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Croatian nationals and the right to reside

This content applies to England

The Republic of Croatia joined the EU on 1 July 2013. Workers from the Republic of Croatia were subject to worker authorisation. They were not be eligible for housing assistance unless they were exempt from worker authorisation, or hold an accession worker authorisation document and worked within the conditions set out in it.

The right to reside of Croatian nationals

Under the Accession of Croatia Regulations ('the Worker Authorisation Regulations'),[1] Croatian workers who were not exempt only had a right to reside and work in the UK and be eligible for homelessness assistance during the first year of their employment if they held an accession worker authorisation document and were working within the conditions set out in it.[2]

The restrictions imposed on Croatian nationals by the Worker Authorisation Scheme ended on 30 June 2018. From 1 July 2018, Croatian nationals have the same rights of residence as other EEA/EU nationals.

Prior to the ending of the restrictions, Croatian nationals who were 'subject to worker authorisation' (see below) did not have the right to reside in the UK as jobseekers.[3] Croatian nationals subject to worker authorisation may have had the right to reside, for example as self-sufficient persons, but would not normally have been able to claim benefits or housing.

Worker authorisation

Guidance for local authorities regarding Croatian nationals' right to reside and entitlement to benefits during the accession period is contained in HB Circular A16/2013 and in a MHCLG letter about housing eligibility of Croatian nationals. Broadly, a Croatian national who was subject to authorisation was not to be counted as a worker unless they had it. Without authorisation, s/he was not normally eligible for assistance.

It was a criminal offence for a Croatian national to work in the UK without authorisation or to obtain it by deception. A Croatian national and her/his employer who breached the rules was liable to a fine and/or imprisonment.[4]

Exempt from worker authorisation

The following Croatian nationals were exempt from worker authorisation during the accession period and were treated in the same way as other EEA/EU nationals with full rights:[5]

  • a diplomat and her/his family members
  • a person who had leave to enter or remain in the UK without employment restrictions or on 30 June 2013 or was given such leave after this date
  • a spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner, same sex partner or child under 18 of a person with leave to enter or remain (as long as that leave entitled the person to work)
  • a person who, on 30 June 2013, was legally working in the UK and had legally worked for a continuous period of 12 months. The period of 12 months could include time spent legally working in the UK before 30 June 2013 (for example under a work visa) and time spent working in the UK on or after that date and authorised or exempt from authorisation under other provisions. The exemption also applied to her/his family members as specifically defined (see 'Family members' below)
  • a Croatian who was also a national of the UK or another EEA state. The exemption also applied to her/his family members (see family of workers and self-employed for a definition of family member of EEA/EU nationals)
  • a spouse, civil partner, unmarried or same sex partner of a UK national or person with indefinite leave who was 'ordinarily resident' in the UK
  • a person who had a permanent right of residence under regulation 15 of the Immigration (EEA) Regulations 2006 (eg after five years' residence in exercise of EU Treaty rights). This also applied to her/his family members (see family of workers and self-employed for a definition of family member of EEA/EU nationals).
  • a person who was a 'highly skilled person' with unconditional access to the UK labour market who had a registration certificate to prove this
  • a person who was a family member of an EEA national with a right to reside in the UK. Where that EEA national was a Croatian national subject to worker authorisation, in order to be exempt the person must have been her/his spouse/civil partner or unmarried/same sex partner, or her/his or her/his spouse's or civil partner's direct descendant under 21 or dependant
  • a student who had leave to remain as such who was working in accordance with the conditions of her/his leave
  • a student who held an EEA registration certificate as a student and worked less than 20 hours a week during term-time (unless working as part of her/his training), or worked as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer, or worked full-time during the holidays, or was working having finished her/his course less than four months previously, and held the appropriate registration certificate
  • a 'posted worker' within the meaning of the European Posting of Workers Directive.[6]

Losing the right to reside

A Croatian national lost her/his right to reside in the UK if s/he ceased working for her/his employer under the terms of her/his worker authorisation for any reason, or if such authorisation was revoked by the Secretary of State.[7] Temporary inability to work because of an illness or accident meant that a person was unable to retain worker status and her/his eligibility for assistance, unless the period of unemployment was limited to 30 days within the 12-month period and the person returned to work.[8]

In a case concerning an A8 national, which should apply equally to a Croatian national, the Upper Tribunal held that where the A8 national (who had lived in the UK for two years) stopped working within the first 12 months of her employment because she became permanently incapacitated, she did not cease to be eligible for assistance.[9] See A8 nationals for details.

