The freedom to move to another EU country to work without a work permit is a right for EU nationals.
Non-EU nationals may have the right to work in an EU country or to be treated equally with EU nationals as regards conditions of work. These rights depend on their status as family members of EU nationals and on their own nationality.
Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway
Although these countries are not members of the EU, their nationals can work in the EU on the same footing as EU nationals, since they belong to the European Economic Area.
Workers from Croatia may face temporary restrictions on working in Liechtenstein.
Liechtenstein imposes quotas that limit the number of people who can work and live there. This quota system applies to nationals of all EU countries, Norway and Iceland.
The United Kingdom
All EU law, across all policy areas, will still be applicable to and in the United Kingdom during the transition period. It is currently foreseen that the transition period ends on 31 December 2020.
Under the EU-Switzerland agreement on the free movement of persons, Swiss nationals are free to live and work in the EU.
Most EU citizens do not need a permit to work in Switzerland. Restrictions only apply to nationals of Croatia – who need a work permit. Find out more on working in Switzerland as an EU citizen.
The right of Turkish nationals to move to an EU country to work depends entirely on the laws of that country.
Turkish workers who are legally employed in an EU country and who are duly registered as belonging to the labour force there have the following rights:
- after one year’s legal employment they are entitled to a renewal of the work permit for the same employer if a job is available
- after three years’ legal employment they may change employers and respond to any other offer of employment for the same occupation
- after four years’ legal employment they enjoy free access to any paid employment in that EU country.
Turkish nationals working legally in an EU country are also entitled to the same working conditions as the nationals of that country.
Other countries that have an agreement with the EU
Nationals of these countries, who are working legally in the European Union, are entitled to the same working conditions as the nationals of their host country:
- Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia
- Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia
- Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Serbia, Ukraine
- Andorra, San Marino
- 79 countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States.
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.
Countries with no agreement
For nationals of other countries – that have no agreement with the EU – the right to work in an EU country mainly depends on the laws of that country, unless they are members of an EU national’s family.
However, EU rules do cover the following areas for workers from all non‑EU countries:
- non-EU nationals who are long-term residents in the EU
- the right to family reunification
- admission for non-EU researchers
- admission for students, exchange pupils, unpaid training or voluntary service
- the rights of highly-skilled workers from outside the EU (EU blue card scheme)
- simplified entry procedures and rights for all non-EU migrant workers
- conditions of entry and residence of seasonal workers from non-EU countries
- conditions of entry and residence of non-EU nationals in the framework of an intra-corporate transfer.