The European Economic Area (EEA) provides for the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital within the single internal market of the European Union (EU).
Therefore, there is no requirement for the EU nationals to get a resident permit but for those who wish to work in the UK it confirms their existing rights to stay and work.
However, if you are a non EU national but you are a family member of an EU national, you must ensure that family members must either be accompanied by the European national, or the European national must already be in the UK when the non EU national is seeking to enter the UK. Whilst it may be possible to gain entry to the UK without first applying for a visa, it is advisable first to apply for an EEA ‘Family Permit’. This is a type of visa issued for six months to family members of European nationals seeking entry to the UK.
Once in the UK, family members may stay in the UK for as long as the European national is in the UK exercising a Treaty Right. Whilst technically family members are not required to hold a visa, it is advisable to apply for a Residence Card once inside the UK. Family members without Residence Cards will struggle to demonstrate to any potential employers that they have the right to work in the UK.
You can apply for a permanent residence card if you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years as a ‘qualified person’ (ie you’ve been working, studying or supporting yourself independently). This will prove your right to live in the UK permanently.
You can also apply if you’re the family member of a ‘qualified person’ and you’ve been in the UK for 5 years.