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The EEA and the EU

This content applies to England

A list of the countries that form the EEA and EU .

European Economic Area (EEA) and European Union (EU) nationals can be divided as follows.

Nationals with 'full rights'

Nationals from the following countries can be described as having 'full rights' - Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

In addition, since:

  • 1 May 2011, the former A8 States of Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. 
  • 1 January 2014, the former A2 States of Bulgaria and Romania.
  • 1 July 2018, the Republic of Croatia.

EEA nationals

Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein are only members of the EEA. Switzerland has an Association Agreement with the EU.

Difference between EEA and EU nationals

In most cases, it no longer matters whether the applicant is a national of a Member State of the EU or a national of a state that is only a member of the EEA.[1]

There is one situation where it could be of importance that a person is a national of a state that is only a member of the EEA: nationals of Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein are not citizens of the EU as defined by Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and therefore do not have the general right of free movement provided to EU citizens under Article 21 TFEU. However, as EEA nationals, they can rely on the secondary legislation with regard to free movement, including the EU/EEC Regulations and Directives. The distinction between EU and EEA nationals is becoming less significant in EU law and the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations  apply the same rights of residence to citizens of EU countries, EEA countries and Switzerland.[2]


The legislative references and the footnotes on this page reflect the law in England. In Wales, very similar rules made under Welsh legislation apply, but the references may be different. Contact Shelter Cymru for more information about the law in Wales.

[1] The EU and the EEA remain distinct legal entities. EEA states are party to the multilateral Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA) signed at Oporto on 2 May 1992.

[2] Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016 SI 2016/1052.

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