Non-EEA citizens who have European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss relatives living in the UK may be eligible to apply for a family permit UK.
Currently, the two types of permit available are the EEA Family Permit and the EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit.
For the EU Settlement Scheme family permit, you must be:
- A non-EEA national, and
- A close relative an EEA or Swiss national (excluding British citizens) who has full settled status or pre-settled status and they are already in the UK already or travelling with you to the UK within 6 months of the date of your application.
If you are not a close relative of the EEA or Swiss national (ie you are an extended family member) or if they do not hold EU settled or pre-settled status in the UK, you should apply for the EEA family permit.
The EEA Family Permit allows close and extended family members of EEA nationals living in the UK to accompany them to the UK or join them at a later point. Close relatives include siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews or nieces.
To qualify for an EEA Family Permit, you must come from outside the EEA and be related to your UK-based family member in accordance with one of the conditions outlined in this guide.
The EEA Family Permit remains valid for six months. During this time, you can enter and leave the UK as many times as you wish. To stay in the UK beyond this point, you may apply for a UK residence card before your EEA Family Permit expires.
What is a UK residence card?
Once you are in the UK, you may apply to the UK Home Office for a residence card, which would permit you to remain in the country for up to five years. Residence cards are not issued as readily as UK family permits, meaning it is not guaranteed your residence application will be approved, even where you meet the eligibility requirements.
Note that immediate family members of EEA citizens residing in the UK are not obliged to apply for a residence card, though holding one will show potential UK employers that you are allowed to work and may also help you qualify for certain benefits. Extended family members are expected to apply for a residence card before their UK family permit expires.
Once you have lived in the UK for five years, you may apply to settle permanently. If granted, this permission is known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’.
Why apply for an EEA family permit?
Individuals who hold an EEA Family Permit have the legal right to live and work in the UK. During the six months before your EEA family permit expires, you are free to leave and re-enter the country as many times as you like. Non-EEA nationals who attempt to enter the UK without either type of UK family permit (EEA or EU Settlement Scheme) may experience significant delays or be denied entry altogether.
Who is eligible for the UK family permit?
You may be eligible for an EEA Family Permit on the basis that you are a close family member or a dependant extended family member of an EEA national living in the UK. You may also qualify if your relative is not yet living in the UK but is planning to enter the UK with you, within six months of your permit application.
To be considered for a UK family permit, you must be related to your UK-based family member as their unmarried partner, civil partner or spouse, or related to your family member, their civil partner or spouse as a dependant:
- Child or grandchild
- Parent or grandparent or
- Extended family member (e.g. sibling, niece, nephew etc.)
Note that unmarried partners must be able to prove they are in a relationship and have been living together as if married, for at least two years. It may also be possible to obtain an EEA Family Permit if one of the following conditions apply to your situation:
- You qualify for ‘retained right of residence’. This may apply if you previously had the right to live in the UK with an EEA family member who has since left the UK, died, or separated from you as a civil partner or spouse.
- You qualify for ‘derivative right of residence’. This may apply if you are the child of an EEA national who no longer works in the UK, the carer of a person living in the UK, or the child of that carer.
- You are eligible to make a ‘Surinder Singh’ application. This may apply if you have lived with a UK national family member in another EEA country for more than one year.
Family member requirements
The family member you are seeking to join in the UK must also meet certain eligibility requirements for your EEA Family Permit application to be successful. As mentioned previously, your family member must already be in the UK or must expect to travel to the UK with you in the next six months. If your family member has lived in the UK for three months or longer, they must either be a ‘qualified person’ or have been granted permanent residence.
To be considered a ‘qualified person’ your family member must meet one of the following criteria:
- They are in employment
- They are self-employed and earning enough to pay national insurance and tax
- They are studying
- They have the means to be financially independent
If your family member qualifies as a student or a financially independent person, they must have comprehensive health insurance.
How to apply for an EEA Family Permit
You can apply for an EEA family permit in person at a British Diplomatic Post in your current country of residence. To support your application, you will need to provide the following documents:
- A valid passport
- Proof of your relationship with your eligible family member (e.g. a marriage or civil partnership certificate, evidence that you have been cohabiting for at least two years, or a birth certificate)
- Your eligible family member’s original national identity card or valid passport (a copy that has been certified by a qualifying person who knows your family member and has viewed the original document may suffice)
- Evidence that you are dependant on your family member if you are applying as dependant extended family
- Evidence that your family member has permanent right of residence or is a ‘qualified person’ if they have been in the UK for longer than three months (e.g. bank statements, a letter from a university or an employment contract)
- Proof that your eligible family member has full health insurance, if they are studying or financially independent
UK family permit options for relatives of UK citizens
Non-EEA family members of a UK citizen or person who has been granted ‘indefinite leave to remain’ may be able to apply for a different type of UK family visa. As your family member is a UK citizen or has indefinite settled status, your initial visa period would be longer than that of the EEA Family Permit. To be eligible for a UK family permit, you must be able to apply as the spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner, child, parent or grandparent of a UK citizen. Extended family members may also be covered by a family visa too.
Two common types of UK family visa are:
- UK Spouse Visa: You may apply for this visa if your spouse is a UK citizen or person with settled status in the UK. This visa is dependant on applicants living full-time with their UK-based spouse. Applicants may request a visa period of two and a half years, extending this period for a further two and a half years once the visa has expired. You will then be eligible to apply for settled status, having lived in the UK for five years.
- UK Fiancé Visa: You may apply for this visa if your fiancé is a UK citizen or has settled status in the UK. To qualify, you must have met your fiancé previously and must marry them within six months of the visa being granted. The initial period for this visa is six months. Once you are married, you may apply for a UK Marriage Visa.
DavidsonMorris can help with your family permit UK application
DavidsonMorris is a leading UK immigration law firm specialising in family permit applications. Our legal team will provide you with a professional, friendly, reliable service to help you proceed with the most appropriate route for your circumstances and to avoid any issues or delays with your application. For support with your family permit application, contact us.