EEA Applications: An Overview

What is the EEA?

The European Economic Area (EEA) is an association of 31 European countries that provides for the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital. This includes all European Union (EU) members:

  • Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus,Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK
  • plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway

Switzerland is not part of the EEA, however Swiss nationals have the same rights to Free Movement as all EEA members.

White Rose Visas adviser and client

What are EEA nationals permitted to do in the UK?

An EEA national is permitted to live and work in the UK under the Free Movement of Persons Directive 2004/38/EC. EEA nationals are also permitted to bring non-EEA family members with them. Family members of British Citizens are treated differently (usually under UK legislation) however can be consider as EEA family members under certain circumstances (see Surinder Singh below).

EEA and Swiss nationals are able to apply for documents confirming their right of residence under free movement rights. To qualify for Free Movement rights, an EEA National must be acknowledged as a Qualified Person, i.e. someone who is exercising Treaty Rights in the UK. To be seen as a Qualified Person means that this person is one of the following:

  • A worker
  • A student
  • A job seeker
  • Self-employed
  • Self-sufficient

Types of EEA permit (visa)

  • EEA Family Permit: a Non-EEA national wishing to enter the UK as the family member of an EEA national must apply for an EEA Family Permit before entering the UK. This is valid for up to 6 months.
  • Residence Permit: once a Non-EEA national is in the UK they can apply for a Residence Permit. They must continue to be the family member of either a qualified person or someone with Permanent Residency. Residence Permits are valid for 5 years.
  • Permanent Residency: following 5 years continuous residency many individuals will be eligible for Permanent Residency under the UK Immigration Rules. Further to this it is possible to apply for British Citizenship.
  • Retained Rights of Residence: in certain circumstances such as relationship breakdown, it is possible to remain in the UK with a Retained Right of Residence.
White Rose Visas immigration adviser

Family members of EEA nationals

A family member of an EEA national is either a direct or indirect family member.

  • Direct family members include spouse or civil partner, dependant child or grandchild, or a dependant parent or grandparent.
  • Indirect family members include unmarried partners and extended relatives who are dependant on the EEA national or a member of their household.

The Surinder Singh route

Non-EEA family members can be eligible for Free Movement rights under the Surinder Singh principle. In order to be eligible, the British Citizen must have been exercising Treaty Rights in another EEA country prior to entering the UK.

They must be able to prove that during the time they were exercising Treaty Rights, they had moved the 'centre of their life' to the EEA country. The Non-EEA family member must have been resident with them during this time.

How can we help?

Contact White Rose Visas using the web form below.

At White Rose Visas we are able to assist with all routes available to EEA nationals, their partners and their families, including the Surinder Singh Route. We are also able to advise on the best course of action for people in the context of ongoing Brexit negotiations.

See our EEA Service web page for reviews from previous EEA clients.


0114 303 9933

0800 8600 851


White Rose Visas

Wharf House

Victoria Quays

Wharf Street

Sheffield S2 5SY

United Kingdom

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