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EU to investigate UK interpretation of Surinder Singh


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The EU Commission is fully au fait with the amendments the UK made to its EU free movement rules in January 2014 and has stated in a recent letter that the UK rules are incompatible with EU law. Further, the EU intends to contact the UK authorities to seek their “observations” on the incompatibility, the first step in pursuing infringement proceedings against the UK.

In a letter shared with me dated 7 August 2014 the EU Commission writes to the family member of a British citizen. After moving to Ireland for several months and working there, they moved back to the UK. An EU right of residence was denied to the family member on the grounds that the couple had not transferred their “centre of life” to Ireland, a test that was amended by the UK Government into the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006 on 1 January 2014.

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Click image to find out more about the full ebook

For background, see this detailed blog post and the more up to date ebook. In short, Surinder Singh is an old case in the European Court of Justice that established that a citizen of an EU Member State can leave their home country under EU law and can therefore also return under EU law, and therefore that the rules that apply to any family members on re-entry to the home Member State are therefore EU rules. Where domestic immigration rules are very strict, as in the UK, this allows the family member to rely instead on more humane EU rules. Many British families have made use of this EU free movement right to keep their families together. On 1 January 2014 the UK amended its rules interpreting Surinder Singh to require that the British citizen moving abroad transfers their “centre of life” to the country in question. This was always an additional gloss on Surinder Singh and that was made crystal clear in March 2014 when the Court of Justice issued a new judgment on the issue, the case of O and B v Netherlands Case C‑456/12, which applies a very different and far simpler test of residence and exercise of Treaty rights for at least three months.

The EU Commission is quite clear that the UK approach is incompatible with EU law:

The UK criterion of having transferred one’s centre of life to the host Member State is not contemplated in the Directive and would not appear to be equivalent to the conditions spelt out in O and B, in particular where examining the location of the principal residence€ and the degree of integration in the host Member State. The location of EU citizens’ principal residence or their degree of integration do not play any role in examining whether the residence is in line with Article 7 of the Directive.

The letter goes on:

The Commisson envisages contacting the UK authorities shortly in relation to the January amendment of Regulation 9 of the 2006 Regulations and asking for their observations on the compliance with EU law on free movement of EU citizens, as interpreted by the Court of Justice.

You can see a full anonymised copy of the letter here. If or when I hear more, I’ll post up further information on the blog. In the meantime, do drop me a line with any examples of decisions on Surinder Singh by immigration officials or judges.

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.


5 Responses

  1. This is a funny story to us as yesterday we posted our EEA2 with selfsuficent in mind removed my self employment to force this question on O vs Netherlands to be brought to the appeals court….. Your free to argue our case if you wanted to.

  2. Hi,

    Do you think the Home Office will insist on the 3rd country spouse having a family permit (and refuse on the centre of life rubbish), or can they enter with the EU residence card and fight their case from within the UK?

    I’ve had clients turn up at port with their EEA spouse, with a letter quoting the directive and their marriage certificate who were allowed entry (eventually), but I’m wondering whether this would work with a Surinder Singh Brit case.


  3. This is my letter I just posted to the EU Commissioner as a complaint about what is going on with EEA2 and Family Permits with Surinder Singh case laws.

    Hello today I am reading your looking into the UK my home states breaking the Surinder Singh case laws and the O vs Netherlands Case.

    Yesterday I posted my wife’s EEA2 application demanding that O vs Netherlands case is followed would you be interested to have my scanned copies of my wife’s case we sent?

    We have our video blog proof we took treaty rights living and cohabiting in France where we had our daughter Paris Howard 3/10/2013 both my wife and my daughter would have died this is a fact!! that the French Hospital will back up if asked, if not for Freedom Of Movement rights my family would have died so thank your to France and the EU for saving my families lives.

    My wife is from the Philippines we met while she worked and lived in Denmark as a Au pair that was 4 years ago and we married in the Philippines, and if my wife had been stuck on her mountain top she and maybe baby would have died, baby had to be C section delivery which is the rural villages they ask mum or child to live so this is why we so grateful for the EU, the help in keeping our family alive and happy. but the UK is in breach of the EU rights and laws we have and is going to deny us our O vs Netherlands case rights and force us to appeal wasting our money and costing us time and extra worries plus locking us into living in the UK as unable to move again into the EU as they will refuse to allow us to re-enter the UK

    I am making a movie of my video blogs so our story is shown all over the world to show people how we had to become refugees to become a family due to my Governments racist anti family policy by the daughter of Evil T may.

    My wife is from Mindanao in the Philippines and we have euro-Asian white baby who would be at high risk of kidnappings as is my wife for being married to me, the British Embassy warns today on there travel advice not to travel to my wife’s island at all as so dangerous, so living in the Philippines which T May would rather we did as we are way to poor and out of work now due to having to finish my job to do a life in exile in another EU state to gain the right to be with my lovely wife and daughter as a family, we would do it all again and really are considering a move to Denmark in future as the UK has and is changing into a more racist culture here and no longer a friendly place to live after this Government has lied about so called immigrants from Europe which as we know how can they be immigrant’s as they hold the same passport as us and us them.

    I have set up a help group on Facebook and try and help as many families with SS rights as we can.


    Please help us and many other Surinder Singh cases be families and force the UK to follow the EU courts and fine them for forcing us to appeal what is our basic rights after taking three month and a day in another EU state.

    My family and I am sure others from my groups are more than willing to help you investigate the UK for all the many breach’s that it is committing, with T May being the person in Public Office can the EU not bring charges of misconduct in public office against her? I am reading a public servant can still be brought to Court for this common law crime which T May is blatantly guilty of.

    Many Thanks

    Wayne & Daisy Howard

  4. My daughter in law has had family permit declined twice on centre on life..my son has worked in Ireland since March..the first refusal was because he was on a temp contract and because my daughter in law had a uk visit visa last December and went to Ireland they were seem to be circumventing uk immigration laws..My son got a permanent contract and promotion they reapplied refused for a 2nd time they hadnt proved centre of life because the had no family ties in Ireland.didnt own property in Ireland and had no proof of savings to ensure they wouldnt become a burden on UK society.

  5. Amanda, I did this with my husband who is British – I am Israeli, we moved to Brussels for four months and turned up at Eurostar in Brussels with only documentation and directive. To be honest, the border control staff did not know their regulations and let me through with the right stamp because my husband also has a Danish passport (though that is against the law as he is only considered British and not allowed to use the Danish passport). It’s all really stupid, but technically it should work, problem is that staff often aren’t aware of the regulations.