European Economic Area Family Permit
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A European Economic Area Family Permit (short: EEA family permit) is an immigration document that permits the holder to enter the United Kingdom as the dependent of a citizen of the European Economic Area (EEA). They are issued under the authority of free movement provisions of the Treaty of Rome and European Law. Additionally, dependents of citizens of Switzerland can also apply for this document although Switzerland is not a member of the EEA. A family permit can be issued for both a short term visit and/or to enable to holder to take up residence in the UK. As the documents are only valid for six months a person seeking to remain in the UK will need to apply for residence documentation from the UK Border Agency.
The framework for the issue of an EEA family permit is defined in the Directive 2004/38/EC on the right to move and reside freely This directive defines the right of free movement of EU citizens, which is one of the Four Freedoms (European Union) and enshrined in the Treaty of Rome. The directive has been incorporated in UK legislation by The Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 20062 (see EEA Regulations (UK)).
It should be noted, however, that according to article 5, paragraph 2 of the Directive:
2. Family members who are not nationals of a Member State shall only be required to have an
entry visa in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 or, where appropriate, with nationallaw. For the purposes of this Directive, possession of the valid residence card referred to in Article 10 shall exempt such family members from the visa requirement.
This clearly states that possession of a visa (and of an EEA Family Permit, which is a visa-like document) can only be asked from family members not in possession of a residence card issued by any EEA country or Switzerland. This, unfortunately, is not the case, as the UK asks all non-EEA family members to apply for an EEA Family Permit.
This is due to the faulty incorporation of the Directive by The Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006, where article 2:
- "residence card" means a card issued to a person who is not an EEA national, in accordance with regulation 17, as proof of the holder's right of residence in the United Kingdom as at the date of issue;
- "permanent residence card" means a card issued to a person who is not an EEA national, in accordance with regulation 18, as proof of the holder's permanent right of residence under regulation 15 as at the date of issue;
Limits the validity of the residence card en lieu of a visa solely to the cards issued by the United Kingdom.
Several complaints have been made to the European Commission, notably Complaint number 2008/4161, as well as petitions have been brought before the European Parliament, notably Petition number 1307/2007 , seeking to resolve this problem. Both named documents were brought before the respective bodies by Mr and Mrs Richard Willmer, a UK citizen exercising treaty rights (i.e. working) in Italy and his Russian wife, but who represent many other EEA citizens who cannot reasonably go to the UK because of their non-EEA family member's need for an EEA Family Permit.
It is hoped that soon EEA family members already in possession of a residence card as a family member issued by an EEA state or Switzerland will be able to travel freely to the United Kingdom, as guaranteed by the Directive, without the need to apply for this visa-like document.
EEA Family Permits are available from any Entry Clearance Issuing Posts (typically Embassies and/or Consulates) outside the UK and are issued for six months at a time. Within the United Kingdom a Residence Documentation (Residence Card or Family member residence stamp in the first 12 months for A8 national family members) replaces the family permit for stays longer than six months. Applications for residence documentation are made to the UK Border Agency. Both applications are free of charge.
Conditions of issue
Detailed information for applicants is available on the UKvisas website  but in essence family permits will be issued if the applicant is the spouse, civil partner or dependent child of an EEA national and they will be travelling to the UK with that person. There are also requirements connected to the need for the EEA person, if staying for more than 3 months, to be economically active or to be a self-sufficient person (this is called "exercising a treaty right") and for the family unit not to fall dependent on public funds whilst in the United Kingdom.
If staying for less than 3 months there is no need to exercise any treaty right.
- "Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States"