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.

Non-EU family members of EU citizens can obtain long-term residence, court rules
Non-EU family members of EU citizens can obtain EU long-term residence (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

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.

Member comments

  1. So does this mean that an Article 50 card holder who is married to an EU National could acquire EU long-term residence status IN ADDITION to their Withdrawal Agreement rights in order to gain free movement in the EU and hence live and work in different EU countries?

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For members


Spain’s return authorisation: When and how should I get it?

The 'autorización de regreso' is something you'll need when you want to leave Spain (and get back in) and haven't got your residency card. Here's what it is, when and where to get it, and how.

Spain’s return authorisation: When and how should I get it?

What is a return authorisation?

In Spain, a ‘return authorisation’ (autorización de regreso in Spanish) is a temporary document issued by the police that allows you to leave and, crucially, to return to Spain when you don’t yet have your residency card. For non-EU residents, including most Britons after Brexit, this is the TIE.

It is worth noting that a return authorisation is a document that only allows you to enter Spain and not other EU countries, so this is worth keeping in mind when booking flights with stopovers.

READ ALSO: Can I travel to Spain if my passport has expired?

When should I get one?

Simply put, when you haven’t got your residency card for whatever reason.

Maybe you’ve applied and don’t have the card yet, or you’re renewing your card and still waiting for a replacement, during the time you have to travel. There could be quite a few reasons why you don’t have your residency card with you when travelling, but we’ll outline the three most common here:

Renewing residency

If your residency card is approaching its expiration date, you must request a renewal to continue living legally in Spain. That means there’ll be a short amount of time that you don’t have a residency card.

This can last as long as a month, so if you want to leave Spain during this period you’ll need to apply for the return authorisation so you can prove at the border that you are legally resident in Spain. 

Getting a new TIE

If you misplace your TIE, or have it stolen, or it is damaged and becomes illegible, you’ll also need to apply for a return authorisation if you want to leave the country and come back again.

You may also have the older, small green residency certificates (which the Spanish government recommends Britons exchange for a TIE but isn’t strictly necessary or enforced). They are much more prone to water damage than the hard plastic TIE card.

If this happens to you, applying for a new TIE or residency card can take some time, up to six weeks often.

Similarly to the residency renewal process, this will leave you without anything to prove you legally reside in Spain, so a return authorisation will be necessary to leave the country and re-enter.

READ ALSO: How to travel to Spain if your residency document has expired

Initial residency application

Of course, you might not have a residency permit because you don’t yet have residency in Spain. When you first arrive in Spain and complete all the initial paperwork and administrative tasks (going down to the police station to give your fingerprints, getting your NIE, and so on) it can take around a month to be issued with your residency card.

So if you’re in the process of applying for residency but haven’t yet received a decision (or card) you’ll also need an autorización de regreso if you need to unexpectedly leave the country. 

How and where do I apply?

In order to get a return authorisation, you’ll need to make an appointment at your nearest police station or immigration office (known as the ‘extranjería‘).

You can use this search tool to find your nearest police station here.

And you can make an appointment here.

Which documents do I need?

Once you’ve made your appointment, you’ll need to take a few documents with you. 

  • Your passport (and a photocopy).
  • Documentary proof that you have either applied for, are renewing, or are in the process of receiving a duplicate TIE card.
  • Proof of payment (form 790-052 at the extranjería or form 790-012, if you’re doing it at the police station).
  • Form EX-13, which you can find here, clearly marking your personal situation in the ‘Datos relativos a la solicitud’ under Section 4. 
  • If you are renewing your residency card, bring along the expired one.