Non-EU family members of EU citizens can obtain long-term residence, court rules
The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that non-EU citizens who have residence rights in an EU country as family members of an EU national can acquire EU long-term residence.
EU long-term residence is a legal status that non-EU citizens can obtain if they have lived continuously in an EU country for at least five years, have not been away for more than 6 consecutive months and 10 months over the entire period (although the rules are different for Britons covered by the Withdrawal Agreement), and can prove to have “stable and regular economic resources” and health insurance. Applicants can also be required to meet “integration conditions”, such as knowing the language.
Long-term residence status grants equal treatment to EU nationals in areas such as employment, self-employment or education, as well as the possibility to move to other EU countries under certain conditions.
But the procedure to get this status is not always straight-forward.
In this case, a Ghanian national who had a residence permit in the Netherlands because of a ‘relationship of dependency’ with her son, a Dutch citizen, saw their application for EU long-term residence refused.
The Dutch authorities argued that the residence right of a family member of an EU citizen is ‘temporary in nature’ and therefore excluded from the EU directive on long-term residence.
The applicant, however, appealed the decision and the District Court of The Hague referred the case to the EU Court of Justice for an interpretation of the rules.
On Wednesday the EU Court clarified that non-EU family members of EU citizens who live in the EU can indeed acquire EU long-term residence.
The EU long-term residence directive excludes specifically third-country nationals who reside in the EU temporarily, such as posted workers, seasonal workers or au pairs, or those with a residence permit that “has been formally limited”.
A family member of an EU citizens does not fall into this group, the Court said, as “such a relationship of dependency is not, in principle, intended to be of short duration.”
In addition, EU judges argued, the purpose of the EU long-term residence directive is to promote the integration of third country nationals who are settled in the European Union.
It is now for the Dutch court to conclude the case on the basis of the Court’s decision, which will apply also to the other EU member states.
The European Commission proposed in April to simplify the rules on EU long-term residence, especially when it comes to obtaining the status, moving to other EU countries and the rights of family members.
These new measures are undergoing the legislative procedure have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council. These rules also concern Britons living in the EU as family members of EU citizens.