European Economic Area (EEA) citizens and Swiss nationals are permitted to live and work in the United Kingdom without any restrictions.
The following countries are members of The European Economic Area: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and The United Kingdom.
On 24 June 2016 the result of the European Union referendum has been confirmed, and the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The result would have very important implications towards EEA nationals that have been living and working in the UK and any future migration of EEA nationals and their dependants to the United Kingdom.
Although EEA and Swiss nationals do not need to register with the UK Border Agency when they enter, live and work in the United Kingdom, they can apply for a Registration Certificate, which will prove their residence in the UK.
The Registration Certificate is evidence of how long EEA and Swiss nationals have lived in the UK, which can be used in the future if they apply for British citizenship.
Family permits and Residence cards
Family members who are non EEA and Swiss nationals must obtain a family permit which is normally issued for 6 months from the British Diplomatic Post in their country of origin or residence before they can enter the UK as a dependant of an EEA or Swiss national. When they are in the UK, they need to apply for a residence card, which allows them to live and work in the UK for 5 years under European law.
Under European law the following people can enter the UK as family members of an EEA national (although there are some restrictions if the EEA national is a student, in which case only spouses and dependent children are able to join):
- wife/husband or civil partner;
- EEA national and his/her spouse’s parents and grandparents;
- EEA national and his/her spouse’s children and grandchildren who are under 21 years old;
Permanent Residence and British citizenship
EEA and Swiss nationals can apply for permanent residence if they have lived in the UK continuously for 5 years without any significant absences. From November 2015, it is mandatory to hold permanent residence before applying for naturalisation as a British citizen.
Non-EEA and Swiss family members can also obtain permanent residence once they have lived and worked in the UK for 5 years, although their permanent residence is valid for 10 years, and can be renewed.