Rights to enter and remain in the UK

Last modified: 31 July 2018

Entering the UK: documents

Last modified: 21 December 2016

EEA nationals

The Home Office has confirmed on its website that citizens of EEA countries can travel to the UK using their national identity cards or passports.


Non-EEA family members

If your family member is a non-EEA national and does not have any documentation issued under the Directive certifying that they are your family member, they should apply for an EEA family permit before entering the UK.

Even though the Directive says that getting documentation is not necessary, it is certainly strongly advised for any direct family members who are non-EEA family members. It will definitely be necessary for any extended family members to obtain the EEA permit before arriving in the UK, as the UK government must satisfactorily assess that your family member qualifies to come to the UK under EU law prior.

If your family member is a non-EEA national and has an EEA residence card issued by another EEA country (on the basis that they have spent time with you as your family member in another EU state) they should be allowed to use this card to enter the UK. However, in guidance for employers about avoiding penalties, these cards are not mentioned, so it is advisable, if your family member needs to work, to obtain a residence card once they are in the UK. You will either need to be entering the UK with your family member or you will need to be in the UK already. If your family member(s) are intending to come for more than three months, you may also need to show that you will be exercising a right to reside or, if you are already in the UK or that you are exercising a right to reside.

Basic residence rights

Last modified: 30 March 2017

EEA and Swiss nationals have an initial, unrestricted right to reside in another member state for up to three months (in this case the UK). Thereafter, you must be here as a student, employed person (or someone who has retained 'worker status'), self-employed person, self-sufficient person or the relevant family member of one of these. In addition, you can be here as a jobseeker for a limited amount of time. The European Directive 2004/38/EC (known as 'the citizens' directive') contains the criteria you have to meet to exercise your right to reside in each capacity. You can be in the UK exercising more than one treaty right (for example as a student and as a worker).

In some circumstances a family member of an EEA national may ‘retain’ a right of residence if the EEA national dies, leaves the UK, or (in the case of spouses or civil partners) the couple divorce or terminate their civil partnership.

In addition, the UK government has made provision in their EEA Regulations for those who have a ‘derivative’ right of residence.

The Home Office issues instructions to its staff on how to interpret EU law when making decisions about applications from EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members. These are contained in the Modernised guidance and European operational policy notices. They are available on the Home Office website . In addition, there is separate guidance for entry clearance officers known as ‘Entry clearance guidance’.