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Living and working conditions

United Kingdom

As of 1/02/2020 the United Kingdom is no longer a member of the European Union. However, by virtue of the withdrawal agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom, freedom of movement of workers between the United Kingdom and the Member States, including the delivery of EURES services, continues to exist during a transition period which currently goes to 31/12/2020.

We are in the process of updating some of the content on this website in the light of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. If the site contains content that does not yet reflect the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, it is unintentional and will be addressed.

Up-to-date information: Following the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020, the United Kingdom Government changed the design of the current European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) issued by the United Kingdom after 1 February 2020. The changes reflect the status of the United Kingdom as a third country participating in the EHIC system, similar to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Persons with health insurance from the United Kingdom shall continue to have access to emergency and urgent medical care, as provided for in the basic Regulations (EC 883/2004 and EEC 1408/71), until the end of the Transitional Period scheduled for the end of 31 December 2020. During the Transition Period, until the end of 2020, according to EU rules on access to healthcare and other social benefits, the rights of UK citizens and their families, as well as UK health insurers, will not be changed. More information on the new EHIC model can be found at www.nhs.uk/ehic


Text last updated: 07/2019

Area - 242,495 km2

Population – 67,545,757 (2019)

Official Language – English


Entering the UK

Citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland have the right of free movement and residence in the UK. To enter the UK you do not need a visa but you will need a 10-year EEA passport or a valid national identity card, which will be checked by an immigration officer on your arrival in the UK.

If your family are EEA or Swiss nationals they can usually join you and enjoy similar rights. Non-EEA family members must get an EEA family permit before they travel to the UK if:

  • they are citizens of a country who always need visas to enter the UK, or
  • they are coming to stay for longer than six months

The family member should apply for this at the British Embassy or High Commission in their country of residence, before coming to the UK.

If you are a national of a country in the EEA or Switzerland you do not need a work permit to work in the UK.

The government is proposing to end free movement, but this is still subject to approval by Parliament. Once free movement has ended, if you’re a citizen of any other EU or EEA country, or Switzerland, you’ll still be able to enter the UK without a visa but only for up to 3 months. Check GOV.UK for updates and find out what you’ll need to do to come to the UK for longer than 3 months.

EU Settlement Scheme

There will be no change to the rights and status of EU citizens currently living in the UK until 30 June 2021, or 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. You and your family can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK.

Residence Permits

If you have a right to live in the UK, you do not need a residence permit or need to register with the police. Should you wish, you can apply for a residence permit from the Home Office Visas and Immigration. This is valid for 5 years, confirms your right to live in the UK under European Community Law and allows you to apply for residence documents for eligible family members who are not EEA citizens. If you are from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and living with a European partner or family member, you can also apply for a residence permit

Working in the UK

If you are a citizen of an EEA country  or a citizen of Switzerland, you do not need a work permit to work in the UK.



When you find a job that you would like to apply for, take as much time and care with your application as possible. Make sure you have read all the instructions carefully, and follow them exactly.

Sometimes you can apply for a job by telephone, but it is more common to apply by sending a completed application form or CV. This may be done by email, by post, or by applying online – depending on the instructions in the advert.

Most recruitment is now done online, about 80%.

All the information you give in your application must be correct.  An employer can dismiss someone who deliberately gives false information.

Your letter of application and CV should be typed, rather than written by hand. You can create your own Europass CV on the CV-Search part of the European Job Mobility Portal once you have registered for a ‘My EURES’ account.  Most UK employers prefer a shorter CV of no more than two sides.

There are lots of websites where you can download free CV and cover letter templates for use in the UK. These will give you a very good idea of how to prepare a CV that employers in the UK would recognise.


Employers will be very interested in your previous work experience. If you don’t have any work experience you may find it difficult to get a job in the UK.  Examples of voluntary work or other activities that show a commitment and willingness to work may help.


It is important to give accurate details of your qualifications. If you have qualifications from another country, you can check how they compare to British qualifications with the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) for the UK.


Employers often ask for the names and addresses of one or two referees. These are people who know you well and are able to write a short report about you, called a reference. This will help the employer decide whether you are suitable for the job. 

Referees are usually your previous employer or your college tutor. Occasionally a personal friend can be a referee if a character reference is required. Your referees must be able to understand and reply to requests for a reference in English.


An interview is your chance to make a good impression on the employer. Be sure to arrive early.

Research the company beforehand to prove your interest to them. You should also find out as much as you can about the job you are applying for.

Prepare some questions to ask about the job. The employer should explain to you exactly what the job involves and give details about pay, holidays and conditions of work. If these are not clear, ask for more information.



