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Kadmos Consultants have specialist expertise in European free movement rights, which is a particularly complex branch of UK immigration law. European free movement rights are the rights of EU nationals and their family members in the UK and also the rights of the British citizens who have lived and worked in another EU country and have thus acquired European rights in respect of bringing to the UK their family members from outside the EU


EEA family permit guidance
Family members of EEA nationals
How Kadmos can help

EEA Family permit guidance

EU citizens do not need any special documents in order to come to the UK. Whether they are coming for a short visit or to take up employment and settle in the UK, their entry to the UK is not subject to any visa requirements.

Family members of EU nationals who are not EU nationals themselves, generally require an EEA family permit to enter the UK with their EU national family member. This family permit is issued overseas and works as a visa or entry clearance to the UK. At the same time, an EEA residence document issued by another Member State may work as a family permit, or as  authorisation for entry to the UK. We would therefore advise those who intend to travel to the UK as the family members of EU nationals to check with us if they need the family permit. We do not charge for this consultation and it may save you the cost and hassle of applying.

It may be worth noting that family members in EU law include the spouse, children under the age of 21 or above the age of 21 but still financially dependent on the parent, dependent parents, grandparents and great grandparents. There is also a concept of “extended family members”. It refers to siblings and more distant relatives, such as cousins, aunts and uncles. Extended family members may also be entitled to an EEA family permit if they either had lived in the household of the EU national or depend financially on the EU national.

Once in the UK, family members of EU nationals are advised to apply for an EEA residence card. Although this application is not mandatory in law, in practice it the only official confirmation of the rights of the applicant, including the right to work in the UK. An EEA residence permit is issued in the UK by the Home Office and is normally valid for five years. The documents is issued in the form of a vignette in the Applicant’s passport. It confirms the right to work and entitles the holder of the passport to go through immigration control at the same posts as EU and British citizens, without having to complete a landing card or queuing with “other passport holders”.

After five years of residence EU nationals and their family members are entitled to permanent right of residence. A condition to this is that EU national has to have been exercising Treaty rights continuously during the five years of residence. Exercising Treaty rights means working as an employee, being self-employed, or being a student or a self-sufficient person. The latter two groups have to have had a comprehensive private medical insurance for themselves and their family members throughout the period of residence as a student or a self-sufficient person. In the absence of medical insurance, a document certifying permanent residence will not be issued.

EU law also protects non-EU national spouse in case of a break down of the family. Where the couple have been married for more than three years and have lived in the UK for at least one of these three years, the non-EU national spouse retains the right of residence in the UK provided both the EU national and the non-EU national work in the UK at the time of divorce (or more precisely at the time the Decree Absolute is issued).

British citizens who have exercised their rights to free movement in other EU states may also benefit from the more generous provisions of EU law when it comes to immigration issues for their family members. This relates not only to the rights of the spouses of British citizens, but also to the rights of third country national parents and grandparents. These rights are likely to be compromised in the near future under the new settlement deal for the UK in the European Union, if the UK chooses to stay in Europe

Family members of EEA nationals

EEA nationals who are exercising their Treaty right to free movement in the UK (in other words, who are employed, self-employed, studying  or enjoying the life of financial independence in the UK) are allowed to bring with them their family members who may not be European nationals.

Family members of EEA nationals are generally required to have a family permit when travelling to the UK.  Once in the UK they will be issued with a residence card valid for up to five years.  On completion of the five year residence with the EU national, the non-European family members are entitled to permanent residence.  They can apply for British citizenship having been settled in the UK for not less than a year and having lived lawfully in the UK for not less than five years, unless their spouse is a British citizen, in which case they can apply for naturalisation after three years of lawful residence and at any time after acquiring permanent right of residence.

The seemingly uncontroversial rule on the rights of third country nationals who are family members of EU nationals is in fact fraught with difficulties. Controversy is often caused by excessively high burden of evidential requirements, bureaucratic formalities, or unsatisfactory definitions of “family members” and  “extended family members” in the underlying legislation and piecemeal attempts by the courts to remedy these defects.

For instance, parents and grandparents are referred to as “dependent family members in the ascending line” (simply omitting, no doubt by oversight, those who are not dependent on their children, but still part of their family unit, such as parents of a child at school, and variety of other scenarios). The concept of “Extended family members” has also proved difficult to grasp for the immigration authorities.

Case law has established the rights of non-EEA national parents of an EEA national child to reside in the UK with the child, and more recently has confirmed their right to work in the UK.  Case law has established that extended family members of EEA nationals were subject to alternative requirements either to demonstrate they were members of the same household, or to demonstrate their past dependency on the EEA nationals (see our news article regarding Monike). 

As a result, the European rules applicable to relatives of EEA nationals are by far more generous than their counterpart domestic rules applicable to family members of British citizens.

Residence rights of family members of EEA nationals are protected in case of death of the Union Citizen or divorce. Case law has developed further protection for circumstances where the Union Citizen leave the UK leaving behind their family with children at a school in the UK.A recent development in case law has permitted parents of EU citizen children to benefit from their children’s entitlement to European nationality, in that it has become possible to derive the right of residence from the right of the children.This is a significant development giving advantage to a considerable number of non-British parents with children who either are UK citizens or born in the UK may claim British nationality at some point in the future.

useful resources

EEA nationals – Qualified Persons: Home Office guidance document

EEA2 application form

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EEA family permit guidance
Family members of EEA nationals

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We assist with applications for family permits, residence cards, retained right of residence and permanent residence for family members of EU nationals and welcome professional referrals in this area.

If you have a question regarding an EU matter, please contact us and we will be happy to assist.

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