This post provides an overview of the most frequently asked questions from applicants for EEA Family Permits overseas
What are the EEA (European Economic Area) Countries?
These are currently: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Although Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are not members of the European Union (EU), their citizens have the same rights as EU citizens to enter, live in and work in the UK.
Where can I apply for an EEA Family Permit?
You can submit your application in any country that offers a UK visa service. You do not have to be resident in the country of application. Nor do you have to be lawfully present in the country of application.
Which application form should I use for an EEA Family Permit application?
Most applicants need to complete an on-line application form. The UKBA “Country Finder” will tell you whether you need to complete an on-line, or a printed form. If you need to complete an on-line form, you do not need to choose a form; the on-line application system will automatically generate the correct questions for you. If you need to complete a printed form, the correct form is VAF5. Please remember that, even if you have to complete an on-line form, you will still need to print this, date and sign it, and submit it at the visa application centre! Guidance to complete the EEA Family Permit form can be found here. UKBA’s supporting documents guidance for EEA Family Permits can be found here. UKBA’s country finder can be found here.
What documents should I include with my EEA Family Permit application?
UKBA has drawn up guidance about which documents it recommends you submit in support of EEA Family Permits. You can find this guidance here.
What is the processing fee for an EEA Family Permit application?
EEA Family Permit applications are processed free of charge.
Can the family member of a British national apply for an EEA Family Permit?
Yes, but only if a) the British national is exercising a Treaty Right in another Member State or was doing so before his/her return to the UK (exercising a Treaty Right means that the British national is either currently working or self-employed in another Member State, or was working or self-employed in another Member State before he returned to the UK), and b) you are in a relationship (e.g. marriage/CP) and living together in the EEA country, or you entered into the marriage or civil partnership and were living together in the relevant EEA country before the British citizen returned to the UK.
Who are an EEA National’s Family Members?
The family members of an EEA national (part 7 of the EEA Regulations) include:
- spouses or civil partners;
- direct descendants of the EEA national or their spouse/ civil partner under 21;
- dependent direct descendants of the EEA national or their spouse/ civil partner 21 and over;
- dependent direct relatives in the ascending line, for example parents and grandparents of the EEA national or their spouse / civil partner.
Financial dependence should be interpreted as meaning that the family member needs the financial support of the EEA national or his or her spouse/ civil partner in order to meet the family member’s essential needs in the country where they are present – not in order to have a certain level of income. Important: If the applicant is the spouse or civil partner of the EEA national or a dependent child of either the EEA national or their spouse or civil partner is under 21 then they do not need to provide evidence of financial dependency.
Do extended (more distant) family members also qualify for EEA Family Permits?
Extended family members are more distant family members of the EEA national or of his/her spouse/civil partner who can demonstrate that they are dependent. Partners, where there is no civil partnership, who can show that they are in a ‘durable relationship’ are also considered to be extended family members.
Extended family member of an EEA national are defined in regulation 8 of the EEA Regulations.
An applicant may be considered for an EEA family permit as an extended family member if they are:
- residing in a country other than the UK in which the EEA national also resides and are dependent on the EEA national or are a member of the EEA national’s household; and
- accompanying the EEA national to the UK or wishing to join them there.
If the applicant does not meet both of these criteria, they can also be considered for an EEA family permit as an extended family member if they are:
- a relative of the EEA national or his spouse / civil partner and on serious health grounds, strictly require the personal care of the EEA national or their spouse/ civil partner; or
- a relative of the EEA national and would meet the requirements, (other than those relating to entry clearance) in the Immigration Rules for indefinite leave to enter the UK as a dependent relative (paragraph 317) of the EEA national were the EEA national present and settled in the UK; or
- a partner of the EEA national (other than a civil partner) and can prove to the Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) that they are in a durable relationship with the EEA national.
Where the applicant can show that he / she is the extended family member of an EEA national, the ECO may issue an EEA family permit if in all circumstances, it appears to the ECO appropriate to issue the EEA family permit. Therefore, an EEA family permit may be refused:
- where refusing the family member would not deter the EEA national from exercising his / her Treaty rights or would not create an effective obstacle to the exercise of Treaty rights;
- if the applicant would have been refused entry to the UK on general grounds for refusal had they been applying for entry under the Immigration Rules;
- maintenance and accommodation requirements aren’t met, for example, the non-EEA national’s admittance would result in recourse to public funds.
