorisation registration certificate is different for a Croatian foundation programme doctor or dentist. In this instance, a certificate of sponsorship is not required however, the individual must still apply for a purple registration certificate as evidence of permission to work in the UK. The employer must provide them with a letter confirming a job offer.

The Home Office has produced a guide which outlines what employers need to do in order to legally employ a Croatian national from 1 July 2013.

Bulgarian and Romanian nationals

In January 2007, Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU and also became part of the EEA. From 1 January 2014 labour market restrictions on individuals from Bulgaria and Romania ended and they are longer subject to Immigration and Worker Authorisation Regulations 2013. Nationals from Bulgaria and Romania are now able to freely take up employment in the UK.  

Turkish nationals

The European Community Association Agreement (ECAA) with Turkey provides Turkish nationals who are already legally employed in the UK with certain rights when they want to extend their stay. They can:

  • apply to extend their permission to stay in the UK after they have worked in the UK for one year so that they can continue to work for the same employer (if a job is available) 
  • change employers after they have worked in the UK for three years, provided they are continuing to work in the same occupation 
  • have full access to the UK labour market and are free to work in any type of job for any employer after they have worked in the UK for a period of four years.

If an applicant is successful, UK Visas and Immigration will give them permission to stay as a Turkish ECAA worker and the individual will be issued with a vignette in their passport and receive a letter confirming their status.

Employers will be able to use this documentation to check a potential or existing employee's right to work in the UK. A Turkish ECAA worker visa does not give the individual an automatic right to apply for indefinite leave to remain and any application to UK Visas and Immigration for indefinite leave to remain will be rejected. The duration of leave granted to an individual will be between 12 and 36 months. At the end of this period, another application must be made if further leave to remain is required.

A Turkish worker will, however, be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain after they have legally resided in the UK for a period of ten years, or two to fourteen years of continuous residence of any legality.

Further information can be found on the UK Visas and Immigration pages of the GOV.UK website.  

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