Residence documents for non-EEA family members of EEA nationals
This page explains why the non-European family members of European or Swiss citizens may want to apply for confirmation that they have the right to live in the UK. It also describes the documents that they can apply for.
If a citizen of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland is living in the UK in accordance with the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006, their family members who are not EEA or Swiss citizens also have the right to live here. You can find out what we mean by a 'family member' under 'More information' below.
Types of residence document
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.
To find out how to apply for any of these documents, see the Applying for residence documents page.
Do you need to apply?
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 confirmation, 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.
What is a 'family member'?
If you are an EEA or Swiss national, your non-EEA family members who have the right of residence in the UK are:
- your husband, wife or civil partner;
- your children or grandchildren (or the children or grandchildren of your husband, wife or civil partner) who are under 21 years of age or are dependent on you; and
- the parents or grandparents of you and your husband, wife or civil partner, if they are dependent on you.
(If you are a student, only your husband, wife, or civil partner and dependent children have a right of residence.)
Other relatives - including extended family members such as brothers, sisters and cousins - do not have an automatic right to live in the UK. To be considered, they must be able to show that they are dependent on you.
If you and your partner are not married or in a civil partnership, you must be able to show that you are in a durable relationship with each other.
If you are a non-EEA national who has been living in the UK on the basis of your relationship with an EEA national, can you stay in the UK if the relationship ends?
If you were related to an EEA national by marriage or civil partnership but the relationship has ended through death, divorce, dissolution or the EEA national's departure from the UK, it is possible that you will retain a right of residence in the UK under European law. For more information, phone our European enquiries contact centre and speak to one of our advisers.
If you were the unmarried partner of an EEA national and the relationship has ended, you no longer have the right to live in the UK under European law.
Can British citizens' family members enter and reside in the UK under European law?
If you are a British citizen, you cannot ordinarily rely on the provisions of European law to bring your non-European family members to the UK. Instead, you should seek permission under the British Immigration Rules for those family members to enter and remain in the UK. See the Partners and families section for more information
However, the European Court of Justice held in Case C-370/90 that British citizens can rely on European law in circumstances where they are returning to the UK in order to work or settle here in a self-sufficient capacity after working in another European Union state. In these circumstances, the returning British citizen has the right to be accompanied by his or her husband, wife or civil partner, if they have previously been living together in the other European Union state.
What does a residence document look like?
If we approve your application for a residence card or permanent residence, we will normally endorse your passport with the details of your right to reside in the UK. We will do this by placing a sticker or 'vignette' in your passport.
If (for any reason) we do not have your passport when we approve your application, or if your passport expires while in our possession, we will issue you with an immigration status document. You should produce this document and your passport as evidence of your status when asked to do so. Do not laminate your immigration status document, as this will invalidate it.
- If you lose your passport containing your endorsement If you have lost your passport, you must report it as lost and obtain a new passport from your country's embassy. You can then add your immigration status to your passport by completing and sending us a new application form, with all the necessary supporting evidence.
- If you change your address If you are changing the address that you have given us for correspondence, you should use our online form to tell us of the change.
- If you change your name If you want to change the name on your residency documentation, you must complete and send us a new application form, with a covering letter explaining your circumstances. Before we can issue new documentation to you, you will need to return your current residency documentation to us.
- How to transfer your immigration status to your passport If you have an immigration status document, or your endorsement is in an old passport which has expired, you can apply for us to transfer your immigration status to your (new) passport. You must complete and send us a new application form with all the necessary supporting evidence. You will also need to send us your old passport containing the original vignette, or your immigration status document.
- Can you apply for British nationality? For information about British citizenship and nationality, visit the British citizenship section of this website.
I am a non-EEA parent or primary carer of an EEA national self-sufficient child - can I apply to remain in the UK?
Following the ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the case of Chen (ECJ C-200/02) the parent(s) or primary carer of an EEA national child is entitled to reside in a Member State with a self-sufficient EEA national child solely to facilitate the child in exercising their Treaty rights. The child must have comprehensive sickness insurance and be self-sufficient. This means that they must not rely on funds earned by a non-EEA national parent(s) or primary carer in the UK, unless this comes from legal employment or self-employment (if the parent(s) or primary carer is in the UK on a work permit).
In cases where the non-EEA national parents or primary carer wishes to reside in the UK on the basis of their relationship with an EEA national self-sufficient child, then they can apply for leave to remain under paragraph 257C of the Immigration Rules. The leave granted does not allow the parents or primary carer, the right to work in the UK and does not lead to permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain. Applications made on this basis are free of charge and should be submitted on an EEA2 form.
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- 17 arrests in UK sham marriage investigations
The European Economic Area (EEA) consists 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.