Family members of students (other than his or her spouse and dependent children) are entitled to join the EEA national for the initial 3 month period she or he is in the UK. Should these other family members wish to remain in the UK with the EEA national student for a period longer than 3 months they would need to apply in country for a residence card.
What is financial dependency in connection with EEA Family Permit applications?
Spouses, partners and children under 21 do not need to show that they are financially dependent on the EEA principal. Other direct family members must be wholly or mainly financially dependent on the EEA principal to meet his or her essential needs in order to qualify for an EEA family permit. The same criteria applies to extended family members, who must also be wholly or mainly financially dependent on the EEA principal to meet his or her essential needs in order to qualify for an EEA family permit (durable partners do not need to provide evidence to show dependency on the EEA national). Emotional dependence to the EEA national would also be expected in order for an extended family member to qualify for an EEA family permit.
Each case is treated on its merits but, generally, ECO will consider factors such as:
- Are there any other close relatives in the country of origin from whom the family member receives material support? If a family member receives funds from the EEA national but, for example, is living in the same household as another relative who provides their food and accommodation, the family member cannot be said to need the financial support of the EEA national in order to meet his / her essential needs.
- Is the family member leading an independent life? For example, if a direct descendent 21 or over is married (and especially if they have children), it may be questionable as to whether the EEA national is supporting the essential needs of both the family member and their spouse and children. In such cases additional attention should be paid to ensure that the financial essential needs of the family are being met by the EEA national.
Are unmarried partners eligible for EEA Family Permits?
Yes, they are. An unmarried partner can be considered for an EEA family permit as an extended family member if they are in a durable relationship with the EEA national and have been so for a minimum period of two years. The ECO will consider factors such as the length of cohabitation, joint finances, whether the couple have children together to establish whether or not the relationship is durable. Each case will be looked at on its own merits. While regulation 12(2) makes provision for the issuing of a Family permit to extended family members (including unmarried partners), only meeting the extended family member criteria is insufficient. Even where an ECO is satisfied that the applicant is in a ‘durable’ relationship, the ECO will go on to consider whether ‘in all the circumstances, it appears to the entry clearance officer appropriate to issue the family permit’ (Regulation 12(2)(c). Factors that an ECO will consider have been outlined under Extended Relatives (see above).
Do I qualify for an EEA Family Permit if I am an unmarried partner but have been living together with the EEA National for less than 2 years?
No. In order for your relationship to be considered “durable” under the law, you will need to demonstrate that you have been living together for a minimum period of two years. For married couples and civil partners there is no such requirement. In other words, a spouse or civil partner does not need to show that s/he has been living with the EEA national for a minimum period of two years.
Can fiancé(e)s, and proposed civil partners qualify for an EEA family permit?
No, they can’t. Fiancé(e)s and proposed civil partners are not recognised as family members or extended family members in the EEA Regulations unless they can show they are in durable relationship. If the latter is the case, they can be considered as extended family members and could apply for an EEA Family Permit. If not, they need to apply under the UK immigration Rules, which contain provisions for fiancé (e)s and proposed civil partners of EEA nationals, namely paragraph 290 of the Immigration Rules. Fiancé(e)s and proposed civil partners of EEA nationals applying under these Rules will have to pay the usual processing fee. For the purposes paragraph 290 of the Immigration Rules, an EEA national who is a qualified person in the UK is considered as present and settled if they have permanent residence as set out under schedule 2 of the EEA Regulations. In other words, if a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner cannot show that they are in a durable relationship (a relationship akin to marriage which has existed for a minimum period of 2 years), they cannot apply for an EEA Family Permit but would need to apply under the Immigration Rules.
Can adopted children qualify for EEA Family Permits?
The UK currently recognises adoptions that have taken place legally in the majority of EEA Member States (as they are either included on the designated list or because they are Hague Convention states). Switzerland is also on the designated list of recognised countries.
The exceptions to this are Hungary, which has signed the Hague Convention but not yet acceded to or ratified it and Liechtenstein (because it is not on the designated list, nor has it signed the Hague convention). In some (very rare) circumstances adoption orders made in Convention countries may not automatically be recognised in the UK. This is because only adoptions made as ‘convention’ adoptions are recognised (based on Article 17(c) agreements). In general, however, a child legally adopted in one of the recognised Member States should qualify for an EEA family permit provided that they meet the relevant criteria.
