Freedom of Movement.
Individual’s freedom of movement within the EU is frequently misunderstood; there is no universal, no-questions-asked, freedom of movement under the EU treaties for stays of longer than 3 months.
There is an important but limited freedom of movement:
Free Movement – EU nationals
Free movement of workers is a fundamental principle backed up by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, secondary legislation and case-law. EU citizens can:
- look for a job in another EU country
- work there without needing a work permit
- live there for that purpose
- stay there even after employment has finished
- enjoy equal treatment with nationals in access to employment and all other social and tax advantages
Free movement of workers broadly applies to the countries in the European Economic Area (which includes the EU countries) and Switzerland.
Who has this freedom?
- EU nationals who move to another EU country to look for a job, with certain restrictions
- EU nationals working in another EU country
- EU nationals returning to their country of origin after having worked abroad.
- Their family members.
Rights differ for people who are planning on being self-employed, a student, retired or otherwise not working, where there is a need to show that they are self-sufficient and have adequate health insurance. There are limitations based on public security, policy and health grounds. Employment in the public sector may also be subject to national restrictions.
There are further regulations which give the right to permanent residence after 5 years and the right for non-EU family members (including grand-children and grand-parents) to join EU citizens.
As an EU citizen you can’t be required to apply for a residence document in the first 3 months of your stay, although some countries may require that you report you presence on arrival.
At the end of 3 months you may be required to register as a resident and obtain a residence document. How to apply for a residence document (opens in a new tab).
As an EU citizen you automatically acquire the right to live permanently in another EU country once you have lived there legally for 5 years. Applying for a permanent residence document (opens in a new tab).
In some countries you won’t be required to obtain a residence document at all. In France they are so infrequently asked for that applying for one at the Prefecture may well be met with being told that they don’t exist and are no longer necessary.