I am a US citizen, with resident status in Ireland as the spouse of an Irish Citizen. We will be moving in the next six weeks to London, and I am not clear on my rights to work in the UK as the spouse of an EU/Irish citizen.

It appears I do not need to get the EEA Family Permit, but should get a residence card on arrival. Am I allowed to work before receiving the residence card? Is completing the EEA Family Permit even though not legally necessary - a way to be able to work on arrival?

Any information appreciated!

1 Answer 1


Article 23 of Directive 2004/38/EC (the Free Movement Directive) allows the family members of EEA nationals who have the right of residence in the UK to work or become self-employed. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/779784/free-movement-rights-direct-family-members-of-EEA-nationals-v7.0ext.pdf

The Family Permit is primarily an entry clearance document (for you to enter the country), not a residence document. All employers are required to check the right to work of a prospective employee https://www.gov.uk/legal-right-work-uk Without a Residence Card you will need to provide the employer with alternative evidence of your right to work https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/720858/29_06_18_Employer_s_guide_to_right_to_work_checks.pdf#page38

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    In addition, the OP should note that in the event of a no-deal Brexit on 31st October, any rights from the Free Movement Directive will cease to exist. The British Government has said that people who are already in the UK will have their rights protected (but that was principally in the context of EU citizens), but there won't be much to stop the British Government changing its policy. Aug 12, 2019 at 8:11
  • Thank you so much Traveller! This was my general understanding, but after going through several UK gov pages, I wasn't clear. Aug 12, 2019 at 12:01
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    @MeriahNunn you should be able to prove your right to work with a certificate of application, but actually you are authorized by law to work as soon as you get to the UK. The problem is that employers probably will not recognize that right unless you have the C of A or a residence card.
    – phoog
    Aug 12, 2019 at 22:09
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    @MartinBonner but OP's spouse is Irish, so will certainly retain the right to move to and work in the UK. I do not know what the rights of non-EU spouses of Irish citizens will be after the end of free movement; it's an interesting question that I haven't considered before now.
    – phoog
    Aug 27, 2019 at 12:33
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    @MeriahNunn it occurs to me to note that actually employers are not "required to check the right to work of a prospective employee" but rather having checked in accordance with the law serves as a defense against the charge of hiring an unauthorized employee. This means that you can legally work for someone if you can convince them to hire you; if they do so without checking their defense will instead be that you were not unauthorized. In practice that will be difficult to do except in informal situations, of course.
    – phoog
    Aug 28, 2019 at 16:54

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