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Direct family members of EEA nationals have an initial right of residence for three months in line with the EEA national, as long as they do not become an unreasonable burden on the UK's social assistance system. Also, no decision must have been taken effecting expulsion, revocation or refusal of residence documentation, or cancellation of a right of residence. Beyond that, they will have a right of residence for as long as:
they remain a family member of that EEA national
the EEA national continues to live in the UK and satisfy one of the conditions in Article 7(1)(a)–(c) of the Directive 2004/38/EC—ie they remain a 'qualified person' or have permanent residence, and
no decision has been taken effecting expulsion, revocation or refusal of residence documentation, or cancellation of a right of residence
Family members of EEA nationals are also free to take up employment in the UK subject to meeting the requirements set out above. See Practice Notes: EEA nationals—rights [Archived] and Non-EEA nationals—permission to enter and work in the UK [Archived].
It is important to remember that, in general, residence cards and permanent residence cards are declaratory of rights that already exist for direct family members. It is therefore not a mandatory requirement to possess one.
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