Your guide to freedom of movement within the European Union


EU Nationals

European Union law provides more favourable immigration rules under the freedom of movement provisions of the Treaty of Rome. Nationals of countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), Swiss nationals and the family members of both groups have the right to seek and take employment, set up a business in any EEA country, or to reside in any EEA state if they have enough money to support themselves without recourse to public funds. The family members of EEA nationals, whether EU citizens or not, can also enter and work in any EEA state without restrictions.

In general nationals of European Union countries are free to come to the UK to visit, work, start up in business and study. Those who work can bring their family members with them and are not necessarily restricted to immediate family members, except in the case of students. Family members do not have to be nationals of member states, but can be nationals of non EU countries.

As an EU national you will benefit from the more liberal immigration provisions of the European Union, which includes the right to travel freely to the UK, reside here for up to three months, or longer if you are a qualified person. Qualified people include those looking for work, workers, self-employed and self-sufficient people, and students. Family members, whether EU nationals themselves or not, can come to the UK with you at the time of your entry or they can join you later, subject to certain restrictions.

There are two groups of family members who came come with you to the UK: immediate family and wider family, with different rules applying to each group. In the UK the rules require family members coming to the European Union for the first time to satisfy ordinary immigration requirements, but there are challenges to this.

There are also circumstances where family members of a qualified person can retain their rights to residence where a marriage or partnership breaks down, or the EU national dies.

Those residing under EU law are entitled to documentation to evidence their status, although strictly speaking such evidence is not necessary - although it is advisable to obtain it. No fee is payable for applications made under EU law and where UKBA wish to remove EU nationals or their family members, special rules also apply.

Permanent residence is available to those who reside here under EU law for five continuous years, following which British citizenship can be obtained.


A8 Countries

The countries that joined the EU in May 2004, known as the A8 countries (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia), and whose nationals were subject to the Worker Registration Scheme, are no longer subject to that scheme as of 1 May 2011, as that scheme has been brought to a close. Nationals of those countries now enjoy the same rights of free movement as apply to all other EU member state nationals.

If you are from one of these countries then as from 1 May 2011 you are no longer required to register under the Workers Registration Scheme in order to take employment. You can now enjoy the same rights as all other EU nationals who come to the UK to work.


Romania and Bulgaria

However, a separate Worker Registration Scheme still operates for nationals of Romania and Bulgaria, who joined the EU on 1 January 2007.

If you are a national of one of these countries (Romania or Bulgaria) then you will be subject to this Worker Registration Scheme. The scheme is similar to but not the same as the scheme that previously operated for A8 nationals. The types of work that can be undertaken are limited and workers must obtain a registration document before starting work.

The scheme includes a revised form of the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme (HSMP), without any English language requirement, and an equivalent of the work permits scheme. Other immigration work categories are replicated, including sole representatives and au pairs. As well as a cap on numbers in relation to low-skilled workers outside special categories, such work is limited to the food processing industry and to seasonal agricultural work.

There are no restrictions on self-employment, so those wishing to set up as self-employed can do so without the need to register.

Some limitations apply to the rights of family members to work in the UK. After 12 months of registered work, workers can apply for a registration card and are then entitled to all the rights of EU nationals.

Turkish Nationals

Nationals of Turkey continue to benefit from a standstill clause in the Ankara Agreement, an Association Agreement (ECAA) between the European Union and Turkey. The Agreement provides certain rights to Turkish nationals which require the application of older and more generous immigration rules to them. In the UK the agreement has been interpreted as applying only to those Turkish nationals who are already in the UK.

The agreement affects rights to change employers, to extend leave, rights of family members to work and rights of establishment.


Contact Us

If you are an EU national, a family member of an EU national or a Turkish national, then you can [contact us] to discuss your rights of entry and/or remaining in the UK.