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Updated : 28/07/2017

Your non-EU spouse and children

If you are an EU citizen moving to another EU country to live, work or study, EU rules make it easier for your family to join you. On this page you can find out how your spouse, children and grandchildren can join you, even if they are not EU nationals.

However, if you are an EU citizen and have never lived in another EU country only national rules will apply.

Staying abroad for up to 3 months

Your non-EU spouse, children and grandchildren may stay with you in another EU country. If they stay for less than 3 months, all they need is a valid passport and sometimes, depending on the country they are from, an entry visa.

Read more about entry visa requirements/exemptions.

Before you leave, please check with the consulate of the country you are going to if your non-EU family members will require an entry visa, and if so, how long it will take to obtain it.

Reporting presence

Some EU countries require your non-EU spouse, children and grandchildren to report their presence to the relevant authorities within a reasonable period of time after arrival, and may impose a penalty, such as a fine, if they do not.

Before moving to your host country, please check the deadlines and relevant conditions for reporting presence with the national authorities.

Your spouse, children or grandchildren should carry their passport with them at all times.

In some EU countries, they can be fined or temporarily detained if they leave their passport at home, but they cannot be forced to return to their home country for this reason alone.

Equal treatment

During their stay, your spouse, children and grandchildren should be treated as nationals of the host country, notably regarding access to employment, pay, benefits facilitating access to work and enrolment in schools.

Even if they are staying as tourists, they should not, for example, have to pay higher fees to visit museums or when buying transport tickets.

Exception: If you are a pensioner, some EU countries may decide not to grant you and your family income support for the first 3 months in that country.

Deportation

Your new country can, in exceptional cases, decide to deport your non-EU spouse, children and grandchildren on grounds of public policy, public security, or public health - but only if it can prove they represent a serious threat.

The deportation decision must be given to them in writing. It must state all the reasons for deportation, and specify how they can appeal and by when.

Staying for more than 3 months

If you are a worker

If you are working in another EU country, as an employee, self-employed or on a posting, your non-EU spouse, dependent children and grandchildren can stay there with you without having to meet any other conditions.

If you are a pensioner

If you are a pensioner living in another EU country, your non-EU spouse, children and grandchildren can stay there with you if you have for yourself and your whole family:

  • sufficient income to live without needing income support
  • comprehensive health insurance in that country

If you are a student

If you are a student living in another EU country, your spouse, dependent children and grandchildren can stay there with you if you:

  • are enrolled in an approved educational establishment
  • have sufficient income to support your whole family without needing income support
  • have comprehensive health insurance for your whole family in that country

Residence card

Your non-EU spouse, children and grandchildren must apply for a residence document with the authorities in the host country (often the town hall or local police station) within 3 months of arriving.

Find out how to get a residence card for your non-EU family members.

Equal treatment

During their stay in your new country, your non-EU spouse, children and grandchildren should be treated as nationals, notably regarding access to employment, pay and benefits facilitating access to work and enrolment in schools.

Request to leave and deportation

Your spouse, children and grandchildren may live in your host country with you as long as they continue to meet the conditions for residence. If they no longer do so, the national authorities may require them to leave.

In exceptional cases, your host country can decide to deport them on grounds of public policy or public security - but only if it can prove they represent a serious threat.

The deportation decision or request to leave must be given to them in writing. It must state all the reasons for deportation, and specify how they can appeal and by when.

Sample story

Irina is German and lives in the United Kingdom. Her Russian mother applied for a residence card in the United Kingdom, for which she was required to hand in her passport.

The British authorities told Irina that issuing the residence card could take up to 1 year. Irina's mother was worried that if she couldn't get her passport back in time, she wouldn't be able to go to Russia for Christmas, or be allowed back into the UK afterwards.

In fact, the residence rights of non-EU family members mean that the British authorities had to issue a residence card within 6 months and could not keep the passport during that period.

Death

If you were living legally in another EU country and died before acquiring permanent residence there, your non-EU spouse, children and grandchildren may stay if they had been living there for at least 1 year before your death.

To be able to stay, your non-EU family members must also meet the same conditions for residence as EU nationals.

Check conditions and formalities for:

Divorce

If you divorce before acquiring permanent residence in your host country (which usually requires you to live there for 5 years) - your non-EU spouse, children and grandchildren may stay if:

  • they have been living there for at least 1 year, and
  • your marriage lasted for at least 3 years before divorce proceedings started

To be able to stay, your non-EU family members must also meet the same conditions for residence as EU nationals.

Check conditions and formalities for:

Permanent residence

Your non-EU spouse, children and grandchildren acquire the right of permanent residence if they have lived legally in the host country for a period of 5 continuous years.

They can then stay as long as they want even if they don't work and need income support. They should enjoy the same rights, benefits and advantages as nationals.

Their continuity of residence is not affected by:

  • temporary absences (less than 6 months a year)
  • longer absences (compulsory military service)
  • one absence of no more than 12 consecutive months for important reasons such as pregnancy and childbirth, serious illness, work, vocational training or a posting to another country.

They can lose their right to permanent residence if they live outside the country for more than 2 consecutive years.

Death

If you were working or self-employed in another EU country and died before acquiring permanent residence there, your non-EU spouse, children and grandchildren may stay permanently if:

  • your death resulted from an accident at work or occupational disease, or
  • at the time of your death, you had lived continuously in that country for at least 2 years

Permanent residence card

Find out how to get a permanent residence card to certify your family members' right to stay unconditionally.

Request to leave and deportation

Your non-EU spouse, children and grandchildren may live with you in another EU country as long as they continue to meet the conditions for residence. If they no longer do so, the national authorities may require them to leave.

In exceptional cases, your new country can decide to deport them on grounds of public policy or public security but only if it can prove they represent a very serious threat.

The deportation decision or request to leave must be given to them in writing. It must state all the reasons for deportation, and specify how they can appeal and by when.

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