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A friend is a citizen of an EU Schengen country and is resident in that country. His wife is a Chinese (PRC) citizen. She has permanent residence but not citizenship. They would like to visit the Republic of Ireland which is EU but not Schengen. Does she need a visa?

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  • It depends on her residence document. Do you know precisely what document it is?
    – phoog
    Aug 6 at 9:33
  • I need to check. She has been living and working there for many years. She is eligible to apply for citizenship but this would mean relinquishing her Chinese citizenship which she does not wish to do.
    – badjohn
    Aug 6 at 9:40
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    I spoke to the friend to check the details of the permanent residence. He had since spoken to the Irish embassy who said that a visa would be required.
    – badjohn
    Aug 6 at 10:51
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    Just to be clear, in line with @MarkJohnson's comment, if she has a "residence card of a family member of an EU citizen" then the embassy's advice is incorrect: she does not need a visa. Otherwise, she does, but it should be free of charge and issued expeditiously.
    – phoog
    Aug 6 at 14:33
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    @badjohn it absolutely is, though it does not allow us to say definitively what her status is. In EU legal terminology, "permanent residence" refers to the free movement directive, while other people that would colloquially be said to have permanent residence are said to have "long-term residence." So, given what we know, she probably needs a visa, but there's a chance that she doesn't.
    – phoog
    Aug 7 at 13:23

1 Answer 1

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A visa (free of charge) is likely required.

Family members of EU/EEA/Swiss citizens exercising their right of free movement do not need a visa to enter Ireland, only if the family members have a residence card granted under EU law specifying that they are the family member of a union citizen or referring to Article 10* of EU Directive 2004/38/EC.

A friend is a citizen of an EU Schengen country and is resident in that country.

However, one cannot exercise the right of free movement within one's own country** since one did not "move" and the right to live in one's own country is implied by one's national citizenship instead of EU citizenship. EU law does not regulate reunification of family members of a member state's own citizen in the member state (e.g. the spouse of a German citizen living in Germany can only immigrate to Germany under German law).

So the wife of your friend is likely to only hold a residence permit under national legislation and not EU law. In this case, she cannot benefit from the visa-exemption based on EU family member status.

In any case, if a visa is required, Irish short-stay visa is free for

  • family members (regardless of citizenship) of an EU citizen (regardless where they live), if the family members are travelling with the EU citizen, or if the EU citizen is already in Ireland (proof must be provided); or
  • certain non-EU nationals (only citizens of a country eligible for the a special Irish program*** qualify; China is included) holding a long term residence card (no matter which kind) in a Schengen country.

Either fee exemption could apply to a Chinese national, but the second basis is probably more straightforward.


New residence cards issued to family members of EU citizens under EU law should in principle be uniform in that they should have "(permanent) residence card" in the title and read "Family Member EU Art 10 (or 20) DIR 2004/38/EC" on the front of the card. Residence permits issued under domestic law for family reunification usually have the title "residence permit" instead and do not refer to EU legislation.

But there are still other valid residence cards (in various format, e.g. paper-based) in circulation issued before they were made uniform; and sometimes countries do not follow the regulations exactly. They are still valid for Irish entry as long as it bears the name or inscription "Residence card of a family member of a Union citizen", or otherwise makes clear that the holder is a family member of an EU citizen and the permit is issued under EU law.


* Literally read, only article 10 cards qualify for visa exemption pursuant to Article 5(2) of Directive 2004/38 and according to Irish immigration. However, ECJ ruled in 2020 that the article of the EU directive must be interpreted as such that article 20 cards also benefit from visa exemption, even if Irish (and other) immigration authorities may not have updated their websites and guidelines. You do risk being denied boarding by certain over-zealous or over-cautious staffs however, if you only have an article 20 card and their system does not recognize article 20 cards as visa-exempt. Additionally, if the family member is not joining or accompanying the EU citizen in Ireland, there may be questions on the applicability of the Directive. With article 10 cards, Irish immigration does not require the family member to be joining or accompanying the EU citizen.

** There are exceptions for EU citizens moving back to their own country after having exercised their right to free movement in another EU state with their family members. But not all countries have straightforward procedures in this case. The determinative feature is the inscription on the residence card.

*** I am not naming the program directly in that sentence because the name is misleading in this context. It is called Short stay visa waiver programme but the program is only applicable to certain situations where the traveller has first legally entered the UK. However, the list of countries eligible for this program is used to determine eligibility for the fee exemption even when a visa is required.

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    Thanks. I was struggling to figure out the implications but that has helped a lot. The key to figuring is out is "a residence card under national legislation". That is a subtlety that I had missed.
    – badjohn
    Aug 6 at 13:04
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    To be clear "a residence card under national legislation" has residence permit printed at the bottom. An Article 10/20 card has residence card printed instead. Nowadays both are plastic cards. Aug 6 at 14:45
  • @MarkJohnson Thanks, I will edit the language to be less confusing.
    – xngtng
    Aug 6 at 16:12
  • As @MarkJohnson notes, EU law maintains a distinction between residence cards and residence permits because the card is evidence of a right that flows from the treaty and certain facts whereas a permit is a document that itself confers a right of residence or at least is evidence that a country's authorities have granted such a right. This distinction may be difficult to maintain in some languages, at least in French where a residence permit has long been known as a carte de séjour.
    – phoog
    Aug 6 at 20:21
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    @phoog For the present day issued cards, there are 2 fields for the 'title of the document': 3.1: at the top with the main national language (in France:*carte de séjour*) and 3.2 at the bottom with up to 2 official languages of EU institutions (in France: residence permit). Both can also contain permanent. For Art. 10/20, permit should be replaced with card Regulation (EU) 2019/1157, Article 7(2). Most countries use an english version somewhere (ch, iceland do not). Aug 7 at 9:14

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