The European court of justice has ruled that Britain cannot impose a blanket visa requirement on family members originally from outside Europe but who have valid EU residence rights.
Judges’ decision in McCarthy case is another setback in campaign by British government to control immigration from EU.
The decision is another setback in the government’s campaign to control immigration from the European Union.
Concluding that the EU’s freedom of movement rules trumped British claims that visas were needed to combat abuse of the EU residence card system, the judges in Luxembourg said the Colombian wife of Sean McCarthy, a dual British and Irish national living in Spain, did not need a UK visa or family permit to visit Britain.
The high court referred the case to the ECJ after McCarthy contested UK insistence on a family permit or visa, valid for six months, for his wife, Helena, every time they visit Britain. The couple have two children, both British nationals. The ECJ decided that Helena McCarthy’s Spanish residence card entitled her to travel to Britain without first obtaining a UK visa in Spain.
“The UK is disappointed with the judgment in this case,” said a government spokesman. “As the case is still to return to the UK’s high court for a final judgment, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
The government argues that because it views the system of residence permits in some EU countries as suspect and open to abuse, it is entitled to impose a blanket entry requirement. The EJC dismissed this view, ruling that where suspicion existed, individual cases could be investigated and visa requirements imposed, but not as a general catch-all system.