The European Economic Area (EEA) is the European Union plus some other countries in which EU free movement rules apply. Since the UK left the European Union, nationals of these countries no longer have the same 'free movement' rights in the UK - their rights depend on factors such as when they came to live in the UK and whether they have applied under the EU Settlement Scheme. Look at the pages for European nationals to see the details.
You are an EEA national if you are a citizen of any of the following states:
- Czech Republic
- The Netherlands
Irish nationals have various additional rights.
* These states are not European Union (EU) member states but are members of the EEA where freedom of movement applies.
** Switzerland is not an EU member state nor part of the EEA but has ratified bilateral treaties with both bodies which give effect to reciprocal free movement rights (i.e. Swiss nationals in EEA member states and EEA nationals in Switzerland). EEA member states and Switzerland have enacted legislation that gives effect to this.
As new countries joined the European Union (became 'accession states') special transitional rules usually applied for a temporary period of five or seven years. These transitional rules put restrictions on rights of free movement, to work and to get benefits that did not apply to nationals of other EU countries. Most recently, nationals of Croatia were affected if they applied for housing or benefits before 1st July 2018. In any other case, including applications by Croatians since that date, the rights of EEA nationals no longer depend on which country they came from.
The European Convention on Social and Medical Assistance (ECSMA) and the European Social Charter (ESC) are treaties that provide for rights to medical and social assistance nationals of a treaty member state living in another member state's territory (and vice versa). Both treaties are entirely separate from the EU and EEA treaties. They are open to any European state that wishes to sign them, and membership is not restricted to EU and EEA member states (although most, but not all, EEA member states are either ECSMA or ESC members or both).
Although the UK has left the European Union (and the EEA) it is still a member of both treaties. ECSMA and ESC member states (including the UK) give effect to the treaties through their own national legislation. UK legislation only recognises rights of nationals of treaty member states that have signed and ratified (given legal effect to) each respective treaty. For the purposes of this website the rights in treaties only cover welfare benefits (for help with housing costs) but not rights to social housing or homelessness assistance.
The only EEA member states that are not members of at least one of ECSMA/ESC treaties are: Bulgaria, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia, and Switzerland.
There are two European countries outside the EEA that have signed and ratified one or both treaties; these are: North Macedonia and Turkey.
The ECSMA member states are:
- EEA member states: Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden;
- Other (non-EEA) states: Turkey, United Kingdom.
The ESC member states are:
- EEA member states: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden;
- Other (non-EEA) states: North Macedonia, Turkey, United Kingdom.