We, students, can influence the politics of 3 EU countries

My article for Western Eye – UWE’s newspaper. 

Bulgarian and Romanian students in the UK are launching a campaign to urge the authorities to change the devastatingprocedure, which they have to undergo, in order to obtain a work permit.536744_531763993518278_908742978_n

Bulgaria and Romania have been part of the EU since the last enlargement of the Union in 2007. Due to the accession measures, they will be facing work restrictions in the UK until 2014.  Now, if a Bulgarian or a Romanian wants to work in Great Britain, they should possess a work permit. Students are not an exception and they need the Yellow Card, even if to only work part time.

Why are the work permits crucial to all Bulgarian and Romanian students?

To begin with, in both countries the average salary is below £300 pounds. You can imagine how hard it is for a family to support their child in a country as expensive as the UK. Apart from this, many courses in the UK cannot be completed without a work placement. Many international students choose to study in Britain exactly because the education here is so practically oriented. However, if you are a Bulgarian or a Romanian, you need a work permit, in order to benefit from this and graduate.

What exactly is the procedure?

You need bank statements; a filled out form that’s asking for uncountable details; original document of identification and health insurance. The last one is quite problematic, because you are often advised to obtain a Comprehensive Sickness insurance (worth up to £500 a year), although you, as an EU-citizen, have a European Health Insurance Card.

Romania

What is the problem?

According to the UK Border Agency, 99% of the cases should be decided within 6 months of receipt. The reality, however, is that in the last few years the average waiting period was up to 10 months. What’s more, since the beginning of the year, the ‘urgent requests procedure’, through which employers could contact the Border Agency in order to speed up the procedure, is no longer available.

Being one of these students, I can say that all this is even harder than it sounds.

You are indeed an EU citizen and you expect that you will be treated as such. All other EU nationals receive automatic access to the labour market based on their treaty right. As for the non-EU citizens, their Tier 4 Visa serves as their work permit. Thus you are being treated worse than the citizens of non-member countries, which is against the EU-legislation.

I wanted to be a Student Representative. After several attempts from the SU representatives to get in touch with the Border Agency, I was informed that I could be one, but they were unable to pay me. I was about to accept this, as I wanted to engage, but then I realised how unfair this is. So now I’m not representing my coursemates, but all Bulgarian and Romanian students in the UK. I would like to ask you on their behalf for your support!

The campaign

The campaign, which originally was initiated by Anna Dimitrova, a Bulgarian graduate from the University of Dundee, and soon spread of in both countries, started with letters to MPs, MSPs and MEPs, asking for their support. There is a petition which everyone can sign here . An open letter was sent to the Bulgarian authorities and letters to the Romanian and British politicians will follow.

The key point is that students qualify as “highly skilled” individuals. This means that they should receive their registration certificates immediately. The UKBA interprets this as up to 20 days.

UWE

The University of Dundee came up with an official statement of support and is now offering a small amount of money to all students who are still waiting for their work permits. Ideally, UWE can follow this example and show its position.

Furthermore, the university consists of students. Whether British-born or not, we are all students – we pretty much live the same lives, we are here to study and to evolve. In the meantime we socialise and experience Bristol. The right to study is not a privilege, although due to UK politics, it turns out to be exactly this for the Bulgarian and Romanian students.

Looking back in history, we can see how important the role of the students in a society is – they have the power and the courage to change it.

Take 30 seconds of your time and sign the petition, so that we can prove once again that the authorities should take care of and show consideration to students.

In the end, we are the future of the world.

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