My friend is a soon-to-be divorced, non EU citizen. She received permanent residence as family member of an EU citizen. She was advised the card will still be valid, but she has been told at the UK border her circumstances differ from the card and it won't be valid after the divorce. Can you please tell us who is right/wrong or how she should deal with it?

  • 2
    In reality what we think doesn’t really matter since UK immigration are the one who have the power to admit her or not. Your best bet is an immigration attorney (or EU immigration) who perhaps after confirming the card is valid after divorce could prepare a document attesting so. Random internet strangers opinion are of little value.
    – user 56513
    Jun 5, 2019 at 8:09
  • 1
    Who told her the card would still be valid? Who told her it would not?
    – phoog
    Jun 5, 2019 at 8:17

2 Answers 2


Under EU law, a divorced spouse might, under certain conditions, retain a right to reside in the EU member states where she lived with her spouse. This is set out in article 13 of directive 2004/38/EC. However, since you mentioned permanent residence, it's obvious that she qualifies and her situation is governed by article 16, in particular

  1. Once acquired, the right of permanent residence shall be lost only through absence from the host Member State for a period exceeding two consecutive years.

In other words, as long as she continues to live in the UK, neither her divorce, her finances or any change in circumstances ought to make a difference, short of an expulsion decision (on grounds of public policy, public security or public health). By contrast, the right of residence under articles 9, 12, or 13 only lasts as long as the conditions are fulfilled, cf. article 14(2). It's possible the advice you received was based on a confusion between an article 10 residence card and an article 20 permanent residence card.

Furthermore, article 20(2) provides that

[…] Failure to comply with the requirement to apply for a permanent residence card may render the person concerned liable to proportionate and non-discriminatory sanctions.

So, while all these rules have to be implemented in national law and individual countries might require some formalities, the failure to complete these formalities (say, renewing the card) can in no case be grounds for expulsion or loss of her residence rights.

That said, when you are at the border, you are at the mercy of a border guard's erroneous interpretation of the law. She should always be careful not to misrepresent her situation and could possibly apply for a new card, as an abundance of caution.

This answer doesn't address any new issue that might arise at the end of the Brexit transition period.


Depending on the country that issued the card, she would have apply for a residence permit on her own right

  • in Germany §31 AufenthG regulates the conditions
    • marriage of at least 3 years or spouse has died
      • resident permit will be extended for 1 year as a third country resident

since the conditions on which the card was issued have changed.

So a card issued in Germany would be invalid once the divorce is effective.

  • AufenthG does not govern permanent residence cards issued by Germany. They are governed by FreizügG/EU. In many cases, enumerated in section 3(5), the right of residence will be retained. Regardless, neither laws is relevant to the question since it concerns a card issued by the United Kingdom.
    – phoog
    Jun 30, 2020 at 22:26

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