Here is a simple guide to some of the terms used when talking about European countries, the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EAA).
The two countries that joined the EU in January 2007 are Bulgaria and Romania and they are often called the ‘A2 nations’.
Citizens of the A2 countries previously had restrictions on their rights to work, claim benefits and access social housing and homelessness assistance, but these restrictions ended on the 1st January 2014. Since that date A2 nationals have had the same rights as any other workers from the EU and EEA.
The eight countries that joined the EU in January 2004 are:
- Czech Republic
They are often called ‘A8′ nations.
A8 nationals previously had restrictions on their rights to work, claim benefits and get access to housing and were required to register under something called the Worker Registration Scheme (WRS). The WRS was closed on the 1 May 2011 and since that date A8 nationals have had the same rights as any other workers from the EU and EEA.
Cyprus and Malta also joined the EEA/EU in January 2004. Their citizens also have full EEA/EU rights.
This is a term for the newest countries to join the EU and EEA.
European Union (EU)
The European Union was founded in 1992 and has 28 member states:
- Czech Republic
- Republic of Ireland
- United Kingdom
EU citizens can live, travel, work, and invest in other member states.
European Economic Area (EEA)
The EEA began in 1994 and allowed participating countries to trade in the European Single Market without having to join the EU. There are 31 participating countries, which include the 28 EU member states plus:
Switzerland also has an agreement with the EEA, which gives her citizens the same right to trade in the European Single Market.
Worker authorisation scheme
Until the 31st December 2013, A2 nationals who wanted to work in the UK had to register with this scheme run by the Home Office to get an accession worker card. There were different schemes for different types of work. Since the 1st January 2014, these rules no longer apply and A2 nationals have the same rights as other EEA workers.
Worker registration scheme (WRS)
Prior to the 1st May 2011 A8 nationals working in the UK had to register with this scheme run by the Home Office for the first twelve months of work. The WRS was abolished on the 1st May 2011. Since that date, the UK government has not been able to treat A8 nationals any differently to other EEA nationals.