In a written statement to Parliament earlier this week, Caroline Nokes (the Minister of State for Immigration) announced that the transitional restrictions on Croatian workers would not be extended and will come to an end on 30 June 2018. The significance of this is that Croatian citizens will now be able to seek work in the UK on the same basis as citizens from other EU member states.
Since Croatia joined the EU in 2013, the UK has chosen to apply some restrictions on Croatian citizens’ access to employment. While it may have been possible to extend these restrictions for a further two years, there was no justification for doing so.
Nokes’ statement provides that there were as few as 10,000 Croatian residents in the UK in 2016 which, combined with the current strength of the job market, the decline in the net migration of EU citizens in recent years and low UK unemployment rates, was evidently not enough justification to warrant further restriction. Nokes also draws comparisons in her statement to the equivalent stages in the transitional controls imposed on Romanian and Bulgarian workers, during which time there were far more migrant workers from these countries residing in the UK.
This is clearly great news for Croatians who had planned on coming to the UK before Brexit. From 1 July 2018 Croatian nationals will have unrestricted access to the UK labour market on a par with EU nationals from other member states.
In terms of Brexit, Croatian nationals will need to apply for the same residence documentation, i.e. temporary residence permits and settled status, as other EU nationals. This is a welcome, if expected, simplification ensuring that we avoid a situation where there are additional or separate processes for Croatian nationals.