Completion of 12 months' authorised work

If a Croatian national completed 12 months' authorised employment, s/he no longer required authorisation to work and had the same rights as workers of EEA/EU states with full rights.[10] The period of 12 months normally needed to be 'without interruption', meaning that any gaps in the worker's record of authorised work must have amounted to no more than 30 days.[11]

Family members

During the accession period, the rules on eligibility for homelessness assistance for family members of Croatian nationals were the same as for family members of any other EEA nationals, ie the family member's eligibility mirrored that of their relative. If the Croatian national exercising a treaty right was eligible, her/his family member was also eligible for as long as s/he remained a family member.

See the page Family of workers and self-employed for definition of family member of EEA/EU nationals.

The right of family members of Croatian nationals to work in the UK

Whether or not a family member of a Croatian national in the UK was subject to worker authorisation depended on their nationality, and, in some cases, what kind of family member they were:

Croatian national family member:

  • Croatian national family members of a Croatian national who was exempt from worker authorisation were also exempt from worker authorisation[12]
  • Croatian national family members of a Croatian national who was subject to worker authorisation and who was working in the UK within the conditions set out in a valid accession worker authorisation document were also exempt from worker authorisation. In this context, family members of a Croatian national who was subject to worker authorisation means only her/his spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner, same sex partner, and child(ren) (including those of her/his spouse or civil partner) under the age of 21 or older but dependant[13]
  • Croatian national family members of other EEA/EU nationals with a right of residence were also exempt from worker authorisation.[14]

EEA/EU national family member:

The right to work of an EEA/EU national to work is independent of any family relationship to a Croatian national, as it is a basic treaty right. As such, there was no need for a non-Croatian national to be authorised to work.

Non-EEA/EU national family member:

  • non-EEA/EU family members of a Croatian national who was exempt from worker authorisation could apply for a residence card in order to prove their right to work in the UK.

  • non-EEA/EU family members of a Croatian national who was subject to work authorisation and who was working in the UK within the conditions set out in a valid accession worker authorisation document could apply for a family member residence stamp in order to prove their right to work in the UK.

Self-employment and other rights

With regards to the right to self-employment, the right to provide and receive services, the right to reside as a student, and the general right to free movement, Croatian nationals and their family members generally had the same rights as all other EEA/EU nationals.

For more information see the section EEA nationals eligibility for assistance.

Permanent right to reside

An EEA/EU national who has resided in the UK for a continuous period of five years in accordance with the UK Regulations has a permanent right to reside in the UK.[15] A Croatian national will need to show that periods of employment requiring authorisation were in fact authorised in order to constitute a period of lawful residence and count towards the five years residence needed for a permanent right to reside. In exceptional cases, the strict requirement for compliance with authorisation may be disproportionate. For details, see the page Five years' residence

Wales

The legislative references and the footnotes on this page reflect the law in England. In Wales, very similar rules made under Welsh legislation apply, but the references may be different. Contact Shelter Cymru for more information about the law in Wales.

[1] Accession of Croatia (Immigration and Worker Authorisation) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/1460.

[2] Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) Regulations 2006 SI 2006/1294, as amended by Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/1467. See also Social Security (Croatia) Amendment Regulations 2013 SI 2013/1474.

[3] reg 5 Accession of Croatia (Immigration and Worker Authorisation) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/1460.

[4] regs 11-17 Accession of Croatia (Immigration and Worker Authorisation) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/1460.

[5] reg 2 Accession of Croatia (Immigration and Worker Authorisation) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/1460.

[6] Directive 96/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 1996 concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services.

[7] reg 10 Accession of Croatia (Immigration and Worker Authorisation) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/1460.

[8] reg 2(5)(c)(ii) Accession of Croatia (Immigration and Worker Authorisation) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/1460.

[9]SSWP v NZ (ESA) (Third interim decision) [2017] UKUT 360 (AAC).

[10] reg 2(4) Accession of Croatia (Immigration and Worker Authorisation) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/1460.

[11] reg 2(5)(c) Accession of Croatia (Immigration and Worker Authorisation) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/1460.

[12] reg 2(13) and reg 2(14) Accession of Croatia (Immigration and Worker Authorisation) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/1460.

[13] reg 2(13) and reg 2(14) Accession of Croatia (Immigration and Worker Authorisation) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/1460.

[14] reg 2(13) Accession of Croatia (Immigration and Worker Authorisation) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/1460.

[15] reg15 Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016 SI 2016/1052.

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