bureaucracy, education, England

How to get a Yellow Card?


I’m writing this post because I wish I had read something like it before I made my plans. In fact way before I had made my plans. Every student from Bulgaria and Romania has  the right to work not more than 20 hours per week:

Romanian and Bulgarian nationals who can demonstrate that they are on a course of study at a place of study recognised by UK government can be issued a “yellow” registration certificate. The holder of a yellow registration certificate which highlights they are a student can work up to 20 hours a week during term time (or longer for vocational training) and full time during vacation time. — Employing a Bulgarian or Romanian national in the UK

The key point in the paragraph above is obtaining it. The form that needs to be filled for the application is called BR1 and is for students, self-sufficient and family members of working people. It is fairly easy to get the documents required for the application:

  • ID — passport or ID card
  • Proof that you are a student — attendance letter from the university
  • Proof that you will not be burden to the social system — stipend letter, letter from parents + bank statements, and others (see BR1)

If you are a student on a stipend all these documents should be fairly easy to get. If you are  working as a GTA, it might be more complicated, if your parents are supporting you it would take time to get everything from the banks, maybe weeks.

My contribution to the community though come once these are all gathered and the BR1 form is ready. There are two ways to apply for a Yellow Card:

  1. mail your application (undisclosed amount of time, ideally less than six months)
  2. or book an appointment at the Croydon office (done the same day).

If you talk to a person that got their certificate a few years back you may hear different versions about how much time it took them to get it. It ranges from a week to a few months and increasing in time. What you should know in advance is that now it takes a few months even if you have to book an appointment. There’s no way around it. The appointments are available 3 months in advance and are all booked. I thought the system is somehow flawed or that I was doing something wrong, but in the end it all came down to these three months being fully booked. A new batch of appointments are released in the beginning of each business day, so ideally trying to book an appointment around 9am would be the only option. In case you succeed the appointment will probably be exactly three months later. If you try to go to the Public Enquiry Office in Croydon you should know that even if all your documents are in tact, you will not get a certificate without an appointment.

If you decide to mail your documents you should be ready to give up your passport or ID card for a very long period of time. You can check here the date when the documents currently being processed were received. Right now it says January 4, 2012, which is about nine months from now.

It seems that against all logic and sense, however, a procedure that took 1-2 weeks three years ago takes nine months now. The Border Agency seems to know that and doesn’t do anything to resolve this obvious problem, but rather just warns people that booking might be difficult. There isn’t a single place on their web site that states an expected return date of your application. There isn’t a single phone line you could call and actually speak to a person. You could call 08706067766 and try to get some information out of them using the option for a general query and redirection to a phone line, but that line never got picked up, at least when I called. All this leads me to the conclusion that the UK government wants to reduce to a minimum the amount of working Bulgarian and Romanian students in the country by deliberately making the procedure ridiculously long. And since there isn’t a way to change this or even confront them about it the best thing you can do is plan for it.

I will update this post as things develop for me, but for now let’s just say that it takes a long time to get a Yellow Card even if you have all the documents you need.

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