freedom of movement in the EU

Is UK handling of EEA Family Permit visas still a problem?


In the past, British embassy handling of EEA Family Permit visas has systematically violated EU Law, even in the straight forward cases. The problems are detailed in the Oct 2012 complaint to the European Commission CHAP(2012)3146.

The executive summary of the complaint (reproduced below) highlights some of the problems encountered by married couples applying for an EEA Family Permit.  The full complaint has significantly more detail.

I need your assistance:  Are problems handling EEA Family Permit visas at British embassies, as outlined in the complaint, continuing?

Comment on this post if you have examples of more recent problems involving married couples.  Links and details would be very helpful.

From the complaint: ….

Executive Summary  [from CHAP(2012)3146]

The UK is systematically violating EU free movement law, by refusing family member visas for reasons that are explicitly prohibited by Directive 2004/38/EC and relevant ECJ case law:

  1. British visa officers (ECOs) are refusing family member visas because the EU citizen has not proven that they will likely find employment when they eventually travel to the UK, or because the EU citizen has not proven they have assets to support themselves once in the UK
  2. ECOs are refusing visas to spouses of EU citizens when the ECO suspects a marriage of convenience but has done nothing to test their suspicions. We have found no instance of ECOs requesting additional supporting evidence about the relationship or asking to interview the applicant or their EU spouse before refusing the application
  3. An ECO explicitly took into consideration “the current economic climate in the UK”, even though this is explicitly forbidden by Directive 2004/38/EC
  4. UKBA and ECOs are requiring applicants to answer questions which are non-material to the issue of a family member visa, and which are prohibited by C-68/89 Commission v Netherlands [1991]
  5. Anyone wishing to exercise their right of appeal must pay a fee of at least £80. When the visa is finally issued, the applicant will have paid that amount for their EEA FP, even though the visa must be issued for free
  6. Visa applications are not given priority processing. Some UK visa offices appear to process the applications at the same (slow) speed as UK-law “settlement visas”

 UKBA’s guidance, training material, and day-to-day administrative practice lead to a consistent and ongoing breach of the Directive in a ways directly precluded by established free movement case law. 

Material released by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in response to Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests show that their officers are being actively trained to evaluate & refuse applications in ways which are unambiguously in violation of EU free movement law.

The impact is large.  The UKBA refused 4,500 EEA FP applications in 2011, approximately 20% of all applications, with some visa offices rejecting more than 50%.  The dismal quality of the refusals, documented in the following sections, suggests that a very large number of these were incorrectly refused.  This amounts to a substantial impediment to the free movement rights of each of the EU citizens involved.

 In none of the cases would UKBA dare to directly block the EU citizen from directly entering the UK.   Instead they are using the family member’s visa application to achieve the same effect.