Residence card of a family member of a Union citizen

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Not to be confused with European Economic Area Family Permit.

European Economic Area (EEA) citizens have the right of free movement and residence throughout the EEA. This right also extends to certain family members, even if they are not EEA citizens. A Residence card of a family member of a Union citizen is issued to the family member to confirm this right of residence. The holder of a valid Residence Card is entitled to use this document in lieu of an entry visa for entry to all EEA member states. There is not a unified format for this card in the EU country.

They have an EU family member’s residence card issued under EU rules by any EU country (except the country you are a national of)7, and they are travelling together with you or travelling to join you in another EU country. The residence card should clearly state that the holder is a family member of an EU national.

Sample story A: Residence card of a family member of a Union citizen

Holders of an EU family member's residence card don't need to obtain a visa for (Bulgaria,Romania,Cyprus,Ireland,UK)8 if travelling with an EU national.

Ying, the Chinese spouse of a German national living in Finland, has been issued an EU family member’s residence card in Finland. Ying and her husband wish to travel to Romania for an autumn break. As Ying has a valid passport and an EU family member’s residence card, she is not required to obtain an entry visa to travel to Romania with her husband.


Qualifying family members of the citizen are:[1]

  • the spouse
  • the registered partner, if the legislation of the host Member State treats registered partnerships as equivalent to marriage
  • the direct descendants who are under the age of 21, or are dependants and those of the spouse or partner as defined above
  • the dependent direct relatives in the ascending line (parents, grandparents) and those of the spouse or partner.

"Dependent" here is defined[2] as someone who is either:

  1. systematically preparing for a future profession,
  2. cannot systematically prepare for a future profession or perform gainful activities due to illness or injury; or
  3. is not capable of performing systematic gainful activities due to a chronic adverse health condition.

Legal Background[edit]

The Residence Card is defined in articles 9 to 11 of the "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". The central paragraph is article 10(1):

The right of residence of family members of a Union citizen who are not nationals of a Member State shall be evidenced by the issuing of a document called "Residence card of a family member of a Union citizen" no later than six months from the date on which they submit the application.

So the card only confirms the right of residence, it does not create it. Even without applying for a Residence Card, a qualifying family member has the right of residence, although it may be difficult to prove.[3]

Implementation in the United Kingdom[edit]

As of 6th April 2015, the non-EU family members of an EU national who are in possession of a residence card, which is issued to them under article 10 of directive 2004/38, are entitled to enter the UK without the need to apply for an EEA Family Permit, only by providing their residence card at the border. However, the UK border officers would grant entry to non-EU family members if they can prove their relation to the EU national family member who would be accompanying them, by providing documents such as marriage or birth certificate.

In the case of the EU national family member being present in the UK, the non-EU family members should be able to prove that the EU national family member is residing in the UK and whether they have a right of residency in the UK as a qualified person. Therefore, the non-EU family member should be able to demonstrate that the EU national family member is residing in the UK less than three months (the initial right of residence) and if more than three month, then they are in the UK as worker, self-employed, self-sufficient or student or they acquired the status of permanent residency after having resided in the UK for five years. [4][5]

Implementation in Ireland[edit]

Ireland calls its Residence Card Stamp 4EUFam (EU Directive 2004/38/EC). Ireland has now implemented this part of the directive in full according to IMMIGRATION ACT 2004 (VISAS) ORDER 2011 and therefore it is possible for family members to gain entry into Ireland with a residence card issued by any member state.[6]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Chalmers, Damian; Davies, Gareth; Monti, Giorgio (2011). European Union Law (2nd ed.). UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 474–6, p. 474, at Google Books. ISBN 0521121515. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Immigration Act 2004 (Visas) Order 2011.". Retrieved 26 January 2014. 

More Information: Travel documents for non-EU family members