If the United Kingdom does not recognise a country’s adoption orders an EEA national would need to re-adopt the child in the UK (or in any country whose adoption orders are recognised by the United Kingdom) in order for the relationship to gain legal recognition in the UK. This would apply if, for example, an EU national adopted a child in a country not on the designated adoption list here.
What is the upper age limit for children for EEA Family Permit applications?
A child must be under 21. However, children aged 21 and over can also apply. They would, however, need to demonstrate that they meet the criteria as “extended family members”. See “Do extended (more distant) family members also qualify for EEA Family Permits?” elsewhere in this FAQ.
Can an EEA Family Permit application be refused?
Yes, it can. Examples of reasons for refusal are:
- You failed to submit evidence of the EEA National’s nationality
- You failed to submit satisfactory evidence of your relationship to the EEA National
- You are a party to a marriage/partnership of convenience
- The EEA National is not in the UK, or will not be accompanying you to the UK
- You are not genuinely dependent on the EEA National. This does not apply to spouses / civil partners or children aged under 21, except in the case of a student who has been resident in the UK for more than three months, where the children of any age must also be dependent. It also applies to extended family members, who must show dependency.
- You falsely claim to require the personal care of the EEA national on serious health grounds
- In cases where a person is seeking to be considered as an unmarried / same-sex partner of an EEA National, failure to submit satisfactory evidence that your relationship is durable and has existed for at least two years.
- The EEA National is not a “qualified person” (only applicable in cases where the applicant seeks to join an EEA National that has been resident in the UK for more than 3 months)
- The EEA National sponsor is a British national that has never worked or been self-employed in another EEA Member State.
- The EEA National is a British national who resides in another Member State but you, the applicant, do not live with him/her in the other member state, or did not do so before s/he returned to the UK.
Note: the list above is not conclusive; it gives examples only.
Do I have the right of appeal if my EEA Family Permit application is refused?
Yes. You have a full right of appeal. The only exception to this rule is if you forgot to include evidence of the EEA national’s nationalitity, or your relationship to him/her. If the latter is the case, the refusal attracts a limited right of appeal only. But in all other circumstances, you have the full right of appeal.
Is an appeal against a decision to refuse an EEA Family Permit application free of charge?
No, this is not (not) free of charge. You can find the fees on the Ministry of Justice website here.
Will I be interviewed about my EEA Family Permit application?
Not normally. An ECO will normally only interview you if he or she has:
- Strong grounds to doubt applicant is related as claimed to EEA national
- Strong grounds to doubt that applicant is genuinely dependent on the EEA national (except spouses and descendants under 21)
- Strong grounds to doubt that EEA national is in, or will be going to, the UK
- Strong grounds to doubt that the EEA national is, or will be, a qualified person
- Strong grounds to suspect the EEA national intends to ‘drop off’ the applicant and return to the country of origin
- Strong grounds to suspect a marriage of convenience
- Strong doubts about identity of applicant
- Strong grounds to consider refusing on the basis of Public Policy, Public Health or Public Security.
Does the EEA National or his/her family member need to meet the £18,000+ income requirement?
No. That is only a requirement for people that apply as a family member under the UK Immigration Rules. EEA Family Permits are governed by the EEA Regulations, not the UK immigration rules. There is no such requirement in the Regulations and therefore there is no such requirement for EEA Family Permits.
Does the EEA National or his/her family member need to meet the Accommodation requirement?
No. Similar to the income requirement, this is only a requirement for applicants that apply as family members under the UK Immigration Rules. EEA Family Permits are governed by the EEA Regulations, not the UK immigration rules. There is no such requirement in the Regulations and therefore there is no such requirement for EEA Family Permits.
Does the EEA National have to have a job in the UK before his/her family members can apply for an EEA Family Permit to live in the UK?
If you, the EEA National, are just moving to the UK: no, you don’t have to have a job before your family members can apply for the Family Permit. Under EU law, you have three months of unrestricted residence. As long as you (the EEA National) have not lived in the UK for three months or more, you don’t need to have a job before you and your family move. If you have been living in the UK for more than 3 months already and your family is applying to join you, you will need to provide evidence that you are “exercising treaty rights”. You can do this by showing evidence that you are: employed; or a jobseeker that has a genuine chance to find work (within six months from arrival); or a self-employed person; or a self-sufficient person; or a student.
What is the validity of an EEA Family Permit?
The Permit is valid for multiple entries, for six months.
