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Frequently Asked Questions about Mobility in the EU
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Travelling in the European Union

EU citizens, with the exception of citizens from Ireland and the United Kingdom, have the right to enter and travel around any other Member State without having to comply with any special formalities. All that may be required is a valid passport or identity card.  As neither Ireland nor the United Kingdom are parties to the Schengen Agreement, Irish and UK citizens must present a passport when entering other Member States.

Can a citizen of the European Union be restricted in his/her right to travel?

The right to travel to another Member State may be restricted only for reasons of public policy, public security or public health. Where a national of a Member State is refused entry to another Member State, the reasons for the decision refusing entry should be disclosed to him.  This was confirmed in the recent case of ZZ v Secretary of State for the Home Department C-300/11 issued by the Court of Justice in June 2013.

Are there travel restrictions on non-EU family members of EU citizens?

Non-EU family members of EU citizens who are travelling with or to join EU family members should be permitted to travel simply on production of a valid residence card in lieu of a visa according to Article 5 of Directive 2004/38.  However, many Member States continue to insist on production of a visa for non-EU family members.  This is currently being investigated by the European Commission.

Where required, the visa should be granted without delay or charge or formality by the Embassy of the country of destination provided the non-EU citizen is travelling with or to join the EEA family member.

I am a French citizen married to a Thai national. We are living in Ireland.  We plan to travel to Poland for our holidays in September. Can you confirm what travel documentation we require in order to travel to Poland? If we were to travel to other countries in the EU, would the documentation required be the same?

As a French citizen, you can travel to Poland and to any other country of the EU simply on production of a valid passport or identity card, if requested. In the case of your spouse, Directive 2004/38 provides that he is entitled to travel with you to Poland simply on production of his Irish residence card without having to obtain a visa.

However, many Member States continue to insist on production of a valid visa rather than accept the residence card as provided under Directive 2004/38.   This is currently being investigated by the European Commission.  Pending the outcome of the investigation, if a country insists on production of a visa by a non-EU family member travelling with or to join an EU family member, the visa should be granted without delay or charge or formality. 

You should contact the Polish Embassy in Ireland well in advance of travel to check whether your husband can travel without having to obtain a visa.

Prior to travelling, you should ensure that you obtain your European Health Insurance Card and adequate travel insurance.

I am an Irish national married to a Chinese national.  We live in Ireland.  We are planning to travel to France next month.  Is it correct that my wife does not require a visa and that she can use her Irish residence stamp to travel in lieu of a visa?

Since you are an Irish national living in Ireland, your wife has been granted residence in Ireland based on Irish law rather than EU law as you are not regarded as exercising EU Treaty rights by living or working in a country other than that of which you are a national.  This means that your wife’s residence document is not one granted under EU law and does not entitle her to use this document in lieu of a visa as would be the case if the document was granted under EU law.  However, when your wife applies for a visa to the Embassy of the country to which she intends to travel, the visa should be granted to her without charge or formality or delay if she is travelling with or to join you.  She should only be required to present her passport and your marriage certificate and should not be required to provide evidence of financial independence or hotel reservations etc.

What can I do if my right to travel to another Member State or to a third country is restricted at the point of entry?

If you are an Irish citizen and your right to travel to another Member State or to a third country is restricted and you require advice or assistance, you should contact the Irish embassy or consulate in that country. If Ireland is not represented by an embassy or consulate, you have the right to seek assistance from the embassy or consulate of any of the twenty-seven other Member States present in the country to which you seek entry. If you experience any difficulties in locating diplomatic or consular representation, you should contact the Department of Foreign Affairs. The telephone number is 01 4082308.

If you are a citizen of another country, you should contact the Embassy or Consulate of your home State in the country you seek to enter.

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Driving in the EU

From January 19th 2013, all new driving licenses issued across the EU are in the form of a plastic "credit card," with a standard European format and tougher security protection.

Licenses issued prior to January 2013 are not affected, but will be changed to the new format at the time of renewal or at the latest by 2033.

Will a driving licence issued in one Member State be recognised in other Member States?   I am an Irish citizen holding an Irish driving licence. I will get married later this year and plan to take up residence in Portugal with my Portuguese husband. Will I have to obtain a Portuguese driving licence when I move to Portugal or will the authorities recognise my Irish licence?

Directive 2006/126EEC provides for the mutual recognition of driving licences in the EU. Based on this Directive, provided it is valid in Ireland your Irish driving licence is valid in Portugal and should be recognised there. It is not necessary for you to obtain a Portuguese driving licence when you take up residence in Portugal.

However, the general rule is that if you hold a valid driving licence and take up "normal residence" in a Member State other than the one that issued the licence, the host Member State i.e. Portugal, may enter on the licence any information needed for administration purposes and may apply its national rules on:

  • the period of validity of the licence;
  • medical checks (same frequency as for nationals);
  • tax arrangements (connected with the holding of a licence);
  • penalties (e.g. a penalty-points licence);
  • restriction, suspension, withdrawal or cancellation of the licence.

Is it necessary to obtain additional car insurance when travelling to another Member State?

Your car insurance policy will automatically provide, at no extra cost, the minimum cover (third party liability) required by law. This applies in all Member States as well as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.
If you have comprehensive insurance at home, you should check that the cover extends to travelling in other countries. You may also have to consider vehicle breakdown insurance.

Where can I obtain further information on travelling in the EU?

You can obtain further information on travelling in the EU on the following website:  http://europa.eu/travel/index_en.htm

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Diplomatic and Consular Protection outside the EU

My son is currently holidaying in Cuba and then plans to travel in Argentina and Peru. What if something happens to him in one of these countries where there is no immediate Irish diplomatic or consular representation?

One of the benefits of EU citizenship is that if your son finds himself in difficulties in a third country where there is no Irish diplomatic or consular representation, he can seek assistance from any one of the diplomatic or consular representatives of any one of the twenty-seven other EU Member States. They must accord him the same treatment as they would give to one of their own nationals. This is an important right for a national from a small country such as Ireland which does not have diplomatic or consular representation in every country in the world.

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Last update: 01/07/2014  |Top