Free movement of persons

EEA law relating to free movement of workers applies to migrant workers of EEA nationality who move from their home country to another EEA State in order to work there.


Residence rights for EEA workers

Based on the Residence Directive 2004/38/EC, an EEA migrant worker does not need to obtain a residence permit if his employment is expected to last less than three months in the host state.

If the employment lasts more than three months, the EEA State may require the worker to register. A registration certificate should be issued immediately upon production of a valid identity card or passport and a confirmation of employment.

An EEA worker who has legally resided in the host EEA State for a continuous period of five years acquires a right of permanent residence in that country.

Furthermore, workers have a right to remain in the EEA State where they last worked, provided they have worked and lived there for three years or have reached the age of retirement or suffer from permanent disability. The same rule applies for the members of their family living with them.

Family members

The following family members, whatever their nationality, have the right to reside with the EEA worker in the host EEA State:

  • spouse,
  • partner with whom he has contracted a registered partnership in an EEA State, but only if the legislation of the host EEA State treats registered partnerships as equivalent to marriage and in accordance with the conditions laid down by the host EEA State,
  • descendants and those of his spouse or registered partner who are under the age of 21 or are dependants,
  • dependent relatives in the ascending line and those of the spouse or registered partner.

EEA States are also under an obligation to facilitate the entry and residence of other family members who are dependants or members of the EEA workers' household or who require his personal care due to serious health grounds, and the partner with whom the migrant worker has a durable relationship, duly attested.

Family members, irrespective of nationality, have the right to take up an employment or self-employment in the host EEA State. If they are third country nationals, this means that no work permit will be required. Family members have also the right to equal treatment, including social advantages and the children of the migrant worker, whatever their nationality, have the right to education in the host EEA State on the same terms as its nationals.

Equal treatment on the labour market

The principle of free movement of workers is laid down in Article 28 of the EEA Agreement and is further elaborated in Regulation (EU) No 492/2011. It requires equal treatment of migrant workers and applies in particular to:

  • access to employment,
  • working conditions,
  • social and tax advantages.

Thus, an EEA national has the right to take up an activity in another EEA State under the same conditions as apply to its own nationals, without being discriminated against on the grounds of his nationality. 

Relevant links

Other EEA Institutions

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