On the 20th of July, 2012, in a statement from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation, the Minister officially granted Romanian and Bulgarian nationals access to the labour market in Ireland. Originally, these restrictions to the Irish labour market were set to be lifted on 1st January 2014, following a seven-year transition period that allowed EU member states to prepare for Bulgaria and Romania’s full adoption of EU law on free movement of workers.
After reviewing the restrictions that were previously in place before the 20th of July, the Government discovered that “in 2003 some 3,600 permits were sought from nationals of both countries [Romania and Bulgaria], declining to just over 50 applications in 2011.” Also, the population of Bulgarians and Romanians living in Ireland has declined by 3,000 between 2008 and 2011. The Government decided that continuing restrictions in light of these figures is questionable, and has decided to bring forward the transition date from 1st January 2014 to 20th July 2012.
There are numerous benefits to eliminating the restrictions, namely fostering positive relations between Ireland and the two countries, as well as with the European Commission and the other member states, since only 9 of the 27 members retain the restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians in the labour markets. Also, students and self-employed or self-sufficient nationals from the two countries already have access to the labour markets in Ireland anyway.
Questions have been raised in an article from the Immigrant Council of Ireland about whether or not time spent in Ireland before the free access to the labour market restrictions were lifted counted as reckonable residency, but so far, the decisions by the department have been inconsistent. We will have to watch to see if they develop a line of authority with their judgements in this matter.
The United Kingdom has decided to retain its restriction on the labour market for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals. In a report from the UK Border Agency on the 23rd November 2011, Minister Damian Green announced that the restrictions will be extended until the end of 2013, fulfilling the full seven year transition period after the initial acceptance of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU in 2007. This means that in order to work in the UK, nationals from those two countries will be required to seek permission from the UK Border Agency. The Border Agency expressed a commitment to reduce employer’s dependence on migrant workers, and a potential negative impact on wages nationwide.