"Bulgarian immigrants: Home Office fails to reject single request."
Daily Telegraph, 25 November 2013
On January 1 2014, the transitional restrictions that prevent citizens from these 'A2 countries' from finding employment without a work permit - restictions which have been in place since Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007 to guard against disruption to the British labour market - will be lifted.
With many anticipating that plenty of workers from Romania and Bulgaria to be tempted to these shores in the new year, the Telegraph ran an exclusive today which claimed that the restrictions currently in place might not actually be having much of an effect.
The newspaper reports that the Bulgarian ambassador as claiming that 'not a single work permit request has been rejected in the past six years despite promise to protect British jobs.'
In the video that accompanies the story, the ambassador is more circumspect, saying only that:
"Most of those who wanted to work here have already done so because most of the restrictions are of an administrative nature and wouldn't prohibit bulgarians from working in sectors of your economy as a whole."
This is more in tune with what the official statistics show. Since 2007, 65,928 applications for a work permit have been made by Bulgarian nationals through either the Accession Worker Card or Registration Certificate schemes used by the UK Border Agency to authorise Bulgarian or Romanian citizens to work in the UK. Of these,50,798 (77%) have been approved, leaving over 15,000 work permit applications that have been rejected.
(These figures don't include applications made through the Sector Based Scheme or the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Scheme, as data is only available on the number of applications approved, and not on the number of applications received by the UK Border Agency.)
Clearly it can't be said on the strength of this data that the Home Office has failed to reject a single request when between a quarter and a fifth of all applications received from Bulgarians have been unsuccessful. We've asked the Bulgarian embassy whether there is any unbroadcast part of the conversation which might explain the Telegraph's story.