An article in the UK Guardian reports how delays for work permits are damaging the employment opportunities for Romanian students. One student, Emilia Gheorghe, described how, as a second-year university student, she should be beginning work at a summer school, trying to boost her CV and help her obtain post-graduate employment. Instead, she is forced to wait for the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to process her application for a work permit. She submitted her application over eighteen months ago, and she still has not heard a decision. This delay has forced her into limbo, without permission to work, and she is missing valuable opportunities as a result.
The situation that Gheorghe is in is not unique. At least a few dozen other Romanian students studying in the UK have experienced extraordinary delays in the processing of their visa applications. Without the visa, students are not able to work part-time jobs to support themselves, and obtain jobs in their field to gain experience that could be crucial when it comes to starting a career. Various complaints have been lodged by the students to the UKBA, and a formal petition was filed, stating, “If the United Kingdom . . . would like to continue setting a high educational standard and attracting the best and brightest from across the glob, the UKBA needs to guarantee that it will process visa applications in a timely, transparent, and effective manner.”
When Romania and Bulgaria were accepted into the EU in 2007, there was an initial gradual transition period, where they were not allowed to work. However, after a few years, students obtained permission to work f they could provide a registration certificate confirming that they are students. The UKBA has promised to process these applications quickly, but students are experiencing a significant delay.
Ireland has recently lifted all restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian workers, meaning that they now have total access to the labor market, but the UKBA has issued statements saying that it intends to keep the restrictions on the labor market in place until January 1, 2014, keeping them until the end of the seven-year transition period.