Easily Confused (41) Rubik’s Cube

You can spend years playing with differently colored fields without getting one step closer to a solution. When you are just about to solve the puzzle, somebody will come by and destroy years of work within minutes: the Rubik’s Cube.


You can spend years playing with differently colored fields without getting one step closer to a solution. When you are just about to solve the puzzle, somebody will come by and destroy years of work within minutes: the Middle East

Karte-Nahost1(auf Deutsch)

Posted in Maps, Politics | Tagged , | 4 Comments

10 FAQ on Freedom of Movement in the EU

As part of my very popular series of legal FAQ, I now address a subject which can often help to resolve immigration cases which seem hopeless under national immigration law: the right to freedom of movement within the EU.

I have also posted FAQ on divorce in Germanychild custody law in Germanyinheritance law in Germany, German citizenship lawinternational child abduction, constitutional complaints in Germany and on working with me as your lawyer. You can see the full list of FAQ on my website.

1. What is the right to freedom of movement within the European Union?

Broadly speaking, the citizen of any EU member state can move to any other EU member state without a visa, a residence permit or any other formality being required. It’s as easy, and in some cases easier than, a move within a country’s borders.

2. Is this what people call Schengen?

No, these are two completely different things. Schengen is a system for the abolishment of physical borders and for a single tourist visa for 26 countries. The UK, Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Cyprus are not part of Schengen (but with the exception of the UK and Ireland will be sooner or later) but are bound by the EU freedom of movement rules. Even more confusingly, some countries which are not in the EU are part of Schengen and the freedom of movement rules also extend to them (Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland). The situation in Switzerland is even more complicated, but please ask a Swiss lawyer about that.

Schengen and EU 2014

3. Are you allowed to work or study in any other EU country?

Yes,  freedom of movement not only means that you can travel, but you can settle in any EU country. You can take up employment, you can study, you can set up a business, you can retire. You can pretty much do anything that you can do in your home country, with exceptions on some government jobs which may be restricted to nationals of that country and on voting in national elections.

4. Is there a limit as to how long you can stay in another EU country?

You are always allowed up to three months in any EU country without any further conditions. For stays beyond three months, you must be exercising one of your EU Treaty rights, i.e. being in employment, running a business, studying or being self-sufficient. This is a gross simplification, but as long as you don’t apply for welfare, you are safe. In reality, the three-month rule is not enforced, also because you could leave the country and come back the next day or you can always say that you just arrived yesterday because your passport doesn’t get stamped if you cross the border as an EU citizen. – From my personal experience, nobody cares. I have been living in six different EU countries and never had any kind of registration, paperwork, nothing. It was never a problem.

5. How does this help me as a non-EU citizen?

Now we’re getting to the interesting part! EC directive 2004/38 extends the freedom of movement rights to family members of EU citizens. That means that if you are Afghan/Brazilian/Chinese or anything else and your spouse is an EU citizen, then you can live with them in the EU if they are exercising their freedom of movement rights, i.e. if they are not living in their country of citizenship.

6. That’s great! How do I get this EU freedom of movement visa?

It gets even better: you don’t need any visa. Freedom of movement is a right which you have by virtue of law and it does not depend on any EU member state issuing a visa or a residence permit. When travelling or crossing borders together with your EU spouse, you just need to bring your marriage certificate and you’ll be able to enter the EU or cross borders within the EU.

If you want, you can however apply for a residence card which will show that you have the right to reside in that particular country. This is NO legal requirement and you have the right to stay BEFORE you apply or obtain such a residence card. The practical use of the card is for employers (who often don’t understand immigration law) and to show to border guards (dito) and airline staff (dito).

7. Wait. I heard that some countries have restrictions for the immigration of spouses.

Yes, Germany for example requires a minimum knowledge of German, the UK requires a certain income level. But these national rules do NOT apply to other EU citizens and their spouses because national law cannot overrule EU law. This leads to the paradoxical situation that it is easier to migrate to an EU country if you are married to the citizen of another country than to a citizen of that country. For example: If you are a non-EU citizen and you get married to a German and want to move to Germany, you will need to prove minimum language skills in German and you will need a visa; but if you marry a French person who lives in Germany, you can move to Germany without a visa and without any language skills because you fall under EU law.

8. I have the feeling that you were about to suggest a trick.

Of course! Thanks to the freedom of movement in the EU and the fact that there are no more border controls between most countries, you can bypass national immigration laws. Let’s say we have a German guy who gets married to a woman from Bangladesh, but she cannot get a German visa. Easy: the German husband moves 5 km across the border to France, Poland or any other neighbouring EU country, and the wife can join him right away. Officially they will live in France, Poland etc. but as there are no border controls, nobody will know how much time they spend where.

9. You keep talking about spouses, but does this also relate to other family members?

Yes, it does. Other groups of family members who may benefit from the freedom of movement in the EU are: same-sex partners, unmarried long-term partners, children, dependent parents, including dependent children and parents of the non-EU partner. You may notice that this is the perfect loophole for circumventing strict national laws against family reunion.

10. And all these rules are the same in every EU country, so it doesn’t matter if my spouse is from Germany or from Croatia?

