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Movement and residence

Blurred picture of people holding luggage in an airport © Robert Wilson, fotolia

The right to move and reside freely

Citizens of the EU and their family members have the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the EU, subject to certain conditions. This right is conferred directly on every EU citizen by Article 21 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. As specified in directive 2004/38pdf, the following rules apply:

  • Article 6: EU citizens can reside on the territory of another EU country for up to three months without any conditions other than the requirement to hold a valid identity card or passport;
  • Article 7: To reside in another EU country for more than three months, EU citizens are required to meet certain conditions depending on their status (i.e. worker, student, etc.) and may also be required to meet certain administrative formalities;
  • Article 16: EU citizens can acquire the right to permanent residence in another EU country after legally residing there for a continuous period of five years;
  • Article 3: The family members of EU citizens have the right to accompany or join them in another EU country, subject to certain conditions.

EU citizenship and the right to free movement are regularly taken into consideration in the judgments of the Court of Justice.

Where can I find more information and assistance?

If you think that your free movement rights have not been upheld, you can make use of the means of redress available at national level to assert your rights. Only national courts can award you reparation for damage suffered. You may also wish to contact a local solicitor to provide you with legal advice.

What has the European Commission done

To help national authorities fight potential abuses of the right to free movement, the Commission, in 2014, adopted the communication "Helping national authorities fight abuses of the right to free movement: Handbook on addressing the issue of alleged marriages of conveniencepdf Choose translations of the previous link  between EU citizens and non-EU nationals in the context of EU law on free movement of EU citizens together with a staff working paperpdf Choose translations of the previous link .

In 2014pdf and 2013pdf, two studies were commissioned to evaluate how EU free movement rules were applied on the ground and what was their impact at local level. Findings of the studies and views set out in the studies are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the Commission.

In November 2013 the Commission adopted the communication Free movement of EU citizens and their families: Five actions to make a differencepdf Choose translations of the previous link . It aims to clarify EU citizens' rights and obligations as well as the conditions and limitations under EU law, and to address the concerns raised by some Member States. It sets out five actions to help Member States to apply EU laws and tools to their full potential, including the full use of EU structural and investment funds.

In 2013 the Commission published a Guide to free movementpdf Choose translations of the previous link  with comprehensive information on the right to move and reside freely within the EU;
Commission guidelines issued in 2009pdf made the enforcement of the EU free movement rules a clear political priority.