The Accession State Worker Registration Scheme (Worker Registration Scheme or ‘WRS’) was a temporary measure introduced in May 2004 which has since ceased, as of April 2011. The WRS required workers from the A8 countries, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic, to register within a month of joining a new employer.
The Scheme Has Ceased, So Why Has It Continued to Have An Effect?
The scheme ceased in April 2011, however it has been extremely relevant for workers from the A8 countries in their applications for permanent residency (PR). One of the requirements for PR is that the applicant be a ‘worker’ in the UK for a continuous period of five years. For workers from the A8 countries, whether or not they had registered correctly with the WRS has had a big impact on whether or not they meet this five year requirement.
The WRS – The Difficulties
As EU national, you automatically acquire the right of PR in another EU country if you have lived legally in that country for at least 5 years continuously. The extra restrictions placed upon A8 nationals, in the form of the WRS, made it more difficult to fulfil this five year requirement. In applying for a permanent residence card, an applicant is required to provide evidence of their activity as a qualified person and where this applicant is an accession worker, this may include evidence of WRS registration.
The WRS faced criticism as being both unfair to workers and ineffective in its proposed aim of monitoring the effect of new migrant workers on the British economy. Many migrant workers have since found that they were not correctly registered on the WRS, whether through a general lack of awareness or other issues such as a change of employer. This has resulted in difficulties in meeting the criteria for PR.
Changes in the UK law
Under EU law Permanent Residence is automatically acquired by an EU National, provided the relevant criteria are met. However, a change in the UK law in 2015, means that a permanent resident who wishes to apply for British Citizenship must first apply for a Permanent Residence Certificate or Card. This has made it harder for persons with an EU law-based right of permanent residence to naturalise as British citizens.
The Good News!
The good news for nationals from A8 countries is that, we are almost five years on from the end of the WRS. This means that individuals who were not eligible for permanent residency status because of unregistered work during the WRS period, will be in a position to apply for permanent residence from April 2016, provided they can evidence the required residency and exercise of Treaty rights.