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Summaries of EU Legislation

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EU freedom of movement and residence

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EU freedom of movement and residence

European Union citizens have the right to move freely and live in another EU country, subject to any conditions set out in the EU’s treaties. This free movement of people is one of the EU’s fundamental principles.

ACT

Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States amending Regulation (EEC) No 1612/68 and repealing Directives 64/221/EEC, 68/360/EEC, 72/194/EEC, 73/148/EEC, 75/34/EEC, 75/35/EEC, 90/364/EEC, 90/365/EEC and 93/96/EEC

SUMMARY

WHAT DOES THE DIRECTIVE DO?

It:

  • brings together into a single legal act many existing pieces of legislation
  • lays down the conditions for the right of free movement and residence (both temporary and permanent) for EU citizens* and their family members*
  • sets out the limits to those rights on grounds of public policy, public security or public health
  • clarifies the status of people who are employed, self-employed, students or not working for payment.

KEY POINTS

EU citizens with a valid identity card or passport may:

  • Enter another EU country, as may their family members - whether EU citizens or not - without requiring an exit or entry visa.
  • Live in another EU country for up to 3 months without any conditions or formalities.
  • Live in another EU country for longer than 3 months subject to certain conditions, depending on their status in the host country. Those who are employed or self-employed do not need to meet any other conditions. Students and other people not working for payment, such as those in retirement, must have sufficient resources for themselves and their family, so as not to be a burden on the host country’s social assistance system, and comprehensive sickness insurance cover.
  • Have to register with the relevant authorities if living in the country longer than 3 months. Their family members, if not EU nationals, require a residence card valid for 5 years.
  • Be entitled to permanent residence if they have lived legally in another EU country for a continuous period of 5 years. This also applies to family members.
  • Have the right to be treated on an equal footing with nationals of the host country. However, host authorities are not obliged to grant benefits to EU citizens not working for payment during the first 3 months of their stay.

In addition

  • Family members may, under certain conditions, retain the right to live in the country concerned if the EU citizen dies or leaves the country.
  • EU citizens, or family members, may be expelled if they behave in a way that seriously threatens one of society’s fundamental interests.
  • The only diseases which justify restricting a person’s freedom of movement are those which the World Health Organization considers to have epidemic potential.

WHEN DID THE DIRECTIVE ENTER INTO FORCE?

On 30 April 2004.

KEY TERMS

* EU citizen: anyone having the nationality of an EU country.

* Family member: this covers, for instance, the spouse, a partner in a registered partnership with an EU citizen and direct descendants under the age of 21.

REFERENCES

Act

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2004/38/EC

30.4.2004

30.4.2006

OJ L 158, 30.4.2004, pp. 77-123

Corrigendum

-

-

OJ L 229, 29.6.2004, pp. 35-48

RELATED ACTS

Directive 2014/54/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 on measures facilitating the exercise of rights conferred on workers in the context of freedom of movement for workers (OJ L 128, 30.4.2014, pp. 8-14)

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on guidance for better transposition and application of Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States (COM(2009) 313 final of 2 July 2009)

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Free movement of EU citizens and their families: Five actions to make a difference (COM (2013) 837 final of 25 November 2013)

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council - Helping national authorities fight abuses of the right to free movement: Handbook on addressing the issue of alleged marriages of convenience between EU citizens and non-EU nationals in the context of EU law on free movement of EU citizens (COM(2014) 604 final of 26.9.2014)

last update 24.09.2015

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