For European citizens living in the UK

With the uncertainties of Brexit looming, many European citizens and their families are looking to secure their immigration status in the UK. When preparing for Permanent Residence, Registration Certificate or Residence Card applications, you will often come across one of the mandatory requirements – “exercising Treaty Rights in the UK”.

EU Treaty Rights are rights afforded to the citizens of the European Union and family members under Directive 2004/38/EC. Treaty rights are also granted to members of the European Economic Area (EEA) as well as Switzerland. EU treaty rights allow for free movement within the Member States of the EU. This right to free movement is typically derived from an EU citizen’s involvement in the economic activity of the host member state. Examples of such involvement include working, studying or being self-sufficient.

Whilst free movement allows for visa-free travel for up to 3 months, to stay past this limit, you must be exercising a Treaty Right. However, if you have been continuously exercising your treaty rights for 5 years, you are eligible to apply for a permanent right of residence which would allow you to permanently reside in the UK without exercising treaty rights. Furthermore, whilst exercising your treaty rights as an EU citizen within the UK you also have the right to have certain family members, such as a spouse, child or dependent parent, reside with you even if they are not exercising their treaty rights.

For British citizens returning from Europe to the UK

British citizens, however, are not treated as EEA nationals in the UK hence there is no automatic right to reside for non-EEA national family members. Nevertheless, an exception occurs when the British citizen exercises treaty rights in another EEA state and return to the UK with his non-European family members. This may lead to a Surinder Singh application. By exercising treaty rights in another EU state and then exercising the right to return to the UK, consequently, the right for family members to reside with you is also invoked.

Dual citizenship

Since 2012, the UK has denied dual citizens (with both UK and European nationalities) any rights under EU law. Should an EU citizen be granted UK citizenship, any family member residing with them from outside the EU have the choice of applying under the UK Immigration Rules, or relying upon any automatic EEA residence rights. The recent case of Lounes C-165/16 has confirmed that a dual British/European citizen can rely on European law to sponsor her partner’s visa.

Lounes v Secretary of State for the Home Department (C-165/16, EU:C:2017:862)

The Court of Justice of the European Union has found that EU citizens who move to the UK and later naturalise as British retain their free movement rights under EU law even though they have become British.

How Can We Help?

QC Immigration has vast experience dealing with complicated applications involving European citizens, British citizens returning from Europe and their non-European family members. Book a consultation with us to plan your future in the UK with certainty.

Need more information?

Learn more about how we work and support you through the UK Immigration Application Process.

Get In Touch


What do our users say

Thank you very much for your contribution and good job you have done for me and my family. Today, I feel that thanking you is not enough. You will remain in our hearts and we will always have this deepest and sincere regard for you, as you have always shown your kindness and your work have been appreciated by the whole family.

Long Residence Settlement (10 years) client – Mauritian

Qiyin is an extremely diligent and thorough immigration lawyer. She took the time to fully understand my case and application for the highly skilled migrant program. She was very careful to consider both the short and longer term issues related to my application and provided very balanced and frank advice. My highly skilled migrant visa was successfully renewed thanks to her advice and help. I highly recommend her.

Tier 1 (General) visa client – Singaporean

I would like to thank you for all the hard work you’ve done for us in the past few years! I am now finished with the whole process and had my UK Citizenship ceremony. We couldn’t have gotten this far without you!

Entry Clearance Settlement (Spouse) visa client – Canadian

Thank you for all your help. I got the visa this morning and look forward to going on holiday. See you again in 30 months for the next visa.

PEO same-day service (Spouse leave to remain) client – Thai

We are so glad that our friend recommended you to help with our ILR application and we have no doubt it may have been a different story if we were applying without your support! We appreciate your professional approach and knowledge on immigration matters and wish your business well in the future (we are sure you will be very successful). Have no doubt we will be using your services for our application for Citizenship.

Indefinite Leave to Remain (Spouse) client – Russian

The QC Immigration team has proved an absolute star on the immigration front and my son’s fiancée is now happily settled, thank you again.

Partner (Fiancée) Settlement Visa – Brazilian

Many thanks for all your work on our application, especially since I contacted you on short notice! I contacted you on Sept 22nd and we signed up with you on/around Sept 27th! So we pulled this all together a little over 3 weeks.

Premium Service (Fiancée) Partner visa client – American

You have exceeded our expectations by saving us so much time and money when organising this! Thank you for also co-operating with our investment manager and accountant to ensure everything ran smoothly.

Tier 1 Investor (Super Premium Service) client – Chinese

Naturalisation (British Citizenship) client - Dutch

EEA Permanent Residence client – Belgian

My family and I were very emotional receiving the good news today. Thank you for all your help and we will definitely recommend you to our European friends who are planning ahead after Brexit!

Naturalisation (British Citizenship) client – Dutch

My family and I were very emotional receiving the good news today. Thank you for all your help and we will definitely recommend you to our European friends who are planning ahead after Brexit!

Naturalisation (British Citizenship) client – Dutch