In this blog post, we answer your frequently asked questions about the family permit.
What is an EEA family permit?
European Economic Area family permits or EEA family permits are issued under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016. The issue of the permits does not fall under the stricter United Kingdom (UK) immigration rules.
The purpose of the family permit is to allow overseas nationals, from outside of the EEA (non-EEA nationals) to enter the UK and accompany or join their EEA family member.
For instance, one of our clients, Jean, was a French national, living in Belgium, with his wife who was a national of Côte d’Ivoire. Jean’s employers offered him the opportunity to work at their London branch. Jean was able to exercise his free movement rights and travel freely to the UK. However, Jean’s wife, Marsha, required an EEA family permit to accompany him to the UK.
Who can get an EEA family permit?
A non-EEA national may apply for an EEA family permit if they are the:
- Direct family member of an EEA national, or
- Extended family member of an EEA national
What does the EEA family permit look like?
If approved, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will place a visa vignette in the non-EEA national’s passport.
How do you apply for an EEA family permit?
An application for a family permit must be completed and submitted to UKVI via their online portal.
How long does the EEA family permit take?
EEA family permit visas are normally processed within 15 to 30 workings days from the date of the biometric appointment.
For example, if the application were submitted on 20 November and applicant provided their biometric data in person on 10 December, then the processing time would begin as of 10 December.
COVID-19: Due to the Covid-19 or the coronavirus pandemic, visa application centres are subject to closure at short notice, sometimes making it impossible for applicants to provide their biometric data. In addition, applications are facing delays to the overall processing times as UKVI work through the backlog of cases.
Can the EEA family permit be refused?
Yes. The EEA family permit application can be refused.
In fact, a former client, Jada, almost gave up on her plans to travel to the UK after her husband’s EEA family permit had been refused on 3 separate occasions. Jada, a Spanish national, and her spouse Sam, a national of Colombia, both lived in Spain and wished to travel to the UK together in order to visit Jada’s extended family.
UKVI had initially refused Sam’s application because they did not believe that Sam was the family member of an EEA national, despite the couple’s assertions that they had provided proof of Jada’s identity.
The couple subsequently submitted a legalised copy of Jada’s passport. And yet on the second and third occasion, the applications were refused because UKVI questioned the genuineness of their marriage and their ability to adequately fund their travel to the UK.
Jada felt exasperated by the couple’s experiences with UKVI. Jada stated that she hadn’t expected the process to be so convoluted and document heavy. After all, she was an EEA national, the couple were married and neither one of them intended to stay in the UK long term. They simply wanted to visit the UK for tourism purposes.
Yet by providing adequate documentation in support of the application, Jada and Sam were eventually able to travel to the UK and catch up with their family members.
See our blog post on EEA family permit refusals.
EEA family permit or visitor visa?
A non-EEA national may apply for a visitor visa to enter the UK. However, where the person is a family member of an EEA family member, it is preferable to apply for a family permit.
Taking the example of Jada and Sam above, Sam intended to travel to the UK and leave at the end of his visit. He could have applied for a visitor visa. However, the EEA family permit application does not carry a fee and the EU Regulations can be more generous than the UK’s immigration rules that the visitor visa falls under.
Further, Sam would not have been entitled to a right of appeal had he believed that the decision to refuse the visitor visa application was incorrect and worthy of challenge.
How long is the EEA family permit valid for?
The EEA family permit is valid for 6 months.
Can the EEA family permit be renewed?
If a non-EEA national wishes to travel to the UK after the validity of the EEA family permit, they will be expected to apply for a new permit to facilitate their travel.
However, if the non-EEA national wishes to stay in the UK longer term, they may apply for a document under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) to recognise their right of residence.
Can a person work under the EEA family permit?
This is a difficult one. A close family member of an EEA national may exercise their Treaty rights in line with the EEA family member. For that reason, a non-EEA national should be able to take up employment and work in the UK.
The issue is that the EEA family permit is not listed as an ‘acceptable’ document to evidence a person’s right to work under UK legislation and UKVI guidance. This is in part, because not all EEA family permit holders are permitted to work in the UK without restrictions.
In light of the omission of EEA family permits from the right to work legislation, UK employers are unlikely to hire a person who is not in possession of an approved residence document.
Nevertheless, some employers are aware that they may hire a non-EEA family member if they are satisfied of their direct relationship to the EEA national. And if so, the UK employer will request alternative original documentation such as:
- Evidence of the non-EEA national’s own identity, such as their passport; and
- Evidence of their relationship with the EEA family member, such as a marriage certificate, civil partnership certificate or birth certificate; and
- Evidence that the EEA national family member has a right of permanent residence in the UK or that they have been exercising their Treaty rights in the UK for more than 3 months.
For the last point, evidence may take the form of an employment contract, wage slips, or letter from a school, college or university with evidence of sufficient funds.
Yet, the risk to the employer of relying upon documentary evidence, other than a residence card or document issued by UKVI, is that the employer will not have a statutory excuse against a statutory penalty.
A statutory penalty can be issued where the non-EEA family member is later deemed to have been working unlawfully in the UK.
So, it is strongly recommended that a non-EEA family member apply for a residence card or seek advice from an accredited immigration advice at the earliest.
Is the EEA family permit a non-settlement visa?
That’s correct. The EEA family permit entitles the non-EEA national to enter and re-enter the UK within the validity of the visa. It does not evidence their right to settle in the UK.
Can the EEA family permit holder travel to Europe?
The UK has not signed up to the Schengen Agreement. As such, EEA family permit holders must apply for the correct visa or visas to travel within the Schengen area.
What happens now that the UK has left the Europe Union?
The UK is no longer a member of the European Union. From 1 January 2021, the UK is no longer be subject to Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016. Extended family members will be unable to apply for a permit to enter the UK after this date. Close family members, may in certain circumstances, apply for a permit to join their family members in the UK.
EEA nationals and their non-EEA family members already in the UK, will have a right of residence under the EU Settlement Scheme.
EEA nationals or Swiss citizen, and their qualifying family members may apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021, where they will be granted pre-settled status or settled status.
We hope that this blog post answers some of your questions about the EEA family permit and application process.
If you have any queries that you would like us to answer please feel free to post your questions below.
Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.
Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.
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