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European Parliament Can Non-EU Residents In Europe Move To Another EU Country? Expat Tips

Millions of non-EU nationals are now living in Spain and other countries within the European Union.

According to data published by the European Commission, on January 1, 2021, 5.3% or 23.7 million of the European Union’s total population of 447.2 million, were non-EU citizens.

What many of those residents may not be aware of is that they may qualify for a special residence status that allows them to live and work in any of the other EU member countries.

What is the directive and how does it work?

The European Council Directive 2003/109/EC, establishes that non-EU/third-country nationals who have lived legally in an EU country for a period of five years or more may apply for special long-term residency status.

The aim of the directive is to make sure that long-term non-EU residents living in the EU have the right to a stable and secure residence status. The residence status also extends to them the right to work, education and social security benefits in the country that they reside.

The European Commission believes that for non-EU nationals to integrate seamlessly into their new country these uniform rights should be available granting them the same privileges as EU citizens.

The legislation was applied on January 23, 2004, with EU members having to incorporate the law on January 23, 2006.

What are the eligibility requirements?

There are a number of eligibility requirements for non-EU nationals to obtain long term residency status within the EU.

  • non-EU citizens must have lived legally and continuously in an EU country for a minimum of 5 years.
  • Absences of less than 6 consecutive months and no more than 10 months over the whole period are permitted when calculating the 5 years.
  • Residents will need to prove that they have a stable and regular income to support themselves and their family members. Currently, this is 150% of the IPREM for a couple and 50% of the IPREM for each additional family member.
  • Provide proof of private health insurance.
  • Not have had any criminal convictions in the past 5 years.
  • To maintain their residence permit which is valid for 5 years, they must not leave the EU for more than 12 consecutive months or be issued with an expulsion order because they are considered a danger to the public.
  • The legislation does not apply to certain categories of non-EU nationals, including students or those working temporarily as au pairs or seasonal workers.

Note that those from Ireland and Denmark are not part of the EU’s long-term residency program as they have their own immigration policies.

As the UK has now left the European Union, British nationals are not eligible, however, British nationals who have long term residency status in Spain for five years or more will still be eligible.

What are the benefits?

As we touched on previously, being granted long term resident status in the EU as a non-EU national offers a number of benefits.

  • Freedom of movement within the European Union’s 27 member states.
  • The right to access the labour market and work within any EU member country.
  • The right to education in the country where you reside.
  • The right to social security and other goods and services.

Is it easy to get a long term EU residency permit for non-EU nationals?

Many who live permanently in Spain and other EU countries apply for a national residence permit. In Spain, this is known as a TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero).

This proves your legal status as a resident in Spain and allows you to travel within the EU, however, it is different to the EU long term residency permit which enables you to live and work in other EU member countries.

Having the permit doesn’t mean you can automatically just pop over to another EU country and reside. It just means that the process is far easier as you will be seen as a resident of the EU.

Many long term residents within the EU obtain residency at a national level but aren’t aware of their right to apply for a long term EU residency permit as well after five years.

One of the problems is that a number of countries have their own immigration policies. Many countries automatically assign foreign residents with a national residency permit exclusively unless the applicant asks for the EU version.

The implementation of the legislation has been left to the individual EU countries, however, the process can often seem complex with a lack of knowledge and communication between the separate national administrations.

There are now plans to revise the process so that it is uniform among the member states.

In 2021, the European Parliament gave the green light to a new resolution saying that third-country nationals that are long-term residents in the EU should have the right to reside permanently in other EU countries. In essence, giving them the same privileges as EU nationals.

They also called for the five-year minimum requirement for applicants to be reduced to three years.

The proposals are expected at the end of April 2022 and although it could take a number of years to be approved, it is hoped that it will make it a lot less bureaucratic for long term residents in Spain and other EU countries to easily obtain their EU long term residency permits.

How does it affect Brits living in Spain post-Brexit?

Any British nationals living in Spain prior to the UK leaving the EU were able to secure their rights to live here under the Withdrawal Agreement. However, this only granted them the right to live in Spain and not other EU countries.

The European Commission has clarified that British citizens currently living in the EU under the Withdrawal Agreement can still apply for a long-term EU resident permit giving them the right to move to another EU country.

The right will also be applied to anyone who legally resides in the EU after Brexit which in Spain is still possible when applying for one of a number of residency visas.

How to apply in Spain

To apply for a long term EU residence permit in Spain, you will need to complete form EX-11 which can be downloaded here.

You will also need to make an appointment via the official website.

The current cost is 21.87 Euros.