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Last checked : 18/04/2017

Travel documents for non-EU family members

UK decision to invoke Article 50 of the TEU: More information

For the time being, the United Kingdom remains a full member of the EU and rights and obligations continue to fully apply in and to the UK:

Do they need a visa?

If you are an EU national but you have family members who are not, they can accompany or join you in another EU country.

Your non-EU family members must carry a valid passport at all times and, depending on the country they are from, may also have to show an entry visa at the border.

To avoid problems, contact the consulate or embassy of the country you are travelling to well in advance to find out which documents your non-EU family member will be asked to present at the border.

If you do have difficulties, you can always contact our assistance services.

Visa exemptions

Your non-EU spouse, (grand)children or (grand)parents do not need to get a visa from the country they are travelling to if:

  • They have a residence permit or visa from another country in the border-free Schengen area (see list below) and the country they are travelling to belongs to that area.

Border-free Schengen area







Czech Republic





















Residence permits issued by countries outside the Schengen area do not allow non-EU family members to travel visa-free to a Schengen area country

Sample story

Even if you have a residence permit, an entry visa is needed to travel to a non-Schengen country

Joyce, a Nigerian national, lives in the Netherlands with her Dutch husband Luuk. As a family member of a Dutch national, Joyce has been issued a residence permit in the Netherlands. Joyce wishes to join Luuk on his next business trip to London. As the UK is not part of the Schengen area, Joyce is required to obtain an EEA Family Permit (an entry visa) to travel to the UK with Luuk.

  • They have an EU family member's residence card issued under EU rules by any EU country (except the country you are a national of), and they are travelling together with you or travelling to join you in another EU country. The residence card should clearly state that the holder is a family member of an EU national.

Sample story

Holders of an EU family member's residence card don't need to obtain a visa if travelling with an EU national   

Ying, the Chinese spouse of a German national living in Finland, has been issued an EU family member's residence card in Finland. Ying and her husband wish to travel to Romania for an autumn break. As Ying has a valid passport and an EU family member's residence card, she is not required to obtain an entry visa to travel to Romania with her husband.

Sample story

Spouse needs to obtain a visa when travelling alone

Brian, a South African national, resides in France with his Slovakian wife. Brian holds an EU family member's residence card issued by France. As his wife is busy, Brian intends to visit his friends in Cyprus alone. As he will travel by himself, Brian needs to apply for a visa to travel to Cyprus.

Your registered partner and extended family - siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and so on - can ask the authorities in an EU country to officially recognise them as family members of an EU national. EU countries do not have to recognise them as your family members but they do at least have to consider the request.

Applying for a visa

If your non-EU family members need an entry visa, they should apply for one in advance from the consulate or embassy of the country they wish to travel to. If they will be travelling together with you, or joining you in another EU country, their application should be processed quickly and free of charge:

  • Countries which are members of the border-free Schengen area should issue visas within 15 days, except in rare cases, when the authorities should provide an explanation of their decision.
  • All other countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania, UK) should issues visas as quickly as possible.

The documents your family members need to include in their visa application may vary from country to country. Before travelling, check which these are with the consulate or embassy of the destination country.

Visas issued by a country belonging to the border-free Schengen area are valid for all countries in that area.

If you reside outside the EU and your non-EU family members accompany you or travel to the EU country of your nationality, EU cross-border rules do not necessarily apply and visa fees might be charged.

Sample story

Marriage certificate enough to get a visa

Thomas is Irish and lives in Belarus with his wife Delia, a Belarusian national. When they wanted to visit Thomas's mother, now living in Spain, they applied for an entry visa for Delia.

She included their marriage certificate in the application, but the Spanish authorities also asked for proof of hotel accommodation in Spain and health insurance before they would issue the visa.

However, when Delia pointed out that no such additional documents were required under EU law, the Spanish authorities apologised for their mistake and immediately issued her entry visa.

Arriving at the border without an entry visa

It is always best for your non-EU family members to be well informed in advance and have all the necessary documents before starting their journey.

However, if they arrive at the border without an entry visa, the border authorities should give them the opportunity to prove by other means that they are your family members. If they manage to prove it, they should be issued with an entry visa on the spot.

If your family members are having difficulties getting a visa, you can contact our assistance services.

Entry refusal

In very rare cases, an EU country can refuse entry to you or your family members for reasons of "public policy, public security or public health".

If this happens, the authorities must prove that you or your family members pose a "genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat".

You are entitled to receive this decision in writing, stating all the grounds, and specifying how you can appeal and by when.

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