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LS Legal News Bulletin

No visa-free travel to EU for family members of EU citizens residing in the UK

No visa-free travel to EU for family members of EU citizens residing in the UK

Tuesday 21st December 2021
Sergii Kupriienko

Brexit impacted the rights of the European Economic Area (EEA) nationals residing in the UK in many ways. The UK no longer applies the EU rules on free movement, allowing EEA nationals and their family members to travel freely. With this restriction, family members of the EEA nationals may have found themselves in an uncomfortable situation where their entry to an EEA state was refused even though they travelled with their EEA family member.

What was the law before?

It has always been the case that non-EU family members of EEA citizens could travel from one EEA country to another with their EU family members without applying for a visa. Travelling was very convenient, saving time and money. Although travelling by plane normally involved a pre-departure visa application, travelling by car, bus or train usually was not an issue. They only had to provide their Residence Card issued by another EEA state and prove their relationship with the EEA national, for example, a birth certificate or marriage certificate. Regrettably, this has now changed.

What is the current legal position?

If you are an EEA national, who resides in another EEA state, nothing has effectively changed. However, if you are an EEA national who lives in the UK with your non-EEA family member, the situation has changed dramatically. Since the UK has left the EU, all EEA nationals and their family members residing in the UK can no longer benefit from the EU laws. Instead of a Residence Card, they usually have residence status in the UK under the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement (EU Settlement Scheme), which confirms residence under the British laws but not under the EU laws. This means that a non-EEA family member of EEA national will need to apply for a visa to the consulate of a particular EEA country where they wish to travel.

Case Study

A married couple resides typically in the UK, with both spouses having a Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme. One of the spouses has French nationality (EEA national) and the other Belarus nationality (non-EEA national). The couple wants to travel from Belarus, where they spent a family holiday, to Poland by bus, which involves transit through Lithuania. Under the previous laws, a Belarus national travelling with their EEA spouse did not have to apply for a Schengen visa first. However, after Brexit, the Belarus national has to apply for a Schengen visa since their UK residence document cannot be used to prove family relationships and residence in the EU. They will now need to prepare for travelling about 3 months before their trip, bearing the extra expense.

If your rights are affected, and you wish to discuss this, please feel free to email us your questions at info@LSLegaLUK.com or give us a call at +44 (0) 75 3595 9450. LS Legal Solicitors are well versed in EEA residence rights and can assist you with the UK residence in other categories.