This doesn't apply to any real scenario but it's just a hypothetical. I was watching a border security show (UK Border Force) and in one episode a Polish gentleman who had a criminal record for petty theft and was a suspect in an armed robbery of a jeweler store was not allowed entry into the UK as he was believed to pose a danger to public security.

I would have believed that EU citizens are entitled to live/work in other member states (even with a criminal record) as it's part of the four freedoms but I've heard that an exception can apply if an immigration officer believes they will engage in serious criminal activity during their stay. What is the truth in this?

  • 1
    Relevant/duplicate: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/1013/…
    – xngtng
    Apr 22 at 10:23
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    Article 45 TFEU (the TFEU is the "constitution" of the EU) says "subject to limitations justified on grounds of public policy, public security or public health".
    – jcaron
    Apr 22 at 10:51
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    The UK is not a member of the EU. Apr 22 at 18:55
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    The UK was likely member of EU when the show was recorded Apr 22 at 19:54
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    Furthermore, there are various rules inside the EU where citizens can live/work in member states, but must meet certain criteria (for instance, being able to support yourself after a certain amount of time in some member states). See the top answer on @xngtng 's dupe.
    – user25730
    Apr 23 at 6:01

It is possible to refuse entry but the standard EU member states may apply is much higher than for other categories of non-citizens. It is only possible to deny entry to an EU citizen and their immediate family if they are deemed a threat to public policy, public security or public health.

That might sound broad but it is pretty restrictive and the courts have also interpreted it that way. In particular, it is not possible to deny entry merely because someone has a criminal record, fails to meet a good morals requirement or their presence is not seen as benefiting society. To refuse entry, a person must pose a current threat. Obviously, if your criminal record shows a recent string of related crimes, the inference that you might still pose a threat is not far fetched and that might be enough to deny entry and make sure the decision is upheld by the courts but the legal argument is quite different.

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    Another example is that Germany closed its borders during the 2006 Football World Cup and denied entry to known hooligans. Which, in addition to the legal challenges presented by the circumstances described in this question also meant that Germany temporarily suspended Schengen as well. Apr 22 at 18:59
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    It’s worth noting that during the Coronavirus pandemic, some (?many) EU states have imposed intra-EU entry restrictions. E.g. Sweden has forbidden entry from Denmark since late last year, including for most EU citizens, with only a very narrow range of exceptions (e.g. Swedish citizens+residents and immediate family; essential services; etc).
    – PLL
    Apr 23 at 10:23
  • But if one a criminal record on the country that one want to enter, and that record states that such person is expelled from the country for X years, that person cannot enter to that country (but it may be ok to enter to other Schengen countries). Such cases are not really "threat", and could be issued also for repeat small crimes.OTOH I'm not sure you are "prevented to enter". Authorities may arrest you Apr 23 at 12:16
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    @GiacomoCatenazzi That would be a separate measure, not part of a criminal record per se. Such measures are indeed possible but the same standard apply. One advantage compared to a more generic ban on people with a criminal record is that you can in principle dispute it in front of the courts and you know how long it's going to last.
    – Relaxed
    Apr 23 at 12:21

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