We have a specialist expertise in European free movement rights, which is a particularly complex branch of immigration law.
Family members of EEA citizens enjoy the right of admission to the UK without leave to enter or remain providing they can prove their relationship to an EEA citizen. Normally this will be done though a passport and an EEA family permit, family residence card or permanent residence card.
European free movement rights are the rights of EU nationals and their family members in the UK and also the rights of British citizen who have lived and worked in any another EU country and have therefore acquired European rights in with regard to bringing to the UK their family members from outside the EU.
EU citizens in fact do not need any special documents in order to come to the UK. Indeed, regardless of they are coming for a short visit or to take up employment and settle in the UK, their entry to the UK will not be subject to any visa requirements.
Family members of EU nationals who are not EU nationals themselves, normally 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 always advise those who plan on travelling 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 any initial immigration consultations and it may very well save you the cost and hassle of applying.
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 category of “extended family members”. This refers to siblings and more distant relatives, such as cousins, aunts and uncles. Please note that 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 are financially dependent on the EU national.
We advise that once in the UK, family members of EU nationals should 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. It is important to note that an EEA residence permit is issued in the UK by the Home Office and is normally valid for five years. This document is issued in the form of a vignette in the Applicant’s passport. It is fact 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”.
It is important to note that after five years of residence, EU nationals and their family members are entitled to permanent right of residence. There is a condition to this in that the EU national has to have been exercising Treaty rights continuously during the five years of residence. Exercising Treaty rights means either 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. The Home Office will not issue a document certifying permanent residence in the absence of medical insurance.
EU law also protects non-EU national spouse in case of a break-down of the family. This occurs 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 are working 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 provisions of EU law when it comes to immigration matter associated with their family members. This will relate not only to the rights of the spouses of British citizens, but also to the rights of third country national parents and their grandparents. We advise clients to be aware that these rights could potentially be compromised in the near future under the new settlement deal for the UK in the European Union following Brexit.
If you have a question regarding an EU matter, please contact us and we will be happy to assist.