European Court ruling: Non-EU family members do not need a visa to enter UK!

EU judges have ruled that the UK cannot block non-EU family members from entering the country without a travel permit in a decision that could open UK’s borders to large numbers of non-EU nationals.

The complex case centres on a dual British and Irish national living and working in Spain, and his wife, a Colombian citizen. They have two young children who are both British citizens.

The non-EU spouse claimed she should be allowed to travel to the UK with her British family without having to obtain a British visa as she holds an EU Residence Card issued by the Spanish government.

However, the British government has until now required her to obtain a “family permit” visa every six months if she wants to travel to the UK.

The family took action against the UK government under the EU’s freedom of movement rules, arguing that she should not have to apply for a visa every time she wants to travel.

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which interprets EU law, ruled in the the family’s favour on Thursday, stating that freedom of movement rules do not allow measures that – in pursuit of an objective of general prevention of abuse – preclude family members from entering a member state without a visa.

The win could potentially open the UK’s borders to large numbers of non-EU nationals who live with EU citizens across the continent.

Ordinarily a non-EU family member has to visit the British embassy to be fingerprinted and complete detailed application forms every time s/he wants to travel to the UK. The process can take several weeks or even months.

The UK invoked the visa system because it had concerns about other EU member states’ residence cards, as some allegedly do not meet international security standards and therefore could be used to abuse EU freedom of movement rules.

The judges at the European Court stated the fact that an EU Member State is faced with a high number of cases of abuse of rights or fraud committed by non-EU nationals – as the UK claims – cannot justify a sweeping measure to exclude family members of EU citizens.  It was further stressed that the UK is able to assess documentation for signs of fraud or abuse at the border and if fraud is proven they can exclude an individual.

This landmark ruling could see an influx of non-EU family members entering the UK without family permits.


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