What does Croatia’s EU membership mean for UK employers?

The latest member of the European Economic Area is Croatia, having joined on 1 July 2013. Membership means that Croatians can now enter and live in the EEA; however in the UK their access to the labour market has been restricted. It is these restrictions that this article will examine in detail.

From the 1 July 2013, Croatians will be able to live in the UK for up to 3 months without first obtaining permission, so long as they are self sufficient during that time. Any Croatian intending to stay longer and work in the UK requires permission that comes in a form very similar to the system in place for Bulgarians and Romanians. In short most Croatians will need to apply for a work authorisation certificate. We will now look at each of these documents in turn:

Purple – These will be issued to skilled workers who meet the criteria under Tier 2 and Tier 5 of the points based system.  In order to obtain the purple certificate for potential staff, employers will need to have a sponsor licence. This is something that the employer will need to take into consideration early on in the process of taking on a Croatian migrant as licensing can take a number of weeks to complete. Following one year on a purple certificate, Croatians are exempt from working restrictions and they can apply for a blue certificate to prove that fact.

Blue – These will be issued, on application, to highly skilled migrants and also those migrants who are exempt for other reasons, such as those who are setting up a business in the UK. Although highly skilled migrants are exempt from registration, in practice it is difficult for them to prove to employers that they are exempt. For this reason we advise that all highly skilled workers apply for the blue card.

Yellow – Students can apply for these to confirm their status as students. The certificate will also show that they are allowed to work for 20 hours during term time and full-time during holidays. Employers will need to have sight of these yellow certificates before they can take on Croatian students.

Employers should ensure that they are aware of the restrictions that are in place for Croatian nationals, particularly in view of the fact that non-compliance with the regime carries a heavy financial penalty or imprisonment for the employer. Luckily, all of that can be avoided by HR departments familiarising themselves with the requirements. If you require assistance with Croatian or corporate immigration matters, please do not hesitate to contact us and one of our consultants will be pleased to assist you.

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