On these pages you can find general information on what rules apply if you are a non-EU citizen already in an EU country and would like:
- your family to join you
- to become a long-term resident
- to move to another EU country
- to know more on what the EU is doing to promote integration
While immigration rules vary from country to country, these pages explain the general conditions and procedures which you can expect to find in most EU countries.
Applications for family reunification or long-term resident status must always be made to the authorities of the EU country you are already living in.
This information applies in 25 of the 27 EU countries, excluding Denmark and Ireland.
Would you like your family to join you in the EU country where you are living?
If you are a citizen of a country outside the EU and you are legally resident in an EU country, you may be able to apply to have your family come and live with you. This is called family reunification. If you apply for family reunification, you are called a “sponsor”.
On these pages you will find general information on how to apply for family reunification within the EU and the rights that your close relatives may have once they are reunited with you.
This information applies in 25 of the 27 EU countries, excluding Denmark and Ireland.
For detailed information on the rules for family reunification in a particular country, select the country on this map.
If you are not an EU citizen but would like to join a member of your family who is an EU citizen, a different set of rules will apply to you and your relatives. Visit the Your Europe Portal for more information.
The following text explains the family reunification rules under EU law (the Family Reunification Directive). However, individual EU countries may have more favourable and more broadly applicable rules in place than what is laid down in the Directive. Therefore, you should always turn to national authorities to find out the details of policy and practice in the host country.
Who can apply for family reunification?
You can apply to have your family join you in the EU if you:
- hold a residence permit issued for a period of at least one year by an EU country, and
- have so called “reasonable prospects” of staying permanently in that country. “Reasonable prospects” are defined individually by each EU country.
In some EU countries you can only apply for your family to join you after you have been living there legally for two (or in some cases three) years. If you require more details on the rules in your EU host country, select the country on this map.
Which family members can join me?
The following family members can join you:
- Your husband or wife (including same-sex spouse, when same-sex marriage is recognised in the EU country where you reside). As polygamy is not recognised, you can only be joined by one spouse;
- The minor children of you and your spouse;
- When there are children from a previous relationship, the minor dependent children of you, or of your spouse, provided you/your spouse has custody, and in case of shared custody the other custodian has given consent.
‘Minor children’ are children who are not considered adults under the laws of the sponsor’s host EU country and who are unmarried. They include adopted children.
Depending on the EU country in which you live, some further restrictions may apply:
- You and your spouse may have to be of a certain minimum age (maximum 21 years old);
- More restrictive rules may apply to children over the age of 12 who arrive independently of their families.
Depending on the rules in your host EU country, the following family members may also be able to join you:
- Your unmarried partner;
- Your registered partner;
- Your parents or the parents of your spouse who are dependent and do not enjoy family support in the country of origin;
- Your adult unmarried children, or those of your spouse, who are unable to look after themselves due to the state of their health.
For detailed information on the family members that can join you in a particular EU country, select the country on this map.
Are there conditions to fulfil to have my family come live with me?
Once you have proven that the applicants are your family members according to the applicable definitions, you may be required to fulfil certain material conditions. Namely, you may have to prove that you can provide, both for yourself and the family members:
- Adequate accommodation;
- Health insurance;
- Sufficient, regular and stable financial support.
Some EU countries may also require you and/or your family members to comply with integration measures such as tests for language or civic knowledge about the country you are moving to.
If you have a refugee status in the host country, your family members benefit from a more favourable scheme and are subject to fewer conditions.
For detailed information on the conditions set by a particular EU country, select the country on this map.
My family members have been allowed to join me. What happens next?
Your family members will be issued with residence permits allowing them to reside in your host country, valid for at least one year and renewable. As a rule, your family members’ residence permits cannot be valid beyond the expiry date of your own residence permit. Some countries issue residence permits abroad whereas in others family members may obtain the permits only after having entered the territory.
Do my family members need entry visas?
Your family members who have been granted family reunification may need entry visas, depending on their nationality and on whether the EU host country issues residence permits abroad. For information on how your family members can enter into your host country, select the country on this map.
