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Living in Europe
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Being European citizens as well as Irish nationals means we all enjoy the basic right to live, work, study or retire in any EU country subject to certain conditions.

Free movement of citizens has always been a cornerstone of EU membership but it originally only applied to workers and later their families.

That means all EU citizens are now, subject to certain conditions, entitled to move freely to another EU country to get a job, enrol in college, enjoy their retirement years or simply to experience a different culture.

Free movement

Couple of touristsUnder EU law, all EU citizens and their family members must be allowed move between member states in much the same way as they would move around in their home country.

European citizens can enter, live and stay in any EU country simply by presenting their passport at the border, if requested to do so. There are no questions to answer or special formalities to comply with.

If the stay is longer than three months it might be necessary to register the residency, but this is usually just a formality if you’re working, studying or have health insurance and enough funds so as not to become a financial burden on the host nation.

Freedom of movement and rights of residence also apply to family members of EU citizens, regardless of their nationality. Under EU law  family members include a spouse, or registered partner, dependent children and dependent ascendants.

Accompanying family members who aren’t EU citizens might also need an entry visa if they’re moving within EU borders, but this is granted free of charge.

European citizens and members of their families living continuously in another EU country for five years or more are now entitled to permanent residency, which means they then legally have virtually complete equality of treatment with nationals of the host nation.

Living abroad

car at border controlEuropean laws and directives have made it easy to move to another EU country with the minimum of fuss. All your belongings can be transported without having to pay customs duties or taxes, and if you’re flying, you can claim compensation if the flight is delayed or cancelled or if your baggage is lost.

A current full Irish driving licence legally allows you to drive in any EU nation. Jobseekers who move to another EU member state to look for work can usually continue to draw unemployment benefit from their home country for up to three months extendable to six months.

EU rules also mean that all workers are entitled to exactly the same social security and welfare benefits as nationals of the host country. As long you’ve paid enough contributions you can claim sickness and maternity benefits, old age pensions and unemployment payments.

The EU Single Market gives citizens the freedom to pursue their career in any member state and there’s a system in place that facilitates the recognition of professional qualifications across the entire European Union.

And all EU workers are entitled to the same conditions and benefits as nationals of the country they’re working in, including equal pay and trade union membership.

Irish people who want to conduct business in Europe benefit from both the freedom to move as well as the freedom to move goods- another fundamental EU right.

There are no longer any border controls on goods moving between EU countries and products manufactured in Ireland must be allowed to be sold on markets in all member states.

Irish citizens also benefit from the freedom to move capital allowing them to open bank accounts, buy property and invest in shares in all EU nations.

EU directives made under this freedom mean it’s now relatively easy to move money around with fast, cheap and reliable credit transfers.

Charges for cross-border transfers in euro are the same as those for payments made within a single EU country.

Students who want to study abroad have to be accepted in EU universities and colleges on the same conditions as nationals. That means they can’t be charged higher fees or excluded from courses on the basis of their nationality.

Each EU country has the responsibility to recognise academic qualifications within its own jurisdiction. However, there is a European Network of Centres (ENIC) that promotes the recognition of international vocational qualifications throughout Europe.

In Ireland the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) is the Qualifications Recognition National Qualifications Authority of Ireland. It’s their job to provide information on having qualifications recognized abroad.

Advice and help

There’s plenty of support for Irish nationals on the move around Europe. The Your Europe Advice Service has a team of legal experts ready to provide advice on rights and entitlements in the EU. The service is free and all queries receive a prompt, objective and personalised response from a multilingual legal expert. Replies are given by phone or e-mail in the EU language of your choice.

The YEA experts can clarify rules and direct citizens to the body which is best suited to solving their problem.

Europass logoIrish workers and students can get help with having their skills and qualifications recognised anywhere in the EU with the help of Europass.

Visitors to the Europass website can create a standard CV that will help describe their education, skills and competences in any EU country.

Other helpful documents including a language passport are also available and it’s all free of charge.


Basic details of social security rights in most EU countries can be found at the European Commission’s Moving Within Europe website.




Last update: 17/07/2012  |Top