I am a UK national and my wife and son are Chinese nationals. We plan to go to Italy via Croatia. Croatia have confirmed that they will issue visas to my wife and son at the point of entry as long as we can prove our family relationship. Will Italy do the same? My wife already has a single entry Schengen visa for Spain for business purposes but we will not be going there.

3 Answers 3


If your wife is recognized as the spouse of an EU citizen (you) and you are resident in an EU country, she and your children can enter anywhere in the EU without a visa. If you are not resident, she will need a Schengen visa, but this visa should be free.

In either case, this must be sorted out in advance, and the details vary from country to country. See: Non-EU spouse of an EU citizen - is visiting EU without needing a visa possible?

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    I believe the first sentence only applies if the OP and his wife are residents in an EU country other than the UK (where she wouln't get a “EU family member’s residence card”). It's kind of implied but it needs to be highlighted.
    – Relaxed
    Jun 23, 2014 at 18:47

There is something missing from the other answers. Your wife may indeed require a visa but it should be possible to get a visa on arrival in Italy, provided you make it to the Italian border (which might be difficult, see below).

Italy is bound by the same rules than Croatia, namely Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States. Specifically, article 5 provides that

Where a Union citizen, or a family member who is not a national of a Member State, does not have the necessary travel documents or, if required, the necessary visas, the Member State concerned shall, before turning them back, give such persons every reasonable opportunity to obtain the necessary documents or have them brought to them within a reasonable period of time or to corroborate or prove by other means that they are covered by the right of free movement and residence.

This rule is also mentioned on the official guide from the EU Commission (“Arriving at the border without an entry visa”). Obviously, to benefit from this, you would also need to have documentation to prove that your wife is indeed your wife. If your son only has Chinese citizenship, he would also need a visa and be covered by the same rules (OTOH, if he is a British citizen, other citizenship(s) are irrelevant).

The problem is that getting a visa-on-arrival is not the regular procedure. Because of that, you might have a hard time convincing the airline to let you board the plane (I assume you would be flying to Italy) and could face significant delays at the border. Getting a visa in advance is therefore strongly recommended (it should be issued quickly and free of charge).

Whether you apply for a visa in advance or try to reach the border, your wife's Spanish visa could however be an issue as Schengen countries usually do not issue Schengen visas with overlapping validity. At the same time, if your wife needs to go to Spain, she will obviously want to avoid using this visa for this trip (especially considering the fact that she had to pay for it…). But the good thing is that this visa should be enough to satisfy the airline, at least regarding your wife's situation.

Clearing up all these issues with the Italian authorities would therefore seem strongly recommended.

  • Thanks for your comprehensive reply! In fact I applied (and paid)for a Schengen visa for my son at the Italian consulate in Shanghai but it was rejected because he used to have a UK passport (he was born there). However it is several years OOD and of course cannot be used and its too late to renew it given the enormous backlog of passport applications. So a visa on entry is our only possibility unless I can persuade the Italian Consulate to change their mind. My wife doesnt need to go to Spain so she should be OK. Thanks again.
    – DavidB
    Jun 24, 2014 at 4:28
  • @DavidB In some cases, it's possible to enter another country with an expired passport (certainly your own but also some other countries in the EU) but I am not sure it would work for a British citizen in Italy.
    – Relaxed
    Jun 24, 2014 at 7:56
  • Arguably, being your son and being born in the UK should also be enough to “prove […] that [he is] covered by the right of free movement” but I have no idea how it works in practice and this will add another layer of confusion. In any case, do stay together at the border checkpoint, your wife has the right to use the EU passport lane and your being an EU citizen should make things easier.
    – Relaxed
    Jun 24, 2014 at 8:02
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    did you ever see a Chinese marriage certificate? I have one so I know how they are made and how are considered inside European Union. The certificate must be translated and the marriage registered to the embassy to be legally recognized as married outside China. With only the the chinese marriage certificate no european authorities will let you in. Jun 24, 2014 at 8:17
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    if the marriage is not registered at the UK embassy register office (that has the same value as a marriage registered in UK) they are not married for UK. Sure they did, but to enter inside an airplane with only that document is very hard, and there is also the son situation, with an expired UK passport (that he can't hold if he has also chinese nationality) Jun 24, 2014 at 8:26

Italy will not issue a visa on arrival for your wife and son.

Italy belongs to Schengen Area, Croatia didn't join it yet. If your wife visa is still valid (because it is single entry means that she didn't enter before inside Schengen using that visa) she can enter in Italy.

Your son must have a passport and a valid Schengen visa as well.

  • Just remembered these statistics I saw some time ago. It's very uncommon but it's possible to issue visas on arrival and Italy really does it in some cases. It's mostly happening at seaports though, because airlines are indeed unlikely to let you board a plane without a visa.
    – Relaxed
    Jun 26, 2014 at 21:32

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