Tough restrictions on Eastern European migrants travelling to the UK have been renewed for another two years to prevent a surge in unemployment benefit claims during the recession.
Immigration minister Phil Woolas will today announce that former Eastern Bloc jobseekers will have to continue signing the Worker Registration Scheme until 2011, which prevents newcomers from claiming out-of-work benefits until they have been employed and paying tax in the UK for 12 months. The requirement was set to expire at the end of April.
The move will limit the number of new arrivals at a time when the jobs market is suffering, a Home Office spokesman said.
“I can confirm that members of the A8 [accession states] will have to be working and paying tax in the UK for one year before they become eligible for the benefits,” he told Personnel Today.
The scheme was introduced in May 2004, when the A8 – the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia – joined the EU and gained the right to work in the UK without a visa.
The latest figures from the Home Office show the number of applicants to the Worker Registration Scheme has more than halved over the past 18 months to its lowest rate since 2004. Just 27,000 of the 29,000 applicants in the final three months of 2008 were issued with work registration certificates – down from 59,000 applicants in September 2007.