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Transition rules for EU workers end on 1 May
From 1 May 2011 citizens from eight countries joining the European Union in 2004 will be free to work in any European Member State, as the last remaining restrictions are lifted.
Which Member States does this affect?
Citizens from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia will no longer have to apply for work permits, company sponsorship or long-term contracts when they want to work in another European Member State. They will have the same fundamental right to “free movement of labour” as citizens from older Member States of the European Union as well as Malta and Cyprus who were exempt from restrictions when they joined in 2004.
Weren’t restrictions lifted long ago?
Ireland, Sweden and the UK were the only Member States not to apply restrictions when these eight countries joined the European Union back in 2004. However, newcomers to the UK had to register with the UK Registration Scheme, which also ends on 30 April 2011. A further 10 Member States lifted restrictions gradually between 2006 and 2009. Germany and Austria were the only Member States to continue to apply restrictions, but these will also come to an end on 30 April 2011.
What were the restrictions anyway?
The original 15 Member States of the European Union (EU-15) could apply national measures for the first two years after the new Member States joined the EU in 2004. The EU-15 then had to notify the European Commission if they intended to continue to apply measures for a further three years. After five years, if they wanted to continue to impose restrictions for a further two years they had to prove that not doing so would be detrimental to their labour market.
Many people from eight of the 10 new Member States looking to work in Germany and Austria needed work permits or contracts stipulating employment for a defined period of time. But not anymore. The maximum period of restrictions was seven years and this ends on 30 April 2011.
So there are no more restrictions then?
There are still some restrictions for those countries that joined the European Union in 2007, namely Bulgaria and Romania, but these too will come to an end on 1 January 2014.
National legislation still applies in the various Member States and rules differ. So before leaving home you should always check out the conditions for work, health and social security. A good first step would be to contact a local EURES Adviser in the country to which you want to go to find out what legislation applies.
Information on living and working conditions in other European countries on the EURES portal
Information on moving to another European country through Your Europe
Social security schemes by country