I have applied for EUSS status from outside the UK, as a joining family member. I received a Certificate of Application which tells me that I have the right to work in the UK. Does that mean I can now travel to the UK?

Unfortunately the Certificate of Application (CoA) is not worded in a very helpful way.

Most of the CoA is written having an applicant in mind who is already in the UK, and the CoA gives such a person rights for example the right to work, rent, and use the NHS in the UK.

However, the rules around entering (or leaving and re-entering) the UK are much more complicated, with a lot of detail buried in the UK’s guidance on “EEA nationals at the border post grace period” and rules for carriers who must check who can lawfully board flights to the UK.

As a joining family member (this means that you are not applying on the basis of having been resident in the UK on or before 31 December 2020), the CoA gives you the impression that you are entitled to travel to the UK and you can start work on arrival. This is however misleading because the CoA is not giving you permission to travel to the UK, unless you have previously been issued with an EUSS family permit, an EEA family permit, or a UK issued biometric residence card. If you do not have one of these documents you should not travel to the UK until you have been granted status otherwise you risk being denied entry.

If you are from a country whose citizens need a visa to travel to the UK (see here for a list),  and your EUSS family permit, EEA family permit, or UK issued biometric residence card has expired, you are likely to be denied boarding before even being able to travel to the UK.

Joining family members can however travel to the UK if you enter strictly as a visitor - which means you have to have the intention of leaving again, and you cannot have the intention to work. Note, if you are a visa national you would need to obtain a visitor visa in order to do this.

Please also see our webpage https://www.the3million.org.uk/rights-enter-uk, and look at the page titled “Not resident in UK before 31 December 2020 / Eligible to apply to EUSS as a joining family member” in our table on rights to enter the UK.

If you want more legal detail, see the page titled “3. Joining family members - all nationalities, without continuous residence from before 31.12.2020” in our table produced for advisors.

Some more comments on the Certificate of Application text

The reason why the Certificate of Application might make you think you do have the right to come to the UK and below, is partly because the same CoA text is sent to anyone who applies for settled or pre-settled status, regardless of:

  • whether they lived in the UK before 31 December 2020 or not,

  • whether they have a EUSS/EEA family permit or biometric residence card, or not,

  • whether they are from a country that requires a visa to enter the UK or not, or

  • whether they applied from inside or outside the UK, or

  • whether they made an in time or late application.

On travel, the latest version (as at January 2022) of the Certificate of Application text says:

You are advised not to travel in or out of the UK until your application has been decided, unless you have previously been issued with an EU Settlement Scheme family permit, EEA family permit or UK-issued biometric residence card recognising your family relationship to a relevant EEA or Swiss citizen. If you have applied while in the UK as a visitor and you leave the UK, you may not be permitted to re-enter until your application has been granted.”

It also says “If you are a visa national, you will be required to show your carrier (for example, an airline or ferry operator) a valid visa exemption document (for example, a Biometric Residence Card or an EU Settlement Scheme family permit) in order to travel to the UK.”

The part of the Certificate which encourages people not to travel does not talk about those who applied from outside the UK, it only mentions those who applied while in the UK as a visitor.

Earlier versions of the CoA were even more confusing.

It is therefore tempting to read the Certificate and come to the conclusion that, if you applied from outside the UK you are now allowed to travel to the UK.

It would be far more helpful if the CoA said something like "if you applied from outside the UK and you have not held a Family Permit or Biometric Residence Card, then you should wait for a decision on your application before travelling to the UK unless you genuinely intend to visit and leave."