EEA Family Permits

EEA family permits

This post explains what an EEA family permit is, and whether a non-European family member of a European national will need to obtain an EEA family permit before they can come to the UK.

What is an EEA family permit?

An EEA family permit is a form of ‘entry clearance’ to the UK (similar to a visa). It is for non-EEA nationals who are family members of EEA nationals. EEA Nationals are citizens of 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. Whilst citizens of Bulgaria and Romania are EEA nationals too, different rules apply to these nationalities. Please refer to the relevant article for more information.

In a nutshell, all EEA nationals can visit, work, study and live in the UK without the need to obtain a visa. They also have the right to be accompanied, or joined, by their family members. This is what the EEA Family Permit is for; it is a form of visa that allows the family members of EEA Nationals to accompany or to join the latter in the UK.

The EEA Family Permit serves a dual purpose. Qualifying family members may either use it to accompany or join the EEA National on visits, or they can use the EEA Family Permit to accompany or join the EEA National to live (and/or work) in the UK.

The EEA Family Permit is valid for multiple entries for the duration of 6 months, and the application is processed free of charge. Once in the UK, qualifying family members may apply for a 5-year residence permit if they so wish. The EEA Family Permit and the residence permit both entitle the holder to work and live in the UK with the EEA family member. Following 5 years continuous residence, you may apply for permanent (indefinite) leave to remain.

Who can qualify for an EEA Family Permit?

As set out above, you must be the family member of an EEA National. In addition, the EEA National must either be accompanying you to the UK, or be in the UK. If the EEA National is in the UK and has been in the UK for more than 3 months, the EEA National needs to be a so-called “qualified person”. If s/he has not been in the UK for 3 months, the EEA National does not need to be a “qualified person”. A “qualified person” is a jobseeker; a
worker; a self-employed person; a self-sufficient person; or a student and evidence of this should be included with your application.

So what is the definition of a “family member” in relation to EEA Family Permit applications?

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.

“Dependent” means “financial dependence”, which 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. This applies to heterosexual as well as same-sax partners.

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

Do you need an EEA family permit?

A non-EEA family member of an EEA national will need to obtain an EEA family permit before travelling to the UK if they are:

  • a ‘visa national’ (see the UKBA website); or
  • coming to live with the EEA national in the UK permanently or on a long-term basis.

However, the non-EEA family member must be travelling to the UK:

  • with the EEA national; or
  • to join the EEA national here.

If the EEA national is outside the UK and is not travelling with them, the non-EEA family member must instead apply for a normal visa (if they need one) before they can come to the UK.


A citizen of Nigeria is married to a German national. Citizens of Nigeria are visa nationals so he or she would need to obtain an EEA Family Permit if the couple intended to live in the UK together.

A citizen of the United States is also married to a German national. US citizens are not visa nationals. However, if the couple propose to live in the UK together, he or she would need to obtain an EEA Family Permit.

A citizen of Nigeria is married to a French national. They propose to visit the UK together. Nigerians are visa nationals so s/he would need a visa. Because the Nigerian national is married to a French (=EEA National), s/he could apply for an EEA Family Permit.

The same Nigerian national is still married to the French national but wishes to visit the UK by himself (i.e. the French national is not accompanying him/her). As a Nigerian national, s/he needs a visa. Because the French national is not accompanying him/her, s/he would need to apply for a visit visa.

If a non-EEA family member is living in the UK and has a residence document confirming their right of residence here, they do not need to apply for an EEA family permit each time they enter the UK after travelling abroad.

Are family members of British citizens eligible for the EEA Family Permit?

Although the UK is a member of the EEA, a non-EEA family member of a British citizen should not generally come to the UK using an EEA family permit. However, a non-EEA family member of a British citizen living abroad can apply for an EEA family permit to join the British citizen on their return to the UK if:

  • the British citizen has been living in an EEA member state as a worker or self-employed person; and
  • the family member, if they are the British citizen’s spouse or civil partner, has been living together with the British citizen in the EEA country.

I entered the UK on an EEA Family Permit as the family member of a British citizen that was exercising a Treaty Right in another EEA Member State. Can I switch to a partner visa under the immigration rules now?

No, you can’t. In stead, you can apply for a 5-year EU residence permit.

Which application form do I need to complete for an EEA Family Permit?

Please note that the form specified in this page refers to applicants that need to submit printed, handwritten application forms only. If you need to submit an electronic form, the electronic application system will automatically generate the correct form for you. The UKBA Supporting Documents Guidance document in the table applies to all EEA Family Permit applicants.

Visa Category Application Form Guidance to complete form Supporting Documents Guidance Law
EEA Family Permit VAF5 Click here Click here EEA Regulations (as amended)

Related reading: please visit our EEA Family Permit FAQ to read the most frequently asked questions from EEA Family Permit applicants from overseas. You will find our EEA FP FAQ here.

This text is an adapation of the contents of the UKBA website. Remember, immigration law is complex and subject to continuous change. The information provided here may be out of date, or just based on personal experience/knowledge. The use of these pages is therefore entirely at your own risk. Before applying for any type of visas, you should always seek information from the authorities direct via their official websites. You will find some useful website details on our Links page.

