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Permanent Resident of an EU Country?--- Can You Work Anywhere in the EU

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July 5, 2017

By SUSAN CALLAHAN, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist


Today, I am feeling pretty lucky girl. I just got the coveted "carte de resident" from the Prefecture in Paris.  It took 5 long, hard years of slogging through the French bureaucracy.  When you decide to move to France, you voluntarily subject yourself to one of the most byzantine and in many ways, cruel, bureaucracies on Planet Earth. Each year, you have to queue up at the Prefecture and apply for an annual carte called a "titre de sejour temporaire" which gives you only the right to stay for a single year.  That's not a comforting piece of plastic to carry around, especially if you plan to stay long-term and are trying to put down roots.

That's why almost everyone aims for the carte de resident, the card which short of citizenship gives you the longest right to stay.  With this card, you can stay 10 years, a full decade. At the end of the decade, you can renew hassle-free for another decade and keep on renewing, as long as you haven't broken laws such as the prohibition against polygamy and fighting in public, bars low enough for anyone to meet.

The carte de resident also gives you another important right --- the right to work.  No more applying for special permits or trying to fit into a different category of titre de sejour.  The title of my card is "carte de résident longue durée – CE" . The "CE" stands for  "Communauté Européenne"which encourages me to think that it means that I am now a permanent resident not just of France but of the entire EU. Am I wrong?

As a permanent resident of a member country of the European Union, am I also entitled to work anywhere in the EU?

The Four Freedoms of the EU Include the Right to Settle Anywhere in the EU


The EU charter includes rights often called the "four freedoms" --- the free movements of goods, capital; services and labor. Actually, the original Four Freedoms was a concept announced in a speech given by US President Franklin Roosevelt on January 6, 1941 as basic freedoms everyone on Earth should enjoy --- freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from war and freedom from fear.

The EU's version of the four freedoms means that a person in Spain who is out of work can just hop over to any of the other 28 (soon to be 27 after the United Kingdom leaves the EU in 2019) and find work. So does that apply to me and other permanent residents? Can I hop over to Amsterdam or Madrid or Germany and pick up a job?

The Four Freedoms Only Apply to EU Nationals















This question of who is covered by the four EU freedoms is being asked all over the EU, in forums in Spain, Italy, Greece, France in the Eastern European countries as well.

The starting point for the answer is in the treaties which created the EU, starting with the Treaty of Rome signed on March 25, 1957 and which has since been expanded and refined into the current governing treaty, the Lisbon Treaty, signed on December 1, 2009. 

The EU treaty gives "nationals" of a "Member State" the right to settle and to work in any other Member State.  By " nationals", the EU means citizens, those having the nationality of the Member State. This includes those with nationality no matter how it has been acquired, whether as a right of birth or acquired through naturalization.

But since the adoption of the founding Treaties, several decrees have been issued which clarify and seemingly expand on the rights of nationals from non-EU countries, so called "third country nationals".

One decree, Council Directive 2003/109/EC

of 25 November 2003, states that the rights of those holding a long term residence permit should enjoy the same rights, as much as possible, as EU citizens:

"The European Council, at its special meeting in Tampere on 15 and 16 October 1999, stated that the legal status of third-country nationals should be approximated to that of Member States' nationals and that a person who has resided legally in a Member State for a period of time to be determined and who holds a long-term residence permit should be granted in that Member State a set of uniform rights which are as near as possible to those enjoyed by citizens of the European Union".


The Decree further nails home the point on relocating and working in another EU country --- long-term permanent residents do indeed have that right:

"Provision should be made that the right of residence in another Member State may be exercised in order to work in an employed or self-employed capacity, to study or even to settle without exercising any form of economic activity. "

You would think that this would settle the issue. However, you would be wrong. There is another body to weigh in on this and all other important issues, the European Court of Justice. And the European Court of Justice has said that permanent residents don't have the same rights as EU citizens to settle and work in other EU countries.


In Case C-230/97 Awoyemi [1998] ECR I-6781, the European Court of Justice held that third party nationals cannot rely on the general rights given to EU citizens in EU Treaties such as the right of freedom of movement in the EU. The Court found that Mr. Awoyemi, a Nigerian citizen, could not avail himself of the benefits of law derived from EU Treaties ( called "primary law") as these rights are reserved for EU citizens. The freedom of movement is one such primary law as is the right to work.

The Awoyemi case has been the controlling law on the issue of freedom to work in EU countries since 1998. In the future, perhaps the EU will adopt a new law to expand the right of permanent residents to work outside their resident country.

But, as of now, permanent residents who want to enjoy the right to settle elsewhere in the EU have one option --- become a citizen.




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