The Office for National Statistics gives regular updates on the average weekly pay in the UK for different professions. Among the highest paid are finance professionals, health professionals, corporate managers and IT and telecommunication professionals. The lowest paid are waiters. .


If you are living and working in the UK, you will pay tax at the same rate as a UK National. Taxes are normally payable on all income earned in the UK. The tax year runs from 6 April to 5 April.

Income Tax

You can earn an amount of income in a tax year without paying income tax: this is called your tax allowance. If your income does not exceed your tax allowance, then you will not have to pay any income tax. Different tax allowances apply: information is available on the gov.uk website, but on average this is £12,500 per year.

Income tax is deducted directly from your salary, through the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme, so you may be taxed before you reach this level of earnings. If so, you can make a claim to HM Revenue and Customs at the end of your stay in the UK and any excess tax paid will be refunded.

National Insurance

National Insurance contributions are the UK equivalent of social security contributions. There are different categories of contributions - employed people pay class 1 contributions. These are deducted from your pay by your employer and will appear on your payslip as NI Conts.  Self-employed people normally pay their own National Insurance contributions.

You need to apply for a National Insurance number which is your own personal account number. It is unique to you and you keep the same one all your life. It makes sure that the National Insurance contributions and tax you pay are properly recorded against your name. It also acts as a reference number when communicating with the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)

To apply for one in Great Britain, call 0345 600 0643. In Northern Ireland, you should contact one of the 3 National Insurance Number Processing Centres to make an appointment. Details can be found on - www.nidirect.gov.uk. This is a FREE service and no payment is required. If you have worked in the UK before, you don’t need to apply for another NINO

Council Tax

This is local taxation to pay for the public services in the area where you live. For example waste collections and the police. Council Tax is assessed on the value of the property where you live and on the people who live there. Reductions are available if you live alone or are a student.

When looking at rent prices for private accommodation, this charge is generally not included. Contact your local authority for more information.

VAT (Value Added Tax)

Generally VAT is already included in the cost of goods you buy. The standard rate of VAT is 20%. It is not payable on certain goods and services such as rent, most food items and children’s’ clothing.

Stamp Duty

Stamp Duty is a Land Tax payable whenever you buy a property.  You do not have to pay stamp duty on properties purchased for £125,000 or under.  If you’re buying your first home, you don’t have to pay stamp duty for properties up to £300, 000.

Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) for Private Vehicles

VED is usually referred to as ‘Road Tax’ and is the amount you pay to use your vehicle on public roads. . Standard rate road tax for the majority of cars costs between £0 and £515 per year depending on the type of fuel used and the vehicle’s emissions of carbon dioxide.


The UK is considered to be an expensive country, compared to some other countries within the EU. The cost of living varies within the UK. Cities tend to be the most costly places to live, with London being the most expensive city in the UK. It is generally cheaper to live in the Midlands and the North of England, parts of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland than in London and the South East.

Britain’s currency is the pound sterling (£), which is divided into 100 pence (100p). The Euro is not used in the UK, although it may be accepted in a few larger stores.

Buying food and clothing in large department stores is more expensive than buying similar items in supermarkets. Many towns have some form of indoor or outdoor market where food, clothing and household items can be bought, and prices tend to be cheaper. Charity shops sell second-hand clothes and household goods, with the profits from the sales of these going to the relevant charity.

In recent years, the cost of living in the UK has been rising. This is due to various factors including increasing car insurance and energy prices. Along with other utility bills, petrol and the cost of childcare, these can add up to a significant proportion of your outgoings, before thinking about costs for social activities.

If you find yourself with debt problems there are several organisations which can offer information and advice.


All children in the UK aged 5–16 must receive a full-time education. It is the duty of the local council (the local authority) to provide this. Children who are refugees or seeking asylum are entitled to a full-time education, just like all other children in Britain. Most children in Britain go to a state school. Some go to private schools, where their parents pay the fees. A small number of children have permission from the local authority to be educated at home.

Ages 5–11

primary school

school years 1–6

Ages 11–16

secondary school  

school years 7–11

Ages 16–18/19

secondary school,sixth form college, or

college of further education

school years 12–13

Ages 18/19+

college of further education,

or university

Not applicable

Pupils in England and Wales aged 7, 11 and 14 are tested in English, Maths and Science. These tests are known as SATs (Standard Assessment Tests). At the age of 16, most young people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland take exams in all their main subjects. These are called GCSEs (General Certificates of Secondary Education), and are important qualifications for employment and further education. After this, older students may take many other qualifications, which are linked either to school subjects (AS and A2 levels,) or to other skills and careers. Examinations in Scotland are different. Most pupils aged 16 take Standard Grade examinations in five or more subjects. After this, students can take National Qualifications for one or two years, either at school or college. These are tested at different levels, known as Access, Intermediate and Higher.The school year begins in September (except in Scotland where it begins mid-August) and is split into either three 13-week terms or six 7-week terms. Schools close for at least two weeks at Christmas and for two weeks at Easter. For schools which have 13-week terms, there are short breaks of two to five days in the middle of each term. The school year ends during June in Scotland and July elsewhere in the UK, when schools close for about six weeks.

