How An EU And A Non-EU Citizen Can Legally Live Together in Europe

If you have suffered at the hands of your passport and the passport of your partner, I feel you. I, an EU citizen, have dated a non-EU citizen for five years, and at various points in our relationship we have been apart for multiple months, sometimes not knowing if we would see each other again. Ever. Whilst I believe in the freedom of movement – and that all people should be allowed to live where they wish and love whomever they desire – that is not the case of the world. However, if either you or your partner is an EU citizen, there is hope. The legislation is called COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2003/86/EC on the right to family reunification and applies in 25 EU Member States (excluding the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark).

After five years of transiency (which was a huge part of my life that I loved), my partner and I have been granted permission to reside in Malta for a period of five years. We now hold residence cards that offer us the legal right to work and do whatever we wish in Malta for the next five years – including being self employed if we want – which is not normally easy for a ‘regular’ non-EU national to obtain. [When I say regular, I mean someone who does not have vast sums of money to invest for immigration benefits.]

What Is COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2003/86/EC on the Right to Family Reunification?

You can read the full document here, but I’m going to paraphrase very loosely. This directive supports the reunification of families within the EU which means that an EU citizen who is dating a non-EU citizen has the right to move to an EU country (outside of their home country) and bring their partner with them. Put even simpler: EU citizens can legally live with their non-EU partners in EU countries that they are not from. Their non-EU partner will be granted full residence rights to live and work in that country. This is pretty awesome. For me, a UK citizen (still an EU country at the time of writing), I was allowed to move to Malta with my American partner.

Before you get too carried away, this is not a sneaky way to live with your non-EU partner and there are various conditions to meet in order to be eligible for this directive, but it is a way to live with a non-EU partner inside the EU.

What Are The Conditions Of The Directive?

Officially, ‘Family reunification should apply in any case to members of the nuclear family, that is to say the spouse and the minor children.’ However, each country has its own rules and you will have to check the rules for the country that you would like to move to. After research, I found Ireland, Malta, and Cyprus to have the most reasonable rules, although the wait time for a decision in Ireland was around 12 months.

The rules in Malta are particularly reasonable and one must loosely meet the following requirements:

  • The EU citizen must have a stable source of income
  • The EU and non-EU citizen must have a place to reside
  • The EU and non-EU citizen must be able to demonstrate a durable relationship of at least two years (no marriage necessary)

The rules in other countries are similar, but some only accept wives / husbands (not unmarried partners) and require two years of housing contracts to prove a durable relationship. As I am not married and I spent the last few years on the road with my partner, rarely paying for accommodation, I could meet neither of these requirements. In order to meet the Maltese requirements, we arrived in Malta (with my partner on a 90 day tourist visa) and did the following:

  • EU Partner Income: I registered as self-employed (which took about six weeks to be accepted) before finding a job.
  • Place to Reside: We signed a 12-month lease on an apartment.
  • Durable Relationship: We printed out a five year history of our relationship using Facebook (seriously), slight tickets, and hotel bookings that had our names on. I accompanied the documentation with a narrative, listing where we were, what we were doing, and why we were doing it for the past five years. As we’ve been to thirty or forty countries in the past five years, it took me a fair few hours to put together.

Once we had met these requirements, we then submitted the documentation which granted Leah the right to remain in Malta (nowhere else in the EU) until a decision was granted, even if her tourist visa expired. It took 9 weeks for the residence card to be granted. We are now allowed to live in Malta, together, for five years.

That, very briefly, is how an EU and non-EU citizen can live together.

How Can You Do This?

You will have to research the specific rules of the country you would like to move to and then see if you will be eligible, and then do everything you can to meet the requirements. The first step is to find a job or get self-employed status. I will post more specific step by step instructions for Malta very soon (including all the documentation I submitted), but if you are looking for a job in Malta or elsewhere in Europe, I can help you. If you are willing to start in an entry level position and build a career, these jobs offer excellent career development opportunities, but most importantly, the opportunity to live with the person you want to be with. Once you get a job, you can then look at finding a stable house and proving your relationship. I will post more on this soon.

You may find the following pages relevant:

Note: The image in this post is of my partner and I in Poland, a week after meeting. To the people who make the rules that make it difficult for citizens of different nations to be together, I implore you to look at the emotional turmoil and suffering this causes in the world. #noborders

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