EU freedom of movement and residence
Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of EU citizens and their families to move and reside freely within the EU
WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE DIRECTIVE?
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 European Union (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.
EU citizens with a valid identity card or passport may:
enter another EU Member State without requiring an exit or entry visa. Family members who are not nationals of a Member State do not require either an exit or entry visa if they possess a valid residence card;
live in another Member State for up to 3 months without any conditions or formalities;
live in another Member State 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 citizens, require a residence card valid for 5 years;
be entitled to permanent residence if they have lived legally in another Member State for a continuous period of 5 years. This also applies to their accompanying 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.
family members of an EU citizen may, under certain conditions, have the right to continue to live in the country concerned even if the EU citizen themselves dies or leaves the country;
EU citizens, or their 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.
FROM WHEN DOES THE DIRECTIVE APPLY?
It has applied since 30 April 2004 and had to become law in the Member States by 30 April 2006.
For further information, see:
EU citizen. Anyone having the nationality of an EU Member State.
Family member. This includes, for instance, the spouse, a partner in a registered partnership with an EU citizen and direct descendants under the age of 21.
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 (OJ L 158, 30.4.2004, pp. 77-123). Text republished in a corrigendum (OJ L 229, 29.6.2004, pp. 35–48).
Successive amendments to Directive 2004/38/EC have been incorporated into the original document. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.
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, 2.7.2009).
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, 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, 25.11.2013).
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, 26.9.2014).
last update 03.02.2022