Can a family member’s permit be refused or withdrawn?
Yes. In the following circumstances, a family member’s permit can be refused or withdrawn:
- Failure to fulfil the conditions for family reunification;
- End of family relationship;
- Use of false information or documents;
- Threat to public security, public policy or public health.
Can I argue against a decision to refuse a family reunification application or to refuse or withdraw a relative’s residence permit?
Yes. You will have the right to legally challenge a decision to refuse your application for family reunification or a decision to refuse or withdraw a residence permit for your family member.
What entitlements do my family members have?
Your family members will be entitled, in the same way as you, to the following:
- Access to employment / self-employment (this may be limited for a maximum of one year);
- Access to education;
- Access to vocational training.
Can my family members eventually qualify for residence permits in their own right?
Yes. Your spouse, unmarried partner and children who have reached adulthood will be allowed to get a residence permit in their own right after no less than five years. Access to personal residence permit may be limited if the family relationship has broken down. For other relatives, different rules apply depending on the EU host country concerned.
Family members may be issued with a personal permit before five years where:
- Their sponsor has died;
- They are separated or divorced from their sponsor;
- They are faced with ‘particularly difficult circumstances’ such as domestic violence.
For detailed information on how to qualify for an autonomous residence permit in a particular EU country, select the country on this map.
If you have stayed legally in an EU country for five years, you may be entitled to be given a "long-term resident" status there.
What is a long-term resident?
A long-term resident is a citizen from a country outside the EU who has been given long-term resident status. This status means that the person will have similar rights as EU citizens.
What conditions must I fulfil to get long-term resident status?
If you have resided legally for an uninterrupted period of five years in an EU country, you can apply to become a long-term resident.
You must demonstrate that you have:
- Stable, regular and sufficient financial resources;
- Health insurance.
Some EU countries may also request that you fulfil certain integration conditions, such as tests for knowledge of the language and history of the country where you live.
You may have to show that you have an appropriate accommodation.
Can I leave the host EU country during the five-year period before I fill out my application?
Yes. You can spend periods shorter than six months in a row abroad, if those periods do not add up to more than ten months in total during the necessary five-year period before you hand in your application. Such periods outside your country of residence will not be considered as interruptions when calculating the duration of your residence.
In some exceptional circumstances, longer periods of absence may also be treated as not interrupting your residence. Depending on national law, these could include time spent outside your host country for military service, serious illness, maternity care, research or study.
How do I apply to become a long-term resident?
You apply to the competent national authorities with the necessary documentation to prove your length of residence and the other conditions outlined above.
I have submitted my application. What happens next?
If your application is successful you will be granted long-term resident status and issued with a long-term resident’s permit. In general, you should be informed of the decision within six months of sending in your application.
How long can I stay?
Your long-term resident status does not have any fixed end. As regards your residence permit, it will be valid for at least five years and is automatically renewable on expiry.
Can my application be refused?
Yes. Countries can refuse to grant you long-term resident status if you do not fulfil the necessary conditions or if you represent a threat to public policy or public security.
Under what circumstances could I lose my long-term resident status?
You could lose your status if:
- Your application was based on false information or documents;
- You represent a serious threat to public security or public policy;
- You have been absent from EU territory for more than 12 months in a row;
- You have become a long-term resident in another EU country.
The competent national authorities will inform you of their decision to refuse or withdraw your long-term residence status and will give reasons for their decision.
May I argue against a decision to refuse or withdraw my long-term resident status?
Yes. You will have the right to legally challenge a decision to refuse your application for long-term resident status or a decision to withdraw your long term resident’s permit.
What rights would I get as a long-term resident?
As a long-term resident you have the right to be treated equally with the citizens of the host EU country in the following areas:
- Access to employment and self-employment (this may not apply for some activities which are only for nationals or EU citizens, such as access to some positions in the public administration);
- Conditions of employment and work;
- Education and work-related training, including study grants;
- Recognition of diplomas and qualifications;
- Social protection, social assistance and social security as defined by national law (EU countries can limit social assistance to basic benefits only, such as the minimum income);
- Tax benefits;
- Access to goods and services (e.g. transport, museums, restaurants, etc.);
- Freedom of association and trade union membership;
- Free access to the entire territory of the EU host country.