No. That would be too simple. EC Directive 2004/38 needs to be transposed into national law and this leads to slightly different results in each of the 28 EU member states. A particular problem arises for same-sex partners because some EU member states haven’t recognized such partnerships (yet).

Usually, the country of citizenship of your spouse or sponsor is not as relevant as the country in which you wish to settle. For Croatian citizens however (and thus for non-EU family members of Croatian citizens), some countries (for example Germany) have opted to use a phasing-in which limits access to the labour market before July 2015. There are however no limits on moving as a student or on setting up a business or being self-employed, so that these limits can be easily circumvented.

Because this is a very complicated area of the law, I ask you to restrict your questions in the comment section to general questions which might be of interest to others. I won’t be able to solve specific, complicated cases without looking at the details and not without charging. Please feel free to contact me and be as precise as possible in the description of your case. I charge 250 EUR for a detailed consultation. And remember (I have to mention this explicitly because it happens almost every day), I cannot answer questions if you write to me saying “I am an EU citizen and my wife is a non-EU citizen”. I need to know exactly all types of citizenship involved.

Posted in Europe, Family Law, German Law, Immigration Law, Law | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Bathing in Nature

Two things dissuade people from walking through the wilderness for days: the thought of sleeping outside and the lack of a shower. But, depending on the time of the year (midge season is worse than cold), sleeping outside can be more comfortable, more beautiful and definitely more interesting than spending every night of your life in a bed.

Showering/washing/bathing is no problem either. Even in the middle of nature, you encounter bathtubs from time to time, like this one which even had separate taps for cold and for hot water.

bathtub Sark

I saw this bathtub on Sark, but it was still too early for a bath, so I moved on unwashed. It is a small island and I figured there will be plenty of bathing opportunities later.

And indeed, when the time came to look for a place to spend the night, I accidentally discovered this beautiful spot on the west coast of Sark.

bathing beach Sark

I had the whole bay for myself. In the light of the setting sun, I washed myself in the English Channel.

It was my 36th birthday. No cake, no presents, no guests, no calls, but the joy of having found paradise.

By the way, experienced hikers know that sleeping or bathing outside are not the greatest challenges, but that the heavy backpack is.

(Zur deutschen Fassung.)

Posted in Photography, Sark, Travel | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

What do we need ISIS for?

After all, we already have Saudi Arabia:

Raif Badawi CNN(Auf Deutsch.)

Posted in Human Rights, Islam, Law, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Shouldn’t this be red?

Like red phone booths and red double-decker buses, red postboxes feature in millions of touristy snapshots taken all over the UK.

In anticipation of an independent Scotland, someone already painted this one blue:

blue postbox SarkThey will have to paint it red again now, I guess.

(Actually, I took this photo on Sark, which can’t make up its mind at all on whether it belongs to the UK or not.)

Posted in Photography, Politics, Sark, Scotland, Travel, UK | Tagged | 1 Comment

“1493” by Charles C. Mann

1493 refers to the year after Christopher Columbus “discovered” America and as the second part of the title suggests, the book describes how Europe’s discovery of the Americas revolutionized trade, ecology and life on earth. That sounds like an enormous project, which it is, and it may sound like rather dry stuff, which it isn’t at all. This is one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read, and although I have no particular background in the study of American history or trans-Pacific commerce or slavery, there was nothing in this voluminous book that I didn’t find interesting.

1493From this very readable book, I learnt so much that I should have known, so much that I never knew that I even could have known, and I learnt to reflect differently on some historical, ecological and economic matters. Globalization really is nothing new, nor is man’s destruction of the environment. This account of the past 500 years puts many contemporary issues into perspective.

Almost every page contains fascinating information, analysis, stories and characters, most of it new to me; for example

- how malaria influenced not only the trans-Atlantic slave trade, but also the north-south divide on slavery in the US,

- that already 400 years ago cheap Chinese exports put European manufacturers out of business,

- that the highest city in the world (Potosí) was once also the richest and most brutal city at the same time,

- that China’s population could only grow so fast once they had imported corn and potatoes from America because these plants could grow on soil that rice couldn’t,

- that female infanticide in China was already a problem in the Qing dynasty, pre-dating the one-child policy,

- how the British settlers in North America might have brought about the Little Ice Age, an early example of man-made climate change,

- that Charles Goodyear was in prison while working on the process of vulcanizing rubber,

- that tens of thousands of African slaves escaped in America and started their own communities, even kingdoms,

- that Pacific islands with a layer of up to 150 feet of bird poo provided the fertilizer to feed Europe, and that this guano was harvested by Chinese slaves.

I could go on and on and on. Many colorful characters bring the stories to life, but despite the adventurous characters, this is not an adventure story. It’s a brutal story of death, destruction, disease, enslavement and exploitation.

There was only one thing which I missed: while the discovery, cultivation and trade of tobacco is covered in interesting detail, almost no mentioning is made of the other big American invention, which makes our lives better: chocolate.

Posted in Books, China, Economics, Environment, Europe, Health, History, Maps, Military, Politics, Technology, Travel, UK, USA | Tagged | 3 Comments

Crossing the border from England to Scotland

(Zur deutschen Fassung.)

Posted in Films, Scotland, UK | Tagged , , | 3 Comments