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EEA family permit refusals

Avoiding EEA Family Permit Refusals

In Part 1, of our series on EEA applications we looked at the application process, and documents required to apply for an EEA family permitHere, in the second part of our series, we look at EEA family permit refusals, focusing on the top 3 reasons for refusals and how to avoid them.


EEA family permits are issued under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016 but has seen little change from Regulations 2006. The issue of the permits do not fall under UK Immigration Rules.

The purpose of the family permit is to allow overseas nationals, from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA), (or non-EEA nationals) to enter the United Kingdom (UK) and join their family member, as long as they are the:

  • Family member of an EEA national, or
  • Extended family member of an EEA national

There is no application fee and the process is not as onerous as compared to, say, applying for a UK spouse visa under the Immigration Rules. So what could possibly go wrong? Let’s explore…


According to the Home Office’s National Immigration Statistics for October to December 2016 ,  30,302 EEA family permits were issued overseas in 2015. The number of EEA family permits issued rose by almost 10% in 2016 to 33,118.

Extracting details of the number of successful applications and the rate of refusals is difficult and UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), the body responsible for processing applications, is often unwilling to provide such specific data. Much of the data tends to include other types of applications and categories.

Yet, from direct experience, UKVI was well known for inappropriately refusing EEA family permits and using an inconsistent approach when considering applications. When presenting cases in the immigration Tribunal on behalf of the Secretary of State, it was, unfortunately, not usual for applicants to successfully lodge an appeal against an adverse decision of an Entry Clearance Officer or in a few instances, to withdraw a UKVI decision because it was poorly argued.

Nowadays, the decision making has improved but the European Commission noted that non-EEA family members are still being denied family permits by UKVI on invalid grounds, or without a justified reason.

In fact, the European Commission stated:

Only in the UK is it possible to state that the number of refusals of entry or residence, as well as expulsions of EU citizens, is steadily on the rise

It went on to say:

National authorities indicate that this is the result of concerted efforts to refuse entry or to expel EU citizens convicted of a criminal offence, as well as EU citizens who do not meet the conditions attached to extended residence rights under Article 7 of the Directive. This indicates the UK’s willingness to publicly demonstrate that it is addressing popular concerns such as criminality and immigration, including the immigration of EU citizens

It’s hard to disagree with this. There are times when, the way in which non-EEA family members visa applications are handled appear to support the Commission’s assertions that barriers are deliberately being placed.

For instance, it is not uncommon for non-EEA family members to be asked to produce excessive levels of documentation  so as to secure their permit and still experience delays of sometimes 12 weeks and beyond.

Similarly, it is difficult to assess the main reasons invoked by UKVI for refusing to grant non-EEA family members entry to the UK. Yet from past UKVI experience, research and information from clients looking for assistance after a refusal, the top 5 reasons for EEA family permits can be seen as follows…

Tops reasons for EEA family permit refusals

3. The applicant does not provide any (or adequate) evidence to support their claim to be the direct family member of an EEA national

Direct family members of EEA nationals are set out in Part 7 of the EEA Regulations as:

  • Spouses or civil partners
  • Direct descendants of the EEA national or their spouse/ civil partner under 21
  • Dependent direct descendants of the EEA national or their spouse/ civil partner 21 and over
  • Dependent direct relatives in the ascending line, for example parents and grandparents of the EEA national or their spouse / civil partner

The above members are viewed as the core of the EEA national’s family.

When assessing the application, it is important for documentary evidence is provided to UKVI to show the relationship between the non-EEA family member and the EEA national.

The type of documentary evidence needed will depend on the nature of the relationship. As a guide, such documents can include:

  • An original marriage certificate supported by a certified translation, if appropriate
  • An original civil partnership certificate supported by a certified translation, if appropriate
  • A divorce certificate or a death certificate where there the EEA national or non-EEA national was previously married
  • Original birth certificates naming the EEA national as one of the parents of the non-EEA child
  • Original birth certificates naming the EEA national as the child of the non-EEA parent

2. The EEA national is not a qualified person because there is no evidence of Treaty rights being exercised

The purpose of the EEA family permit is to join or travel with the EEA national to the UK. To clarify, the EEA national must either:

  • Be in the UK already
  • Plan on travelling with you to the UK within 6 months of the date of your application

If the EEA national has been in the UK for more than 3 months they must either:

  • Be a ‘qualified person’ who is exercising their ‘Treaty’ right by working, looking for work, self-employed, studying or self-sufficient); or
  • Have a permanent right of residence in the UK

Where UKVI is not satisfied of the above, you can expect to receive an EEA family permit refusal with the following wording:

You have failed to provide evidence that your EEA national family member is a qualified person in accordance with Regulation 6 of the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006. I am, therefore, not satisfied that your EEA national family member is residing in the UK in accordance with the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006.

