Under European law special rules apply to visitors to the UK who are nationals of a country within the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA) or of Switzerland. The EEA includes EU countries and some which are not part of the EU but whose citizens have the same rights of residence in the UK under European law. Nationals of all these countries are allowed to live and work in the UK without having to obtain a visa.
To exercise their right to live in the UK, nationals of these countries must either work in the UK or be able to support themselves and their families financially without having to rely on help from the government. Nationals of these countries do not require a permit to work in the UK and are entitled to the same working conditions as UK citizens.
EU Visitors to the UK
Nationals of the EU or other countries listed above may visit the UK at any time without a visa. They must, however, have valid travel documents to enter the UK. All passports will be checked by UK immigration officials at the border.
Bringing Family to the UK
EU / EEA and Swiss nationals who wish to live and / or work in the UK are permitted to bring family members with them. For this purpose family includes:
- Husband, wife, or civil partner;
- Children or grandchildren – of the EU national or of their spouse or partner – who are under the age of 21 or who are dependent;
- Parents or grandparents of either the EU national or their spouse or partner.
EU / EEA nationals who come to the UK as students may only bring their spouse or civil partner and their children.
Family members listed above who are not themselves EU / EEA / Swiss nationals will have to obtain a special visa, known as an EEA family permit if they are to remain in the UK for a long period or permanently. These family members may also apply for a residence card using form EEA2 to confirm their entitlement to live in the UK.
Family members who are not EU / EEA / Swiss citizens and live in the UK with a national of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, Latvia, Slovenia, Hungary or Slovakia are not entitled to a residence card until the EU / EEA national family member has worked in the UK continuously for 12 months. However, they may apply for a residence stamp to be placed in their passport to show their entitlement to live in the UK, using form FMRS.
The Worker Registration Scheme
Nationals of Slovenia, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Estonia and the Czech Republic who wish to work in the UK for a UK employer for longer than one month must register on the Worker Registration Scheme. Once citizens of these countries have worked in the UK continuously for 12 months they are entitled to apply for a residence permit confirming their full entitlement to live and work in the UK under European Law.
Special Rules for Bulgarian and Romanian Nationals in the UK
Bulgarian and Romanian nationals are free, under European law, to live in the UK – as long as they can support themselves and their family financially. However, they are not generally allowed to be employed in the UK without first obtaining permission. Applying for permission is a two stage process which must involve the applicant’s employer.
Applying for Permanent Residence in the UK
EU / EEA / Swiss nationals who have lived in the UK continuously for five years may apply for a document confirming their permanent residence in the UK. To qualify for this document the applicant must:
- Have worked, studied or otherwise supported themselves, and any family members, throughout the five year period; and,
- Not have been out of the UK for longer than six months in any one year. However, exceptions will be made for compulsory military service. Extended periods of up to 12 months spent out of the UK may be excused if there were special reasons – for example a serious illness or being posted overseas by an employer.
The application for Permanent Residence is made using form EEA3.