Permanent residence is to be granted to EU citizens after five years of continuous legal residence in another member state. The status of permanent residence ensures that citizens no longer have to comply with conditions that must be met by those without that permanent residence status – such as the on going requirement to be economically active or sufficient resources with adequate medical insurance. Furthermore, permanent residence gives Union citizens increased protection from expulsion.
We are working on many applications for permanent residence for our clients, and we watch the developing case law from the Court of Justice with much interest. From time to time, we like to bring some of the more helpful case law to our reader’s attention. One such judgement was delivered by the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice the 21st of December 2011 - in the cases of Ziolkowski and Szeja (Joined Cases C‑424/10 and C‑425/10), both cases referred from Land Berlin.
The Court of Justice was asked to consider the cases of two Polish nationals who had been refused applications for Permanent Residence pursuant to the Citizenship Directive (2004/38/EC), and were further refused on going permission to remain on the basis that the applicants were not economically active/self sufficient with medical insurance.
The first question referred to the Court of Justice was as follows;
Whether Article 16(1) of Directive 2004/38 must be interpreted as meaning that a Union citizen who has been resident in the territory of the host Member State for more than five years on the sole basis of the national law of that Member State must be regarded as having acquired the right of permanent residence under that provision if, during that period of residence, he did not fulfil the conditions laid down in Article 7(1) of the directive.
Following an analysis of other provisions in the Directive, the Court of Justice summarized the three stages of EU Law
39 First, for periods of residence of up to three months, Article 6 of Directive 2004/38 limits the conditions and formalities of the right of residence to the requirement to hold a valid identity card or passport and, under Article 14(1) of the directive, that right is retained as long as the Union citizen and his family members do not become an unreasonable burden on the social assistance system of the host Member State.
40 Second, for periods of residence of longer than three months, the right of residence is subject to the conditions set out in Article 7(1) of Directive 2004/38 and, under Article 14(2), that right is retained only if the Union citizen and his family members satisfy those conditions. It is apparent from recital 10 in the preamble to the directive in particular that those conditions are intended, inter alia, to prevent such persons becoming an unreasonable burden on the social assistance system of the host Member State.
41 Third, it is apparent from Article 16(1) of Directive 2004/38 that Union citizens acquire the right of permanent residence after residing legally for a continuous period of five years in the host Member State and that that right is not subject to the conditions referred to in the preceding paragraph. As stated in recital 18 in the preamble to the directive, once obtained, the right of permanent residence should not be subject to any further conditions, with the aim of it being a genuine vehicle for integration into the society of that State.
At paragraph 46, the Court concluded that legal residence after the first three month period requires residence in compliance with the conditions contained in the Directive, and particularly Article 7 (1) of the Directive, that is either as a worker/self employed person/student/financially self sufficient person (with health insurance). On the fulfilment of five years in conformity with these conditions, the union citizen acquires the right of permanent residence, and should be subject to no further conditions.
However, the Court emphasized that a Union citizen who has resided for five years in the host Member State and during that time was not an economically active person, cannot presume eligibility for permanent residence.
In the cases referred to the Court, it was accepted that the applicants had never satisfied the conditions laid down in Article 7(1) of Directive 2004/38, and therefore were not entitled to permanent residence.
In answering the second question the Court found as follows;
“periods of residence completed by a national of a non‑Member State in the territory of a Member State before the accession of the non‑Member State to the European Union must, in the absence of specific provisions in the Act of Accession, be taken into account for the purpose of the acquisition of the right of permanent residence under Article 16(1) of Directive 2004/38, provided those periods were completed in compliance with the conditions laid down in Article 7(1) of the directive.”