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European Nationals and Family Members

Subject to some transitional restrictions, nationals from member states of the European Economic Area have a right to travel to other member states and live and work there with their immediate family members.

The exercise of free movement rights (also known as ‘treaty rights’) usually depends on some kind of economic activity (such as employment or self-employment), study or self-sufficiency.

European residence rights are separate from national rules governing immigration.  It can be confusing if you have to deal with both systems, and it is important to understand how European rights interact with domestic law.

We offer advice on all aspects of European free movement and residence rights including:

  • Residence documents       
  • Entry clearance       
  • Derivative rights

Residence documents

Although there is no requirement for an EEA national or their family members to register or obtain UK paperwork in order to exercise their rights, in practice it is more straightforward for non-EEA family members to apply for documents that show they have a right to live and work here.

We regularly advise applicants under the European system, including advice about the status and rights of non-EEA nationals in more complex cases of family breakdown, multiple nationalities, and historic rights.

Entry clearance for non-EEA family members

Where non-EEA family members are outside the UK they may still need an entry visa.  In cases where European free movement right apply, this is known as a ‘family permit.’  In general a family permit should be issued using an ‘accelerated procedure’ and based on minimal documentation.  However, in reality the processing time, and the success rate, for family permit applications can depend on how familiar the local diplomatic post is with checking European applications.  An application in Spain may be completed in a matter of days, whereas in Pakistan it could take months.

We can explain the legal requirements for a family permit application, but we also provide tips to help your application go smoothly based on our experience of different processing centres.

Derivative rights of residence

You may have a ‘derivative right’ to live and work in the UK if you are the primary carer of a British national child or dependant adult, who would be unable to stay in the UK without you.

This is a complex and changing area of law, and applications for residence are regularly refused because the law has not been applied correctly.  We advise on the practical aspects of submitting an application and on your alternative options where the stability of a vulnerable child or adult could be at stake.