The EEA countries and Switzerland constitute a European free movement area. Nationals of all these countries can take advantage of European free movement law, which enables them to travel to all the countries in the free movement area without hindrance. They do not require any visa to enter any country in the free movement area. They are allowed to come as tourists or to work or study. If they are working or studying, or if they are financially self-sufficient, they are deemed to be exercising European Treaty rights.
When a European national is exercising Treaty rights this gives free movement rights to Non-European family members of such a national but, unlike the European national, the non-European family member requires a visa to enable them to travel across borders and to prove their entitlement to free movement. If a non-European family member applies for a visa to come to the UK either with their European family member or to to join their European family member already present in the UK the visa is called an “EEA Family Permit”, and it is issued for six months. If a non-European family member is already in the UK with their European family member they can also apply for a visa, which is called an “EEA Residence Card”, and it is issued for five years.
A migrant who comes to the UK on an EEA Family Permit may wish to apply for an EEA Residence Card when their EEA Family Permit is due to expire, so as to enable them to travel in and out of the UK and to prove their immigration status. A European national may be eligible for permanent residence (i.e., the right to live in the UK on a permanent basis) after having exercised European Treaty rights in the UK for five continuous years. A non-European family member may be eligible for permanent residence after having been in the UK for five continuous years with their European family member who has been exercising European Treaty rights. Permanent residence is a prerequisite for qualifying for British naturalisation. There is no English language requirement for European visas.