Students who want to leave school at 16 have a choice of finding work or training, or a place at college. However, your right to any of these will depend on your immigration status. Help in deciding what is the best thing to do is available from school. Advice is also available through Connexions Direct.

Further education refers to education at school or college for young people aged 16 and over. Your local further education college will offer a wide range of courses for students aged 16–19. Some will be for students hoping to improve their examination grades or to go to university. Others will be for those who want to train for a career. Some of these courses are full-time, but some are part-time, and allow you to work as well. Although you may be able to find a course you wish to follow, you will have to meet certain entry requirements before you can start. You will have to show that you:

  • have good enough language skills
  • have the right qualifications
  • can pay the fees and support yourself whilst studying.

In order to study at university in the UK, you need to take the IELTS International English language testing system course to prove that your English language is sufficient to study in English. Prospects has more details on this and a university guide where you can find universities offering your chosen course

The www.gov.uk website provides information on funding/sponsorship for courses.


The importance of transparency and mutual recognition of diplomas as a crucial complement to the free movement of workers

The possibility of obtaining recognition of one’s qualifications and competences can play a vital role in the decision to take up work in another EU country. It is therefore necessary to develop a European system that will guarantee the mutual acceptance of professional competences in different Member States. Only such a system will ensure that a lack of recognition of professional qualifications will become an obstacle to workers’ mobility within the EU.

Main principles for the recognition of professional qualifications in the EU

As a basic principle, any EU citizen should be able to freely practice their profession in any Member State. Unfortunately the practical implementation of this principle is often hindered by national requirements for access to certain professions in the host country.

For the purpose of overcoming these differences, the EU has set up a system for the recognition of professional qualifications. Within the terms of this system, a distinction is made between regulated professions (professions for which certain qualifications are legally required) and professions that are not legally regulated in the host Member State.

Steps towards a transparency of qualifications in Europe

The European Union has taken important steps towards the objective of achieving transparency of qualifications in Europe:

  • An increased co-operation in vocational education and training, with the intention to combine all instruments for transparency of certificates and diplomas, in one single, user-friendly tool. This includes, for example, the European CV or Europass Trainings.
  • The development of concrete actions in the field of recognition and quality in vocational education and training.

Going beyond the differences in education and training systems throughout the EU

Education and training systems in the EU Member States still show substantial differences. The last enlargements of the EU, with different educational traditions, have further increased this diversity. This calls for a need to set up common rules to guarantee recognition of competences.

In order to overcome this diversity of national qualification standards, educational methods and training structures, the European Commission has put forward a series of instruments, aimed at ensuring better transparency and recognition of qualifications both for academic and professional purposes.

  1. The European Qualifications Framework

The European Qualifications Framework is a key priority for the European Commission in the process of recognition of professional competences. The main objective of the framework is to create links between the different national qualification systems and guarantee a smooth transfer and recognition of diplomas.

  1. The National Academic Recognition Information Centres (NARICs)

A network of National Academic Recognition Information Centres was established in 1984 at the initiative of the European Commission. The NARICs provide advice on the academic recognition of periods of study abroad. Located in all EU Member States as well as in the countries of the European Economic Area, NARICs play a vital role the process of recognition of qualifications in the EU.

  1. The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS)

The European Credit Transfer System aims at facilitating the recognition of periods of study abroad. Introduced in 1989, it functions by describing an education programme and attaching credits to its components. It is a key complement to the highly acclaimed student mobility programme Erasmus.

  1. Europass

Europass is an instrument for ensuring the transparency of professional skills. It is composed of five standardised documents

  • a CV (Curriculum Vitae),
  • a language passport,
  • certificate supplements,
  • diploma supplements, and
  • a Europass-Mobility document.

The Europass system makes skills and qualifications clearly and easily understood in the different parts of Europe. In every country of the European Union and the European Economic Area, national Europass centres have been established as the primary contact points for people seeking for information about the Europass system.


www.gov.uk - Official Website for the Possibilties of Living and Working Conditions in the UK

www.dwp.gov.uk - For Issuance of National Social Security Number in the UK

www.hse.gov.uk - National Health Centre

www.hmrc.gov.uk - Taxes

www.bulgarianembassy-london.org - Bulgarian Embassy in London

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - EURES team in North Ireland










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