To avoid this, it is important to evidence the EEA national’s permanent residence status, by way of an EEA permanent residence status , or show they are exercising their ‘Treaty rights’ by submitting original, stamped or certified documents appropriate to their circumstances – see our previous article for more details.

If the EEA national does not have a permanent residence status, some examples of recommended documents of exercising Treaty rights may include:

  • Employment – an employment contract, payslips or a letter from an employer
  • Self-employed – Service contracts, customer invoices or audited accounts with bank statements
  • Studying – A letter from the UK school, college or university
  • Financially self-sufficient – bank statements

EEA nationals that are financially self-sufficient or studying in the UK must have comprehensive medical insurance to be a ‘qualified person’ and it is recommended that evidence of insurance be submitted to UKVI.

1. The applicant is a party to a marriage of convenience

UKVI defines a marriage of convenience as an ‘abuse of the right to reside’. Unsurprisingly, where UKVI suspect that the marriage or civil partnership between the EEA national and non-EEA national was entered into to circumvent the UK immigration rules, the UKVI will issue a refusal with the following wording:

The definition of ‘spouse’ in the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006 does not include a party to a marriage of convenience. I am satisfied that you are party to a marriage of convenience and are therefore not the family member of an EEA national in accordance with Regulation 7 of the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006.

One of my previous clients, a US national, was absolutely devastated to receive a letter from UKVI informing her that her recent marriage to a French national was a sham.

The client had followed the online guidance and submitted her original marriage certificate.  UKVI’s guidance makes it clear that a valid marriage certificate is sufficient to prove a family relationship. In fact, where UKVI suspects that the marriage is one of inconvenience, the burden of proof falls on UKVI to support their assertion by testing their suspicions.  This is supported by case law.

Despite this guidance, UKVI did not ask the client to provide additional information about the relationship. Nor had the client or her spouse been invited to an interview. Unfortunately, the client’s time frame for lodging an appeal had lapsed and so the decision to refuse the application for this reason could not be challenged.

She contacted me for the first time to assist her with a new application for an EEA family permit.  By now, she had been married for 6 months.

To help the client increase her chances of success in securing an EEA family permit, she was advised to gather as many documents that she had that related to her relationship with her spouse. The purpose of this exercise was to show UKVI that despite the couple’s marriage of 6 months, the couple had been in a genuine relationship for over 2 years.

The following documents were submitted:

  • Records of past communications between the couple such as Skype and WhatsApp messages
  • Travel tickets of holidays taken together
  • Photographs

Suffice to say, the client’s application was successful this time around.


Have you or someone you know received a recent refusal? What were the reasons given and what advice would you give to others?

Join us for part 3 in our series on EEA residence and family permits, where we will outline what happens once a non-EEA family member travels to the UK on a EEA family permit.

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration. Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration solutions to businesses, individuals and families by looking at the bigger picture.

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If you would like further guidance or assistance with an application for an EEA family permit, contact us at Thomas Chase Immigration to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about immigration from our blogs.


You may also like:

EEA permit applications and processing times

Permanent Residence to British citizenship: Is it worth the hassle?

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Join the discussion

  1. Leoni

    Hi, i have a question pls. My passport is set to expire nxt yr march 2018. Can i use this passport and apply for an EEA family permit in next month on september 14th. Is this passport still valid? Thanks

    • C. Thomas

      Hi Leoni,

      There is no explicit requirement for passports to be valid for 6 months from the date of application. Instead, UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) states that passports must be valid for the length of your stay in the UK. As visas are often issued for a minimum of 6 months, the 6 months’ validity period became the norm.

      Therefore, if you wish to enter the UK, under your EEA family permit, and stay beyond 6 months, and later intend to re-enter the UK as an EEA family member after March 2018, it may be prudent to apply for an EEA family permit only after you are in possession of a new valid passport.

      I hope that helps.

  2. Damien Low

    I am a non-EU national and my wife is Portuguese. I had an EEA FP. It expired in 2015. We want to move to the UK and stay this time. Do I need to apply for a FP all over again?

    • C. Thomas

      Hi Damien,

      Yes! You will need to apply for a new EEA family permit to accompany your wife (an EEA national) to the UK.

      The process should be very similar to your previous applications, though you must check the criteria again, provide updated documents and include details of the previous EEA family permit and travel in the new application.

      Hope that helps.

  3. Druba

    Hi , i have a serious question if its possible please replay

    i m non eu eea national and i been to uk for more then 15 times in my last trip i been trapped in false immigration stamp and i been removed from uk airport i been never done this stamp thing before i had many trips never involved in any criminal activities never done any thing wrong in uk when i been detained at uk airport i refuse to get any legal assistance i been offered for local councilor but i refuse to take that i just decided to come back home with my own ticket its been almost 2.5years now i never applied for any visa

    1. My Wife is Danish National (Denmark)
    2. My Son is Also Danish National (denmark)

    My wife and son is in Uk and my wife is working in uk past 2months
    We are happily Married past 3 years
    We both are Real Blood Cousins

    What Should i do now Some people says if you do forgery you cant apply for uk
    But i didnt get any Ban for applying uk Visa
    I Left the airport with my own choice although i Still have the choice to get asylum or any other bail and legal things

    What Should i Do now please explain

    • C. Thomas

      Using deception to gain entry to the UK leads to a person’s immigration history being viewed in the negative and will impact that person’s ability to enter the UK.

