@arminb's question: Can we use the "EU citizen only" lane when travelling by car with one non-EU passenger inside?

asks whether a non-EU citizen spouse (in this case, @arminb himself) can use the "EU citizen only" lane when travelling with his wife and children (who are all EU citizens).

@Relaxed explains that "Yes, @arminb can use the EU/EEA/CH citizen lane by virtue of the fact that he is a family member of an EU citizen (in this particular case, his wife, although Directive 2004/38/EC explains that there are other family members that this applies to - it's not just husbands and wives).

My question is: can @arminb use the EU/EEA/CH citizen lane even if he is travelling alone i.e. can a single non-EU citizen travelling alone use the EU/EEA/CH citizen lane if they are, according to Directive 2004/38/EC, a family member of an EU citizen?

  • Ok, I've just re-read @Relaxed's answer again but this time, I've noticed different things: "as the spouse of an EU citizen travelling with her" and "the OP is not allowed to use this lane when travelling alone (unless they are “joining” their spouse)". But I can't find any reference to travelling alone or joining one's spouse in Directive 2004/38/EC Me confused.
    – jaimet
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 13:38
  • I provided more details but I am not sure I provided an answer. What is it you are doubting? Note that in practice, I wouldn't expect doing it anyway to create major problems, especially if you have a residence card (it could be trickier with a visa).
    – Relaxed
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 15:15
  • 1
    I would also point to a comment I made in the discussion following the earlier answer: ”Note that in practice I don't think the distinction between travelling alone/travelling with your spouse is enforced very strictly. If you do have a permanent residence card, you're not a priority for border guards, no matter what the rules say.” I pointed this out to be comprehensive and precise but the area where it really makes a difference are visa applications for people who do not reside in the EU.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 16:06
  • 2
    Are you asking about cases in which a family member of an EU citizen is traveling without the EU family member, is not traveling to join the EU family member, and has no EU nor Schengen residence permit of any sort (for example because they reside outside the EU and outside the Schengen area)?
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 20:13

1 Answer 1


There is a reference to this distinction in article 3(1) of the directive (my emphasis):


This Directive shall apply to all Union citizens who move to or reside in a Member State other than that of which they are a national, and to their family members as defined in point 2 of Article 2 who accompany or join them.


The rules on border checks, which lanes to use, etc. are defined in the Schengen Borders Code (regulation 2016/399). Instead of “EU citizen”, “EEA citizens”, or “family members”, the Borders Code consistently uses the phrase “persons enjoying the right of free movement under Union law”. It is defined in article 2(5):

‘persons enjoying the right of free movement under Union law’ means:

(a) Union citizens within the meaning of Article 20(1) TFEU, and third-country nationals who are members of the family of a Union citizen exercising his or her right to free movement to whom Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (21) applies;

“to whom Directive 2004/38/EC […] applies” can be read as a reference to article 3 of the directive.

Beyond which lanes you have to use, this distinction also has (arguably bigger) consequences for visa applications. All this is also reflected in plain language advice from the EU Commission.

  • I would suggest adding Article 6 - Right of residence for up to three months, paragraphs 1 and 2, making it clear that the word residence in Article 3 also means any EU Citizen that is exercising their right while visiting another member state. When a EU Citizen is outside the EU, they are not exercising their right and therefore the family member cannot benefit from it while traveling alone. Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 8:45
  • Lets hope that when the Entry/Exit System (EES) comes into effect, expected at the end of September 2022, the needed changes to the Schengen Border Code will include all residents for such cases. Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 9:09
  • For the Schengen Border Code this would also mean that if a EU Citizen is outside the Schengen Area, the family member cannot be joining them. In the end I think that if the EU Citizen is not present to use the ‘EU, EEA, CH' lane, the family member cannot benefit from that right to use it. Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 9:22

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