What if I wish to stay longer than 6 months; i.e. longer than the validity of the EEA Family Permit?
If you are the non-European family member of an EEA or Swiss national, and you have come to the UK with them, you can apply for a residence card. This is a document which confirms your right of residence under European law. Your residence card may take the form of an endorsement in your passport (also called a ‘vignette’), or it may be a separate document called an ‘immigration status document’. A residence card is normally valid for 5 years from the date when it is issued.
When you have lived here for a continuous period of 5 years with the EEA or Swiss national (who must have been in employment, self-employment, studying or self-sufficient in the UK throughout the 5 years), you can apply for confirmation of your right to permanent residence in the UK.
You do not need to obtain documents confirming your right of residence in the UK if you are a family member of an EEA national. However, you may be inconvenienced if you do not obtain this documentation, as:
- you may have difficulty proving that you are lawfully resident in the UK;
- if you leave the UK, you will usually need to obtain an EEA family permit before returning here, in order to guarantee readmission as the family member of a qualified EEA national; and
- you may find it difficult to obtain or change employment.
Can I work on the EEA Family Permit?
Yes, you are permitted to work on the EEA Family Permit.
Where can I find the rules on EEA Family Permits?
The issue and refusal of EEA Family Permits has been laid down in the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations (the “Regs”) and subsequent amendments. Please click here for a copy of the Regs.
What were the Changes to the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006, which came into effect on 8 November 2012?
Following recent rulings by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) UKBA has updated the Immigration (EEA) Regulations. The new rules take effect on 8 November 2012. The main changes are:
- The requirement in Regulation 8.2.A that an Extended Family Member needs to have resided in the same country as their sponsoring EEA national to gain entry to the UK has been deleted. As a result, Extended Family Members no longer need to have lived in the same country as their sponsoring EEA national to gain entry to the UK. This amendment is based on the ECJ ruling in the case of Rahman (C83/11). You can read ECJ ruling C83/11 here.
- Primary and sole carers of British citizens now have rights to enter and reside in the UK. This amendment is based on the ECJ ruling in the case of Ruiz Zambrano (C34/09). In summary, in the Zambrano case, the ECJ ruled that Article 20 TFEU (=The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union) is to be interpreted as meaning that it precludes a Member State from refusing a third country national upon whom his minor children, who are European Union citizens, are dependent, a right of residence in the Member State of residence and nationality of those children, and from refusing to grant a work permit to that third country national, in so far as such decisions deprive those children of the genuine enjoyment of the substance of the rights attaching to the status of European Union citizen. A practical example would be the parents of children who would otherwise be displaced and lose out on their education, now qualify for leave to remain. You can read the full ECJ ruling on Zambrano here.
- Changes to the definition of ‘primary carer’ in relation to the derivative rights of residence given by the Ruiz Zambrano case. This means that whilst carers can stay in the UK with their dependants they cannot get permanent residence or sponsor family members. They are present in the the UK to look after their dependants only.
- Partners that are in a durable relationship (=a relationship that is akin to marriage, which has existed for a minimum period of two years) with an EEA National only get the full right of appeal against an EEA refusal if they have submitted sufficient evidence of their relationship with the EEA national with their application.
- Allowing the Secretary of State to accept alternative forms of identification where a person is prevented from providing this evidence due to circumstances beyond their control.
Does the Zambrano judgement affect visa applicants applying for EEA Family Permits overseas?
No, it doesn’t.
Does the Zambrano judgement affect visa applicants whose circumstances are similar to those described in the judgement but who currently reside outside the UK?
No, it doesn’t. There is no current provision for someone to apply for a visa to come to the UK solely on the basis of the Ruiz Zambrano judgement. Currently an applicant will need to qualify for a visa in another category of the Immigration Rules if they wish to come to the UK.
I am from a country that normally requires that a valid TB certificate be submitted if my stay is for longer than six months. Does this requirement also apply to EEA Family Permit applications?
No, it does not. A TB certificate is not (not) required for EEA Family Permits. We are, however, aware that in some countries TB certificates are being requested in support of EEA Family Permit applications. This is incorrect; TB certificates should not be requested as a matter of course.
The requirements for EEA Family Permits have been laid down in the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006, as amended. The Regulations do not (not) impose a requirement to produce a valid TB certificate as part of your application. You can find a copy of the Regulations here. In addition, UKBA staff guidance (MED 2.3) states the following: Quote “An applicant applying for an EEA family permit is not required to produce a certificate showing them free from active pulmonary TB as EEA family permits are valid for six months.” Unquote. You can find the link to this Guidance here.
