European residence rights

European law provides a basic “free movement” right for the nationals of member states of the European Union to live in other member states as long as they are exercising “treaty rights”. This usually means working, studying or being self-sufficient. Nationals of states in the European Economic Area (“EEA”) are also included in the deal.

EEA nationals also have a right to have family members live with them in a host state where they are exercising treaty rights, even if those family members come from outside Europe. Immediate family members including spouses, civil partners, children up to the age of 21, and dependant parents are covered. Unmarried partners and more distant relatives may also be included depending on circumstances.

After living in the host state for 5 years in accordance with the law, people who come under the relevant laws may acquire a right of permanent residence.

Although residence rights under these laws are automatic, non-EEA nationals in the UK are usually best advised to apply for residence documents. This is because employers, landlords and other institutions such as banks and hospitals, may ask to see them as proof of an individual’s entitlement to live in the UK.

From 2015 European nationals have also been required, in most cases, to produce permanent residence documents as part of the evidence supporting an application for British citizenship.

Following the referendum held in the UK in 2016, the UK formally left the EU on 31 January 2020.

The Government says that there will be a “transition period” until 30 June 2021 during which EEA nationals will be able to apply for permission to stay in the UK under the domestic Immigration Rules.

Find out more about the following applications: