The EEA Family Permit: What is it, and how can it help you?
Do you have a close family member who has chosen to settle in the United Kingdom? Do you have plans to join them today or soon, but are not sure of which visa opportunity might allow you to do so? You may be searching for the European Economic Area Family Permit (EEA).
What is an EEA Family Permit?
The European Economic Area (EEA) Permit is an immigration document which was established in 2006, under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations Act. It works under the pretence that any European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) citizen who is taking up residence in the UK following EU regulations should be allowed to bring their families to live with them. The EEA Family Permit allows direct family members, as well as some extended family members, of European Economic Area nationals, to join them in the UK, or to travel to the UK with them at a later date.
In theory, the EEA Family Permit should not be required to enter the UK for non-EU spouses or family members. However, without explicit visa allowances, it can be challenging for overseas nationals to secure entry to the UK regardless of their familial ties.
Given a record of certain airlines refusing to board passengers whom they believe may require immigration approval in the UK and immigration officials who have refused entry to foreigners who do not have explicit visa allowance, it is strongly advised that one is granted before travel.
Applying for the EEA Family Permit scheme when attempting to visit a family member, rather than applying for a standard visit visa, greatly improves your chances of successfully obtaining the allowance.
Who can qualify for an EEA Family Permit?
Qualifying for the EEA family permit requires several things. First, you must not have citizenship in any European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) country. These countries include:
European Union (EU) Countries
- Republic of Cyprus
- Czech Republic
Additional European Economic Area (EEA) Countries:
Of significant note, there will be no change to the rights and status of EU citizens currently living in the UK until 30 June 2021.
Second, you must be the direct family member of an EU/EEA national who has chosen to obtain “settled” or “pre-settled” status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme. Direct family members include:
- spouses or civil partners
- children or grandchildren under the age of 21*extended family members who can prove financial dependency on the EU/EEA citizen**
* Family members who are adopted under an adoption order that is recognised in UK law are regarded the same as natural family.
** To qualify as an ‘extended family member’ (i.e. a sister, brother, aunt, cousin, nephew), you must be able to provide substantial evidence that you are financially dependent on the EU/EEA citizen or that you have a severe medical condition which requires them to take care of you. Extended family members are not a guarantee under this scheme, and individual circumstances are considered on a case by case basis.
The EU/EEA citizen you plan to join must already be in the UK or plan to travel with you (the applicant) within six months of the permit application. If the EU/EEA citizen has been in the UK for over three months, they must also have:
- Indefinite leave to remain in the UK, indicated by a permanent residence document (often referred to as a ‘document certifying permanent residence’)
- Be a “qualified person”, meaning they must be working, studying, self-employed, be self-sufficient, or be actively looking for work in the UK.
How do I apply for an EEA Family Permit?
As stated above, to apply for an EEA Family Permit, you must be located outside of the UK. You can apply from any visa issuing post, even if you are not currently located in the country in which you hold citizenship. There is no application fee.
You can apply online here.
The application requires several critical documents. You will need to provide copies of the following (and some others depending on your home country):
Valid passport for all parties (applicant and EU/EEA citizen)
- Evidence of your relationship to the EU/EEA citizen (i.e. marriage certificate, adoption paperwork, birth certificate, proof of co-living for 2+ years if unmarried)
- Proof of dependency (i.e. financial or medical documents)
As mentioned previously, if the EU/EEA citizen has been in the UK for over three months, they will also need to supply:
- work (i.e. an employment contract, a pay stub, or certified letter from an employer)
- self-employment (i.e. contracts, invoices)
- tax payments and national insurance coverage
- study (i.e. letter from university)
- financial stability (i.e. bank statements)
How long does it last?
The EEA Family Permit is temporary. It is valid for six months. After this period, you will need to apply for a new permit if you intend to stay in the UK Alternatively, you can apply for an EEA Family Residence Card or a Permanent Residence Card. These documents formalize your right to stay in the country for a longer duration of time.
The top three reasons why EEA Family Permits are refused include:
- Insufficient evidence to support their claim as a direct family member of an EEA National
- The EEA National is not a ‘qualified person’ because there is no evidence of Treaty rights being exercised
- The applicant is a party to a marriage of convenience
Across the board, these errors all have one thing in common: under documentation. To avoid these refusals, be sure to provide sufficient documentation across the board. When in doubt, overapply, rather than underapply. Provide all documents you think may be relevant in proving your relation to the EU/EEA national, as well as your reliance on them. Being aware of the pitfalls and preparing a strong application is essential in successfully obtaining this visa.
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