I currently hold a resident permit for Belgium. When in France, I was told that a "carte de sejour" for EU citizen doesn't exist. The civil servant even asked me why I bothered "C'est l'europe". In the UK I didn't need a resident permit either. Is Belgium alone in requiring resident permits for EU citizens, or are there other countries as well?
Andrew Lott is completely correct that in principle a residence permit isn't required but even if you don't need one, some countries do require you to get a special registration card for EU citizens. The most important practical difference with a regular permit is that you can't be asked to leave or be expelled if you fail to get one but you can still face a heavy fine (“proportionate and non-discriminatory sanctions” in the language of the relevant EU directive).
The official EU website provides country-by-country information for most member states. Based on these pages, as of October 2014, it seems that:
- the Czech Republic, France, and the UK do not mandate any form of registration as such (although it's difficult to live in a country without being liable for some taxes and then you do need to register with the tax office at some point)
- Luxembourg, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and Sweden merely have generic registration requirements (you can typically get a resident card – not anymore in Germany though – at the same time but it does not seem mandatory) that apply in the same way to the locals and to other EU citizens.
- Portugal, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Malta, Romania, Ireland (this one was very theoretical when I lived there), Hungary, Lithuania (see the comment by @SamiKuhmonen), Estonia, Finland, and Denmark have some form of mandatory residence card or registration system for EU citizens (and sometimes a mandatory population register too)
- Bulgaria also has some registration requirement that I don't quite understand (but see the comment by @randunel for details) and Croatia provided information in Croatian only (although this form does suggest you do need to register somewhere).
Amusingly, the website has information on these 21 countries and mentions the fact that there is no information from 6 others (Austria – definitely some mandatory registration there, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and Slovenia) but it omits Belgium entirely.
In the case of France, the civil servant you talked to was probably wrong as official sources suggest that you should be able to get a “titre de séjour” if you want one. For example, on the website of the Ministry of the Interior:
Il n'est pas soumis à l'obligation de détenir de titre de séjour, ni une autorisation de travail mais, s'il le souhaite, un titre de séjour lui est délivré.
EU countries no longer require residence permits of EU nationals. Per Directive 2004/38/EC as explained on the Europarl Fact Sheet:
Residence permits are abolished for Union citizens; however, Member States may require them to register with the competent authorities."
Member States may still require you register for a National ID Number of some sort, but this is not the same as requiring a permit for residence.
Romanian & Bulgarian nationals previously had different restrictions but as of 2014 this is no longer the case.
This is a very volatile thing in Europe at the moment. As commented though, you should only concern your self of this if you want to become a citizen of the country, OR if the country requires this for social and health welfare, ie Poland and most other Eastern EU countries, because that is the only system in place to track this.
6 years ago when they UK accepted Schengen immigrants without visas, because Schengen entitled you to that, you had to register on a worker scheme and apply for a residency card after 1 year of work. To get a job the employer, by law had to also confirm this with the Border Agency with an official letter and they got a nice certificate saying that you are allowed to work in UK.
The process varies from your country of origin, based on the if your country is in shengen or not.
But then, this actually had no impact on your social welfare, as you could claim health and welfare benefits based on your passport, form day 1, without contributing anything to the tax system or registering anywhere, which also extended to international tourists.
Some time in 2011/2012 they got rid of the registration and forced citizenship law, because it was a big waste of money and human resource. It proved no point what so ever, except statistical numbers for employed people.
To become a citizen in UK, you MUST have been fully employed, keep all your pay slips, contracts for the last 5 years otherwise, apply for resident permit BEFORE applying for citizenship, and this applies for every country, not just EU nationals.
But, as of Jan 1 2014, if you are from travelling from outside of shengen bit within EU (non-shengen) - There are new laws that stop people from abusing the welfare system, such as health tourists, welfare fraudsters and other such activities. New digital healthcare systems will flag the healthcare official you are at that a fee is payable for any non emergency health care, which is refundable after proving you worked for at least 3 months. Social benefits are also barred to 3 months but are still being disputed. But they still don't need residence because this is a new, separate system.
In Poland for example, you MUST have a national identification card which is free of cost. This card is your residency permit and gives you a number called PESEL - Personel Identification Number, against which you can claim social welfare or open bank current bank accounts. Without this card, you get nothing, not even a bit of pity if you are critically sick or homeless.
New systems are going into place in countries like this, that make use of the European Insurance card, which are free, but issued against your current resident countries details. This entitles you to basic health care only.