A TB certificate may only be requested if the ECO (Visa Officer) has good grounds to request one, for example, if an applicant looks severely ill.
I have an EEA Family Permit and I will transit through the UK with my EEA National Family member. Do I need to get another visa, or can I use this Family Permit?
As long as you travel with your EEA National Family Member, whose details appear on your EEA Family Permit, and your Family Permit is still valid, you do not require another visa.
How quickly must an EEA Family Permit application be processed?
These are the instructions for UKBA staff concerning the processing times of EEA Family Permit applications (valid as at 10 August 2012):
“Priority must be given to applications for EEA family permits. Wherever possible a decision should be made at the time it is lodged or after an interview is conducted.
However, the Regulations do not say that EEA family permits must be issued on the day that the application is made. The Directive does allow Member States to take reasonable measures to ensure that freedom of movement is not obtained by deception. Where you (= the Entry Clearance Officer) suspect a marriage of convenience or even ‘sham’ employment for the purpose of freedom of movement, further enquiries should be made and credibility may be tested. As long as delays are justifiable, applications can be tested until the ECO is fully satisfied.”
You will note that apart from the indication that “priority must be given to EEA Family Permit applications” and “as long as delays are justifiable, applications can be tested until the ECO is fully satisfied”, no specific time frame is given. However, the European Commission Guidance for better transposition and application of Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States offers clearer guidance:
Article 2.2.1 of the EC Guidance:
2.2.1. Entry visas
As provided in Article 5(2), Member States may require third country family members
moving with or joining an EU citizen to whom the Directive applies to have an entry visa.
Such family members have not only the right to enter the territory of the Member State, but also the right to obtain an entry visa. This distinguishes them from other third country nationals, who have no such right.
Third country family members should be issued as soon as possible and on the basis of an
accelerated procedure with a free of charge short-term entry visa. By analogy with Article 23 of the Visa Code19 the Commission considers that delays of more than four weeks are not reasonable. The authorities of the Member States should guide the family members as to the type of visa they should apply for, and they cannot require them to apply for long-term, residence or family reunification visas. Member States must grant such family members every facility to obtain the necessary visas. Member States may use premium call lines or services of an external company to set up an appointment but must offer the possibility of direct access to the consulate to third country family members.
From this it follows that, as a rule, EEA Family Permit applications should be processed in less than 4 weeks. Delays of more than 4 weeks are considered to be unreasonable by the European Commission. This does not of course mean that your application will be processed within 4 weeks. The EC Guideline does, however, give you sufficient grounds to submit a service complaint to UKBA if your processing time exceeds 4 weeks. If you wish to do so, you could consider writing to: UKBACustomerComplaints[at]homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk (Please replace [at] with @)
To find out the most recent processing times for EEA Family Permit applications at your application centre, please visit UKBA’s Processing Times page. You will find this page here (this link will open in a new window). If you enter the place where you submitted or wish to submit your application, it will tell you the average processing time for your visa application centre.
I have heard that family members of EEA Nationals can enter the UK without EEA Family Permits, is that true?
The UK’s current policy is that everyone that needs an EEA Family Permit needs to obtain one before his/her travels to the United Kingdom. The European Commission has recently criticised the UK for this. It argues that the UK’s policy is not in line with the Free Movement Directive. The Commission says that the Free Movement Directive guarantees that non-EU family members of EU citizens who hold a valid residence card issued by one EU country can travel together with EU citizens within the European Union without an entry visa. The Commission is of the opinion that, by insisting on EEA Family Permits in these circumstances, the UK does not fully uphold EU citizen rights. You can find the Commission’s press release here.
We are as yet unaware of whether or not the UK Government proposes to change its policy in the light of the Commission’s representations. However, given that UKBA’s current policy still requires EEA Family Permits to be obtained (if you need one) prior to your travels, we strongly recommend that you do so. Furthermore, it is extremely unlikely that any carrier (e.g. airline) will carry you without a visa or EEA Family Permit (they risk a hefty fine!). We therefore strongly recommend that you obtain an EEA Family Permit if you need one.
Please note that immigration rules, regulations and processes are subject to continuous change. You should therefore always check the correct and up to date rules with UKBA direct. The information contained in this page is for informative purposes only. Its use is entirely at your own risk.