A European Economic Area Family Permit (short-EEA family permit) is an immigration document that permits the holder to enter the United Kingdom as the dependant of a citizen of the European Economic Area (EEA). The documents are not conventionally visas as they are issued under the authority of free movement provisions of the Treaty of Rome and European Law rather than domestic United Kingdom immigration regulations. Additionally, dependants of citizens of Switzerland can also apply for this document although Switzerland is not a member of the EEA.
A family permit can be issued for both a short term visit and/or to enable to holder to take up residence in the UK. As the documents are only valid for six months a person seeking to remain in the UK will need to apply for residence documentation from the Border and Immigration Agency. The European Economic Area (EEA) came into being on 1 January 1994 following an agreement between member states of European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the European Community (EC), and all member states of the European Union (EU).It allows these EFTA countries to participate in the European single market without joining the EU.
The treaties came into force on 1 January 1958 and the EEC treaty has been amended on numerous occasions (see Treaties of the European Union), It has since been renamed from The Treaty establishing the European Economic Community to the The Treaty establishing the European Community. However the Euratom treaty has seen very little amendment due to the later sensitivity surrounding atomic energy amongst the European electorate.
The framework for the issue of an EEA family permit is defined in the Directive 2004/38/EC on the right to move and reside freely This directive defines the right of free movement of EU citizens, which is one of the Four Freedoms (European Union) and enshrined in the Treaty of Rome. The directive has been incorporated in UK legislation by The Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 20062 (see EEA Regulations (UK),It should be noted, however, that according to article 5, paragraph 2 of the Directive Family members who are not nationals of a Member State shall only be required to have an entry visa in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 or, where appropriate, with national law. For the purposes of this Directive, possession of the valid residence card referred to in Article 10 shall exempt such family members from the visa requirement.
The four freedoms are fundamental to the common market. Not only goods, but also factors of production can move freely between member states. The single market is intended to be conducive to increased competition, increased specialisation and larger economies of scale. Further, the common market allows goods and factors of production to move to the area where they are most valued, thus improving the efficiency of the allocation of resources.
Datailed information for applicants is available on the UKvisas website but in essence family permits will be issued if the applicant is the spouse, civil partner or dependant child of an EEA national and they will be travelling to the UK with that person. There are also requirements connected to the need for the EEA person, if staying for more than 3 months, to be economically active or to be a self-sufficient person (this is called exercising a treaty right) and for the family unit not to fall dependant on Public Funds whilst in the United Kingdom.If staying for less than 3 months there is no need to exercise any treaty right.It is hoped that soon EEA family members already in possession of a residence card as a family member issued by an EEA state or Switzerland will be able to travel freely to the United Kingdom, as guaranteed by the Directive, without the need to apply for this visa-like document.