Rights and responsibilities
On this page
This page explains your rights to enter, live in and work in the UK if you are a national of a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland. It also explains your family members' rights.
As an EEA or Swiss national, you have the right to live and work in the UK (known as the 'right of residence') if:
- you are working here (and have obtained our permission to work if this is required - see below); or
- you can support yourself and your family in the UK without becoming an unreasonable burden on public funds.
Entering the UK
When you enter the UK, you must show your passport or national identity card. You should use the separate channel marked 'EEA/EU', where it is available. Immigration officers will check your passport or national identity card to ensure that it is valid and belongs to you.
If you have a right to live the in the UK, your family may join you here. Your family is defined as:
- your spouse (husband or wife) or civil partner;
- any children or grandchildren of you, your spouse or your civil partner who are under 21 years of age or who are dependent on you; and
- the parents or grandparents of you, your spouse or your civil partner.
If you are a student, only your spouse or civil partner and dependent children have a right of residence.
Other relatives (including extended family members such as brothers, sisters and cousins) do not have an automatic right to live in the UK. To be considered, they must be able to show that they are dependent on you.
If you and your partner are not married or in a civil partnership, you must be able to show that you are in a durable relationship with each other.
Family members who are not EEA or Swiss nationals
If your family members are not EEA or Swiss nationals, they may need to apply for an EEA family permit before they can come to the UK. This permit is similar to a visa.
For more information, see the EEA family permits page.
If you are a national of Bulgaria or Romania, you must obtain our permission in order to work here. You should read the pages for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals for details.
If you are a national of any other EEA country or Switzerland, you will not need to apply for our permission in order to work here.
You and your family members can:
- accept offers of work
- work as an employee and/or in self-employment
- set up a business
- manage a company
- set up a local branch of a company
You can also do all these types of work if you are studying in the UK.
Your employer should not discriminate against you because of your nationality in terms of conditions of employment, pay or working conditions.
Registration certificates, residence cards and family member residence stamps
A registration certificate is a document, issued to an EEA national, that confirms the holder's right of residence under European law. You do not need a registration certificate to be able to enter, live in or work in the UK.
Residence cards are issued to EEA nationals' family members who are not EEA nationals themselves. The card is in fact a sticker (also called a 'vignette'), placed in your passport, which confirms your right of residence in the UK under European law. It is normally valid for 5 years, and you should produce it as evidence of your status when asked to do so. (In some circumstances, we may issue you with an immigration status document instead of an vignette in your passport. You should produce this document and your passport as evidence of your status when asked to do so.)
If the EEA national is a worker from Bulgaria or Romania, who requires authorisation to work in the UK, their non-EEA family members cannot apply for a residence card until the Bulgarian or Romanian national has completed 12 months' continuous legal employment in the UK. Until that time, each non-EEA national family member can apply for a family member residence stamp to confirm their right of residence under European law.
To find out how to apply for a registration certificate, see the Residence documents for European citizens section.
To find out how to apply for a residence card or family member residence stamp, see the Residence documents for family members section.
When you have lived in the UK for a continuous period of 5 years, you can apply for confirmation of permanent residence. For more information, see the Residence documents for European citizens or Residence documents for family members section.
If you are a Swiss national or Swiss company that conducts business in the UK, you may send non-EEA or non-Swiss national employees to work for you in the UK for up to 90 days without needing to apply for a work permit. Those employees must have been working for you in Switzerland or in an EEA member state for a reasonable period of time. Your non-EEA or non-Swiss national employees will need to apply for posted workers authorisation.
You should contact your nearest visa application centre for details of how to apply.
You do not need to work while you are living in the UK. But if you do not work, you must be able to support yourself and your family in the UK without becoming an unreasonable burden on public funds.
If you are an EEA national in the UK as a student or as a self-sufficient person you must have comprehensive sickness insurance for the duration of your stay in the UK. To find out more, see the Healthcare - comprehensive sickness insurance page.
MORE NEWS AND UPDATES
- Revisions to the codes of practice for skilled migrant workers
- New immigration fees proposed
- Changes to the requirements for biometric residence permits
- 17 arrests in UK sham marriage investigations
Insurance that will cover the costs of the majority of medical treatment you may receive in the UK. You may have to show you have this insurance in order to be allowed to live in the UK as an EEA national or their family member. The documents that are accepted as showing you have comprehensive sickness insurance are: a private health insurance policy, a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) that has been issued by an EEA Member State other than the UK for people temporarily in the UK, or forms S1, S2 and S3. You may have to provide one of these documents when asserting a right of residence in the UK or a combination of these documents (including any previous versions) covering the relevant qualifying period when asserting a permanent right of residence in the UK.
The European Economic Area (EEA) consists of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Although Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are not members of the European Union (EU), their citizens have the same rights as EU citizens to enter, live in and work in the UK.
Public funds are benefits, paid by the UK government, that are related to your income. Claiming public funds when you are not entitled to them is known as 'benefit fraud', and is a criminal offence. For a list of public funds, see the Public funds page.
A person who is a national or citizen of certain countries and will always require a visa to come to the United Kingdom. These countries or territories are listed in Appendix 1 of the immigration rules. Some visa nationals may pass through the United Kingdom on the way to another country without a visa, but in some circumstances they will require a direct airside visa or visitor in transit visa.