On 01 July 2013, Croatia joined the European Economic Area (EEA) thereby allowing their citizens to enter and live in the EEA. Unlike most other EEA countries that benefit from free rights of movement, restrictions much like those placed on Bulgarian and Romanian nationals apply to Croatian nationals wishing to come to the UK.
What does this mean for Croatian nationals looking to migrate to the UK?
It means that from 1 July 2013 you are able to enter freely into the UK and live in the UK for up to 3-months without obtaining prior permission. Throughout the 3-months you must be able to support yourself and family without unreasonable recourse to public funds.
If you are looking to reside for a longer period and you require employment you will need to apply for a work authorisation document, unless you are exempt. Now, it is all a matter of what colour registration certificate you need to obtain.
Blue - If you are exempt from authorisation because you are 'highly skilled' you will need to apply for a Blue registration certificate. This registration certificate is also available to Croatian nationals that are exempt from work authorisation for other reasons.
Despite your exemption we would advise that you obtain a Blue registration certificate to ease your potential employers HR woes.
Purple - Skilled workers who meet the current criteria under Tiers 2 and 5 of the points-based system will generally obtain these. Depending on the category of employment you are likely to require your employer to issue you a certificate of sponsorship ('CoS'). It is worth checking that the employer has a Sponsor Licence to facilitate this.
Students would be required to apply for a Yellow registration certificate, which would confirm their status as students. It also allows students to work for 20 hours during term time and full-time during vacations. Prospective employers will need to ensure that the student produce evidence of their eligibility to work.
What does this mean for UK employers?
For employers you should be aware that Croatian nationals looking to remain in the UK to work, will require prior permission from the Home Office before they can commence employment. Once any Croatian national has been working legally in the UK as an employee for 12 months without a break, they will no longer require permission to work, after which time they will benefit, as most other EEA nationals, from free rights of movement.
There are a number of exemptions to obtaining prior permission, so please do bear this in mind. However, if they fall outside the exemptions (ie. cannot produce a Blue registration certificate) then you will need to hold a Sponsor Licence before proceeding further as this will enable you to issue them with a CoS. The employee must have obtained their purple registration certificate before they can begin working legally in the UK.
You should bear in mind that there are penalties in place for those employers that do not follow the correct procedures before employing a Croatian national.