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EU family members’ rights

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Family members ‎of EU nationals can join them in another member state if the EU national is exercising treaty rights. This may mean, for example, that they are studying or working.

The EU national may qualify for permanent residence after a qualifying period of time in the UK. Once an EU national gets permanent residence they may then apply for British citizenship. One would assume that this also means that they can enjoy family life in the UK.

Until now this has not been so, but the position may be about to change. Once an EU national becomes a British citizen, they are no longer entitled to rely on EU law and the rights derived from it for family members.‎ However, the Advocate-General has given an opinion in Lounes (C-165/16) that non-EU family members should be able to remain in the UK with their dual EU and British family member. The Advocate-General considered that the treatment of Mr Lounes’ wife (the dual national) should be no less favourable than before her naturalisation, or than would be granted to her if she were forced to move to another EU state to keep her family together.

While this is only the Advocate-General’s opinion, and is therefore only advisory and non-binding on the Court of Justice of the European Union, it is rare for the Advocate-General’s opinion to not be followed. The 15 judges at the court will consider the case in the summer.

This could have a far-reaching ‎impact on EU nationals who wish to obtain dual citizenship to be sure of their right to remain in the UK once the UK leaves the EU. Previously EU nationals have held off naturalising as British citizens for fear that their family members would not be able to remain in the UK. We will watch the progress of this case carefully and bring you an update as soon as there is more news.