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Movement and residence

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

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 a Commission directive from 2004pdf, the following rules apply:

  • 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;
  • 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;
  • EU citizens can acquire the right to permanent residence in another EU country after legally residing there for a continuous period of five years;
  • The family members of EU citizens have the right to accompany or join them in another EU country, subject to certain conditions.

Where can I find more information and assistance?

To find out more on the right to free movement:

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.

The following EU services assist citizens in solving individual problems:

  • Your Europe Advice - provides custom-made legal advice on your rights within the EU free of charge, within 8 calendar days and in any official EU language;
  • SOLVIT - an on-line problem solving network where EU countries work together to solve problems without legal proceedings.

What is the European Commission doing in this area

Commission guidelines issued in 2009 made the enforcement of the EU free movement rules a clear political priority.

In November 2013 the Commission adopted a communication (Free movement of EU citizens and their families: Five actions to make a differencepdf(209 kB) Choose translations of the previous link ) on free movement rules. It aims to clarify EU citizens' rights and obligations as well as the conditions and limitations under EU law, and aims to address the concerns raised by some Member States. It sets out five actions to help Member States and their local authorities to apply EU laws and tools to their full potential, including the full use of EU structural and investment funds.

One of the actions envisaged in the above Communication was to help national authorities fight potential abuses of the right to free movement in the form of marriages of convenience. To this end, the Commission adopted in September 2014 the Communication "Helping national authorities fight abuses of the right to free movement: Handbook on addressing the issue of alleged marriages of convenience between EU citizens and non-EU nationals in the context of EU law on free movement of EU citizens (COM(2014)604pdf(148 kB) Choose translations of the previous link ) together with a staff working paper (SWD(2014)284pdf(2 MB) Choose translations of the previous link ).

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