As a long-term resident in one EU country, can I live and work in a second EU country?
Yes. You can stay in a second EU country for more than three months for purposes including work, study or training, if you apply for and are granted a residence permit in this second country.
To obtain a residence permit for a second EU country, you may have to show that you have one or more of the following:
- Stable and regular financial resources to maintain yourself and your family;
- Health insurance;
- Appropriate accommodation;
- If you wish to take up a job, evidence of employment;
- If you are self-employed, evidence that you have sufficient financial funds;
- If you wish to study or train, proof that you are registered to do so.
You may also be required to comply with integration measures such as language requirements.
The second EU country may have set a quota on the number of residence permits it issues. This could mean that your application may be refused if this quota has been met, even if you fulfil the appropriate conditions. The second EU country can also examine the labour market situation before allowing you to work, giving preference to persons already staying there legally.
Will I have any rights in the second EU country?
Yes. Once you get a residence permit for the second country, you are entitled to equal treatment with citizens of that country. Some restrictions as regards access to labour market can be applied for one year. You can also bring your family members with you if the family was already joined together in the first country.
If you are a non-EU citizen already staying in one EU country, you may be able to go to another EU country. This applies to any kind of stay.
The rules that apply to enter or stay in another EU country will depend on what type of visa or residence permit you have, how much time you plan to spend in the other EU country and the rules that apply there.
Going to another EU country during my short-term visit – less than 90 days
If you have entered an EU country with a Schengen visa, you can travel throughout the Schengen area for as long as your visa is valid, and for a maximum of 90 days during an 180 day period. You will not need a separate visa for each Schengen area country and you will not need to show your passport at each internal border.
The borderless Schengen area includes 23 EU countries, excluding Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania. If you wish to travel to one of these four countries for a short stay (less than 90 days), you must get a separate national visa. If you wish to travel from one of these four countries to the Schengen area, you will need to apply for a Schengen visa. You can find more information on this website.
Going to another EU country during my long-term stay – more than 90 days
When you stay in an EU country for a long stay, usually for more than 90 days, you will generally be issued with a long-stay visa and/or a residence permit.
If your long-stay visa or residence permit has been issued by a Schengen area country, you can travel to another Schengen area country for 90 days per 180 day period. You must:
- justify the purpose of your stay;
- have sufficient financial resources for your stay and travel back;
- not be considered a threat to public policy, public security or public health.
You can also pass through other Schengen area countries on the way to your host country.
To move from one EU country to another for more than 90 days, you will need a long-stay visa or a residence permit for that country. If you wish to work, study or join your family in the second country, you may have to fulfil more conditions.
For information on the rules that apply in a particular EU country, select the country on this map.
Rules for certain categories of non-EU residence permit holders
Certain categories of non-EU residence permit holders, and their family members, may be able to move more easily from their EU country of residence to another EU country, where both countries have adopted applicable EU rules.
Non-EU citizens (also called “third-country nationals”) living legally in any EU country have a set of rights and obligations that should be respected. EU countries have different ways to help migrants integrate to their local societies, and the EU is doing its part to coordinate and make it easier for EU countries to share their experiences in order to improve integration of migrants all over Europe. The Common Basic Principles for the integration of non-EU citizens guide EU countries in their development of integration actions.
The European Web Site on Integration helps improve integration policies and practices in the EU. The website shares successful strategies and highlights and supports cooperation among EU countries.
Building on the 2016 Action Plan on the Integration of third-country nationals, the Commission has published, in November 2020, the Action plan on Integration and Inclusion 2021-2027. This Action plan also takes into account specific challenges to people with a migrant background, on top of non-EU citizens. It sets out a comprehensive policy framework with more than 60 actions to help Member States and other actors to further develop and strengthen their integration policies. Cooperation between different levels and stakeholders is key to successful integration.