Migrant workers from the EU

What controls exist on the numbers coming in?

Nationals from the A8 member states (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) from the 2004 enlargement must register under the Workers Registration Scheme (WRS) if they intend to work for more than one month. There is a £90 registration fee. Once a person has been working on the WRS for 12 months without a break they have full rights and no longer need to register.

Everyone needs a NI number in order to work. This is obtained by applying to the Department of Works and Pensions.

The self-employed need not register but must contact HM Revenue and Customs for tax purposes.

Low skilled workers need an accession worker card under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) or sector based scheme for food processing (SBS). Quotas are applied.

How many migrant workers have come to the UK from the A8 countries?

From May 2004 to September 2008 932,000 EU citizens applied to register for work and 895,000 were approved. This was the largest and fastest migration ever into this country. The 1950s-1960s immigration from the Caribbean and the Indian sub-continent was much slower.

There has now been a significant drop in applications from the A8 countries. In 2008 the numbers were at their lowest level since EU accession.

There was a huge drop in Polish applications – 16,000 against 36,000 for the same period in 2007.

How is the movement of labour monitored?


The Accession Monitoring Report 1st May 2004 – 31st March 2009. The information on migration from the A8 countries and Bulgaria and Romania is published quarterly.

See these sites for statistics

Where do migrant workers go?

A8 workers have continued to go where the work is, filling gaps in the labour market and supporting the provision of public services in many communities across the country

The largest concentrations are:

  • East Anglia 15%
  • Midlands 14%
  • London 11%
  • South East 7%

Employment sectors

The top five sectors:

  • Administration and business management 40%
  • Hospitality and catering 19%
  • Agriculture 10%
  • Manufacturing 7%
  • Food, fish and meat processing 5%

The top 20 occupations have remained largely consistent over the period 2002 - 2009.

Public services

In the 12 months to March 2009:

  • 815 registered bus, lorry and coach drivers
  •  2,660 registered care workers, teachers, researchers, classroom assistants
  •  720 registered hospital doctors, GPs, nurses, medical specialists
  •  55 dental practitioners, including hygienists and dental nurses WRS workers

Main areas of employment:

  • 28% process operatives (factory workers)
  • 8% warehouse operatives
  • 6% packers Other known employment includes labourers, farm workers, sales assistants, kitchen and catering assistants, cleaners, hotel maids.

Which countries do they come from?

The highest proportion of approved applicants have been nationals of Poland, 66% of the total, followed by Slovakia 10%, and Lithuania 9%.

Age range

The vast majority are young:

  • 78% are aged 18–34.
  • 8% said they have dependants living with them in UK.
  • 57% of the dependants are under the age of 17.

How many are going home?

56,000 Eastern Europeans left the UK in the year to September 2008, compared with 25,000 in the previous 12 months.

A charge to the British taxpayer?

The number applying for tax-funded income-related benefits and housing support is increasing but is low in relation to total UK claimants.

2008 – 3rd quarter: 3,309 applied for income support and jobseekers allowance of whom 926 were allowed to proceed for further consideration.

A recent study (23/07/09) by economists at University College, London shows that A8 immigrants have made a positive contribution to the UK economy. In the fiscal year 08/09 they paid 37% more in direct or indirect taxes than was spent on public goods and services they received.

See a report on this