Migrant Workers

Definitions and information about migrant workers in Wales and the UK

Generally the term "migrant worker" refers to a person who is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national. In Wales and the UK the term migrant worker is increasingly used to refer specifically to East European Citizens.

The distinguishing factor between migrant workers from European countries and those from non European Union countries, is the process or procedure by which they enter the UK to work.
These are the categories of migrant workers and the permission they require to enter the UK to work;

Members of European  Economic Area (EEA) 

Members of the EEA,  Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (including Canaries and the Balearics, which are provinces of Spain) Sweden or Swiss nationals, have the right to live and work in the UK (known as the 'right of residence') if:  working here (and have registered or obtained permission if this is required); or if they can support themselves in the UK without becoming an unreasonable burden on public funds.

Nationals of Accession countries

From 1st May 2004,the European Union allowed full membership to 8 countries, these are; Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. These countries are often referred to as 'A8 countries'.

These countries were joined by Bulgaria and Romania from January 2007, however, citizens of Bulgaria and Romania must secure prior permission to enter and work in the UK. (unless they are self-employed/setting up their own business) Bulgaria and Romania are often referred to as 'A2 countries'.

Points based System

In 2008, the Government introduced the points-based system regulating immigration to the UK from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). The scheme is composed of five tiers which replaced all the previous work permits and entry schemes. Under the points based system migrants must pass a points assessment before they get permission to enter or remain in the UK. The system is managed by UK Visas & Immigration.

Migrant Workers in Wales

The exact numbers of migrant wrokers in Wales is unknown. While there are some known statistics (e.g. Worker Registration Scheme (WRS)  and National Insurance Number Registrations) it is widely acknowledged  that neither of these two data sources provide a comprehensive or accurate picture of migration in Wales.

According to the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) all 22 local authority areas in Wales have experienced some migration from A8 and A2 migrants at varying levels (see Briefing Paper International Migrants in Wales).

Welsh Government

Although immigration matters are non-devolved functions, the Welsh Government (WG)  has responsibility to migrants resident in Wales under its health, education, social services functions and through its community cohesion agenda. 

 The Welsh Government  has produced a welcome pack for migrants, Understanding Wales, to ensure that people who come to Wales to live and work are made aware of their rights and responsibilities and are also provided with information on where they can obtain help and advice if they encounter problems, helping them to settle into their new communities.

Published on: 10 September 2015