The European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) ruled last week that family members of EU citizens who are not EU nationals themselves but have permanent residence status in an EU member state shall be exempt from visa requirements to enter any other EU member state. The ruling extends the exemption granted specifically to holders of a residence card for a family member of an EU citizen under the EU’s Directive on the freedom of movement for EU nationals and their family members.
In the case of Ryanair Designated Activity Company v Országos Rendőr-főkapitányság (Case C-754/18, 18 June 2020), Ryanair sought to challenge a fine imposed against the company in 2017 by the Hungarian authorities. On 9 October 2017 Ryanair transported a passenger of Ukrainian nationality from London to Budapest. The passenger held a residence card for a family member of an EU citizen (issued by the UK), which had been invalidated, as well as a valid permanent residence card, also issued by the UK. They did not have a valid visa to Hungary.
The Hungarian border authorities took a literal view of the law in their assessment and did not allow the passenger to enter, as their residence card had been invalidated. In their challenge, Ryanair argued that the passenger should have been allowed entry to Hungary, as they were issued with a valid permanent residence under the EU Directive.
The ECJ, upholding Ryanair’s argument, took the view that a permanent residence card was in itself proof that its holder was a family member of an EU citizen, so no further verification of that status was necessary.
In their judgement of 18 June, the ECJ stated that “family members of an EU citizen who have already obtained a residence card should benefit from the exemption in question, the EU legislator having intended to grant the benefit of this exemption to all family members of an EU citizen who hold a residence card, irrespective of the type of card”. The court ruled that this exemption applied equally to holders of permanent residence cards issued by EU member states in the Schengen visa-free travel area and those outside Schengen.
As the UK has now left the EU, the laws of the Union will be automatically applicable to the country only until 31 December 2020. Should you wish to discuss your rights to relocate and reside in the UK as an EU national, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.