Questions about EU social security and residency rights are the most common problems put to a European citizen’s advice body by people living in the Netherlands.
At the same time, Your Europe Advice, an EU service responding to inquiries about the rights of people moving across the EU, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, reports that non-EU nationals have been the largest group seeking help last year, in the EU as a whole.
Your Europe Advice is provided by legal experts from European Citizen Action Service (ECAS), who respond in all EU languages on anything related to the exercise of transnational rights, from registering a car in another EU country to the recognition of professional qualifications.
Many of the inquiries come from non-EU family members of EU citizens. ‘Usually their questions are related to entry rights and residence rights,’ said Claire Damilano, ECAS senior legal manager, presenting the data at an online event.
Family members of EU citizens should be able to obtain visas for the EU free of charge and through an accelerated procedure that requires only a proof of the family link. The inquiries received by Your Europe Advice, however, show that people are sometimes asked to provide extra documents, such as proof of accommodation, sufficient resources or invitation letters.
Spouses, children and dependent parents of EU citizens have also the right to move to other EU countries with them. But, for instance, the advice service received a complaint by an American citizen accompanying her Dutch husband to Greece who was refused registration because she was asked to provide an independent reason to be in the country.
In some member states, ‘there is a general lack of information on the right of residence for family members’, and people face ‘numerous bureaucratic impediments,’ Damilano told Dutch News.
‘These include having to prove a durable relationship, for which no definition has been provided, or ‘legalise’ marriage certificates to obtain a residence card,’ she said. Applicants for residence permits may also have to prove they have sufficient resources, face language requirements or leave their passport with national authorities until the residence card is issued, she said.
‘Refusals, excessive delays and unnecessary documentation continue to be reported, even when they fulfill the conditions for permanent residence,’ Damilano said.
In the Netherlands, Damilano said, most of the problems reported for non-EU nationals are related to access to the right of residence.
‘One of the most recurrent examples is that the Dutch councils refuse to register EU citizens and their family members if they do not have a lease or purchase contract for their accommodation and a birth certificate,’ she said.
‘This has serious consequences on the access to certain rights such as social security,’ she added.
Overall, 6% of the inquiries received by Your Europe Advice were about the Netherlands, the most significant number after Germany, Spain, Italy and France.
Most inquiries were about social security, Damilano said. ‘This is the most common problem for anyone moving from one country to another in the European Union, whatever their nationality and whatever their country of destination, residence rights and entry rights,’ she said.
Non-EU citizens without EU family can get rights comparable to free movement in the EU if they acquire EU long-term resident status.
This status can be obtained if they have lived ‘legally’ in an EU country for at least five years, they have not been away for more than six consecutive months and 10 months over the entire period, and they can prove they have ‘stable and regular economic resources to support themselves and their family’ and health insurance
Under these rules non-EU nationals should be treated equally to EU citizens and have some free movement rights.
But an analysis by the European Commission has shown that only few long-term residents have exercised the right to move to other EU countries. Procedures to obtain EU long-term residence status and residence permits in other EU states remain complex, and national administrations often lack the knowledge or do not communicate with each other.
The European Commission, however, is expected to propose a revision of these rules at the end of April.
Almost 24 million people from countries that are not part of the European Union live within the block.
In the Netherlands, non-EU citizens account for 3.2% of the population, a smaller proportion than the EU’s 5.3%, according to the European statistical office Eurostat. This figure now includes 48,800 British nationals, the third largest group after Turkish and Syrian nationals.
The article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.
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