This entry was posted in EEA, EEA Family Permits and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to EEA Family Permits

  1. Hello,

    My wife and I have just collected our family permit for Ireland,this was all based on your advice and help,I was so surprised and happy when we received the call yesterday that I chucked my son 15ft into the sky,by the time he landed into my arms my wife had all of family on the phone passing on the good news,all of my family thank you with from the bottom of their hearts,I cannot explain to you how my wife and I feel,it’s as if we have been in prison for the past year and you have given us our freedom,I am sorry if this comes off as cheesy but we really grateful.

    Thank you


    • Hi Kevin,

      Excelllent news!!!! We are delighted to hear that you and your family can finally be together! We should also like to take this opportunity to thank you for your feedback. We really appreciate it!

      Wishing you, your wife and your son a long, happy, healthy life together,

      All the very best,

      • Your welcome, my wifes family permit kicks in, in March,I was thinking of going to Ireland before hand to find work and source an apartment, I am happy to travel back to Thailand and then onto Ireland, I was just wondering if my wife and son travel from Bangkok to Dublin via the Netherlands could I meet them in transit in the Netherlands and travel with them into Dublin, I only say this because it means I can get a head start on job interviews before they arrive, if you think this will cause a problem with the outbound immigration in Bangkok or with the trip in general then I will make sure I will I will fly the whole journey rather than meeting them in Holland,I would be grateful for your opinion, (I hope you don’t mind but a lot people on my facebook group asked for your details over the passed week )

        Thanks again Kevin

        • Dear Kevin,

          The irony is that, on the Irish side, you joining your family members in Holland won’t be a problem. After all, as long as you, your wife and son arrive in Ireland together, the Irish immigration rules are met. In practical terms, however, this scenario could well lead to probs in Thailand. I’m not saying that there will be problems. But there is a risk, particularly at check-in. Airline staff will check if your wife has a visa for Ireland. If they see that this is an EEA FP, they will check if you (the EEA national) are accompanying her. In this scenario, you’d not be accompanying her and it would depend on a) the check-in staff’s knowledge of Ireland’s EEA rules and b) their willingness to believe your wife’s explanation that you will be joining her in Holland (naturally supported by copies of your tickets) if they let her board or not. The problem here is not so much with immigration, it’s more with the airlines. Please don’t forget that it is always at the discretion of the airline whether or not they carry a passenger. Personally, if it were my wife, I know what I’d do; I’d not take the risk.

          Hope this helps.

          Kind regards,

          • Ah you have really put me in a tricky position,I emailed the Irish embassy today and they emailed me back stating that is fine for my wife to travel alone with my child and meet me in Holland on the way to Ireland,surely if I printed this email and passed it to my wife this would solve any airline problems ?

            Kind regards,


            • Hi Kevin,

              Sorry for putting you in a tricky position! That was not my intention. I’d say that with the written confirmation from the Irish embassy, your wife should be fine. As I said before, it’s not usually immigration that is the problem; it’s usually the airlines. But again, if you have written confirmation from an official source (i.e. the Embassy) that, in the event of any probs, your wife can show to the airline, I’m sure that she will be fine.

              Kind regards,


  2. Raymond Buadu says:

    Iam Raymond non Eea member leaves in Ghana and my mom in uk have family permit, can i abtain Eea family application forms?

    • Dear Raymond,

      Thanks for stopping by. The UK visa application procedures in Ghana can be found on this page on the UKBA website here. You will note that you have to submit an online application form. The online application system can be found here. Please remember to carefully read and check the full requirements before submitting your application. Also, please don’t forget to print out your online application form once you’ve saved and completed it online, and to sign and date it. Even though you submit it online, a printed, dated and signed copy of the online form still has to be submitted with the application.

      Hope this helps.

      Kind regards,

  3. Hi Anna,
    There is a European Court ruling (the so-called Metock judgment) that stipulates that the UK cannot impose a requirement that a 3rd country national (your husband) needs to be lawfully resident in another EEA member state (in your case Germany) in order to benefit from his derived right to reside in the UK. This is European law and the UK will therefore follow this. In other words, the fact that he does not have a residence status in Germany should not therefore matter.
    It is of course possible that, because your husband does not have a legal status in Germany, the Entry Clearance Officer (ECO – a posh word for Visa Officer) may have doubts about the application (or your relationship). Given the circumstances, I would advise you to include supporting documents that clearly demonstrate that this is a genuine marriage. It may sound silly because you know that yours is a genuine relationship but nonetheless this would be my advice to avoid any problems. You could think of including, for example, joint tenancy agreements, joint bank accounts, letters from your relatives confirming that you and your husband are in a long lasting loving marriage etc.
    I hope this helps. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to drop me a line!

  4. anna says:

    Hi, and thank you for this great blog. I have a question, which I hope you or your blog followers may be able to answer. I am German, and my husband is from Cameroon. We have been living together in Germany for three years but he does not have an immigration status in this country. We were thinking of moving to the UK. I think that I will be able to find a job there and it will also be easier for my husband, whose English is fluent. I have read about the EEA Family Permit. But will it be a problem that my husband does not have an immigration status here? I am terrified that, if he applies, his application will be rejected because of this.
    Your help is much appreciated!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s