New rules on how long EU jobseekers will have to wait to claim benefits are to be brought in early, the British government said. The change to a three-month wait before EU citizens can apply for UK out-of-work benefits is being rushed through Parliament to start on 1 January. It coincides with the date people from both Romania and Bulgaria will be able to work in the UK without restrictions, BBC reports.
David Cameron said the move sent a "clear message", but Labour said it had been left to the "very last minute".
The Liberal Democrats said the new rules - which were announced by the prime minister last month - were reasonable and sensible.
And there have also been suggestions that current EU rules mean residents of one country are already not allowed to claim benefits in another country for their first three months they are there.
Measures to restrict so-called benefit tourism were announced last month amid concerns about a predicted influx of Romanians and Bulgarians when they gain full rights to live and work in the UK at the start of 2014.
It is not known how many Romanians and Bulgarians will come to Britain when the final restrictions on their right to work elsewhere in the EU are lifted. There are already more than 100,000 working in the country.
BBC social affairs correspondent Michael Buchanan said the government knows the public is anxious about the possibility of a large influx of immigrants and has been keen to introduce restrictions.
Under regulations being tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, migrants from all EU states will have to wait for three months before applying for jobseeker's allowance (JSA) and other out-of-work benefits.
In addition, only those who can provide compelling evidence that they have a genuine chance of finding work will be allowed to continue claiming benefits after six months.
Other changes include:
- Beefing up the "habitual residence" eligibility test for claimants
- Preventing people who have been removed for begging or sleeping rough from returning for 12 months
- Increasing fines for businesses found not to be paying the national minimum wage
When the new restrictions were announced, Downing Street said it was unlikely they would be in place in time for the 1 January deadline - when transitional controls on Bulgaria and Romanian workers in place since 2007 expire.
But they are now being pushed through Parliament before it rises for the Christmas recess on Thursday to enable that to happen.