EU Treaty Rights

EU Treaty Rights

EU Treaty Rights is a term that is used to describe the rights of EU citizens plus their family members that allows them to exercise free movement within the EU territory. The territory is regulated by directive 2004/38/EC that was implemented by the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2015 in Ireland and became operational on 1st February 2016.

What these laws does is to give EU citizens specific rights that they can move from one member state to the next in particular circumstances, and that extends to their specified family members. Now, in the case of Ireland, the treaty rights law doesn’t apply to Irish citizens living in the state, but rather EEA nationals from other member states and are looking to move to or reside in Ireland.

The directive of 2004 and 2015 regulations separates the family members to whom the free movement rights extend into two different categories: ‘qualifying family members’ and ‘permitted family members’.

Qualifying family members

  1. He or she is an EU citizen’s spouse or civil partner
  2. A direct descendant of the EU citizen of the EU citizen’s spouse and must be;
    • Under 21 years
    • A dependent of the EU citizen or his or her partner
    • A dependent direct relative in the ascending line of the EU citizen or his or her partner

Permitted family member

  1. He or she is a member of the family (other than a qualifying member) of the EU citizen who:
    • Is a dependent of the EU national
    • A member of his or her household
    • Have serious health conditions and require personal care of the EU citizen
  2. Is a partner with whom the EU citizen has a durable relationship that’s duly attested.


When looking at both categories, the rights of the qualifying member are automatic while the permitted member has to apply with the relevant government agency to be recognised as a permitted family member and thus benefit from the free movement laws.

The free movements of rights
EU citizens can reside in another member state of which they are not citizens for up to 3 months without restrictions. But after this period is over, the individual(s) will need to comply with certain requirements if they are to continue benefiting from the movements laws. These requirements include:

  • Must be a worker
  • Must be self-employed
  • Have enough money to take care of themselves and their families so as to avoid becoming a financial burden to the country
  • Enrol in an educational institution in the state with the purpose of taking a course of study. The individual must have a comprehensive illness cover for him/herself and their families, as well as enough resources to sustain them in the state to avoid becoming a financial burden.


The family members may either accompany the EU citizen in Ireland or may decide to join him/her later. If they are visa-required nationals, they will have to apply for a visa to enter the country. And if they don’t need visas, they just need to notify the immigration officer at the entry point that they are accompanying or joining the Union citizen so as to seek permission to enter.

The family members may also apply for an EU Fam residence cards that evidence their entitlement to live or work in the state for a five year period. If they remain in the country for five years, they can apply for permanent residence, which will also be evidenced by a permanent residence card. In case of separation or divorce from the EU national, the family members might apply to retain their residence. The applications are referred to as retention applications.

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