      Based on what you have outlined above, and the fact that your wife and child are currently in the UK, you should seek an immediate consultation for personal immigration advice.

      All the best.

  4. saloni

    hello this is saloni .thanks for this article . this was really helpful .

  5. Jennifer Agba

    Am an European citizen and my husband applied an eea family permit for us to visit Uk together. We are living in Italy and applied for the visa. They send my husband passport back today with the decision made, but unfortunately nothing is writing on the passport and there’s even a letter to ensure us that the have approved it or not. What should we do? Is it possible that the will stamp the visa at the airport whenever we want to travel?

    • C. Thomas

      Hi Jennifer,

      This is strange!!!

      Obvious question first – Have you inspected all the pages in the passport?

      Second obvious question – Were the returned documents inspected carefully for a IKVI decision letter?

      As there appears to be no outcome letter or permit placed in the passport, (and assuming the application was not withdrawn) you might want to contact UKVI as a matter of urgency to clarify?

      UKVI can be contacted via email and phone by using the following link: https://www.gov.uk/contact-ukvi-inside-outside-uk

      Please keep us updated.

  6. J

    Hi there,

    I have a question. My girlfriend is of Jamaican nationality and currently living and doing her degree there. I am an EU citizen living in the UK of 15 years now and also studying at university. We are both under 24 and although we are not married, we have been together for three years (including continuous trips to Jamaica on my behalf). Could you please advise us both on what is the best possible way for my girlfriend to go about applying for a EEA FAMILY PERMIT (i.e. documentation best to present etc). Also, she does not want to live in the UK and would only like to visit for a period of 2-3 weeks at most. May I add, she also has a valid US tourist visa and has had for years.

    The reason for my asking is due to the fact that upon researching, I read many real life experiences of individuals having their application refused with poor justification as to why. For this, we would both like to be extremely and overly prepared (even if it means rushing our marriage).

    Thank you, it would be most appreciated.

    • C. Thomas

      Hi J,

      An unmarried partner will only be recognised as a family member of an EEA national if the couple resided together, for at least 2 years, in a relationship akin to marriage.

      As a guide, and depending on the circumstances, your girlfriend may prefer to travel to the UK as a visitor. As a Jamaican national she will not require a visa unless there are reasons why it may be preferable to do so.

      Feel free to contact us to arrange a consultation if you would like to discuss your specific circumstances.

  7. Ciana

    Dear Sir / Ma’am,

    I’m a non EU national and my husband is a Portuguese national..

    I had applied for a EEA family permit, but it has been refused stating that no evidence of my marriage has been submitted.. However, i had submitted my Marriage certificate along with the other supporting documents..

    I have submitted an appeal (before 28 days) for the same online on 28/11/17 along with the supporting documents..

    We need your guidance for the following:

    1. Is there any way we can check the status of the appeal?
    2. How long does it take to take a decision on the appeal?
    3. Can I apply for a visit visa before getting a decision of the appeal so that I can travel along with my husband next month?

    • C. Thomas

      Hi Ciana,

      You raise a number of issues which may be better addressed by way of a consultation with a qualified OISC immigration adviser.

      This is because, without a clear understanding of the ECO’s decision, it is difficult to assess the best course of action.

      Generally speaking, in such circumstances, there may be merits for challenging the decision.

      If there are any other reasons for the refusal, which were not addressed in the initial application, then it may assist with your wider aims to submit a new application for an EEA family permit.

      • Ciana

        Thank you for the reply..

        Please let me know if I can apply for a visit visa or should I wait for the decision of the appeal (Not sure how long it will take for the appeal decision and I wanted to travel to UK with my husband who is going next month)..

  8. cris

    My wife is romanian she get job in UK and she will start work there in janury , i have being in romania since 3 years , and after my wife will go to uk i want to apply for visa EEA permit , do i need to wait till cross 3 month or i can apply befor i mean what is better , also what documents i need to send it to them for EEA permit , i hope to help me sir and thank you

    • C. Thomas

      Hi Cris,

      Non-EEA national family members may accompany their spouse to the UK. Alternatively, the non-EEA family member may join their EEA spouse, in the UK, at a later, once the EEA national has exercised their Treaty rights in the UK for at least 3 months.

      The documents to be provided will depend on the individual circumstances, though there are some basic documents that the Entry Clearance Officer would expect to see: https://www.gov.uk/family-permit/documents-you-must-provide

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