Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007. At the time, temporary controls were put in place to limit the numbers of these migrants coming to the UK to work. These controls are due to expire in December 2013 and it is unclear what affect this will have on the UK labour market or the Government's stated aim to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands.

Currently, Bulgarian and Romanian nationals are permitted to live in the UK without permission, provided they can support themselves and their families without becoming an unreasonable burden on public funds. In addition they do not require permission to be self-employed. However, their options for employment in the UK are limited at present. Subject to various exemptions, they usually require an accession worker card and sometimes a work permit to take employment. Otherwise they might fall within the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme or the Sectors Based Scheme for low-skilled work in food manufacturing. After working legally in the UK for 12 months without a break, they no longer need permission to work and can apply for a registration certificate to confirm their status. Romanian and Bulgarian students are also required to obtain a registration certificate in order to work within student visa limits.

Other EU member states such as Germany, France and the Netherlands took advantage of EU Treaty provisions allowing limits on the numbers of Romanian and Bulgarian migrants during the transitional period. Theresa May, Home Secretary, has indicated to BBC's Andrew Marr that there is no power to impose further transitional controls on these nationals after December 2013. Mrs May has already stated that she would like to see limits on migration within the EU and that there is growing support for this amongst other EU member states.