Directive 2003/109/EC entered into force on 12 February 2004. Member States were required to take the necessary measures to implement this Directive by 23 January 2006. Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Denmark are not bound by the Directive. This Directive obliges Member States to grant long-term resident status to non-EU nationals who have resided legally and continuously within the territory of a Member State for five years. The Directive also deals with the right of residence in other Member States.
In order to obtain long-term residence, applicants must provide evidence that they have stable and regular resources sufficient to maintain themselves and their family, and that they have sickness insurance. Member States may refuse to grant long-term resident status on grounds of public policy or public security. Member States are barred from founding any refusal on economic considerations. The competent authority must take a decision on whether to grant long-term resident status no more than six months after the application is lodged. The Directive provides for the right to challenge any decision to refuse or withdraw residency.
Member States are obliged to issue long-term residents with a residence permit as set out in Regulation (EC) No 1030/2002 (see section 18.104.22.168 of this text), valid for five years and renewable automatically. The Directive provides that long-term resident status may be withdrawn on certain prescribed grounds, including where it is detected that the long-term resident status was acquired by fraud, or where the applicant was absent from the EU for a period of twelve months or more.
The Directive provides that long-term residents shall enjoy equal treatment with nationals as regards (a) access to employment and self-employed activity, (b) education and vocational training, (c) recognition of professional diplomas, (d) social security, (e) tax benefits, (f) access to good and services, (g) freedom of association and affiliation, and (h) free access to the entire territory of the Member State. Member States are permitted to restrict equal treatment with regard to certain rights.
Long-term residents can only be expelled where they constitute “an actual and sufficiently serious threat to public policy or public security.” Before deciding to expel a long-term resident, Member States must consider certain matters including duration of residence, the person’s age, and the consequences of expulsion for the applicant and his family.
A long-term resident may exercise the right of residence in a Member State other than the one that granted him or her long-term residency, subject to compliance with certain prescribed conditions. Family members of the long-term resident may join the resident in the second State, if they were family members in the first State. The second Member State can refuse the applications from long-term residents on grounds of public policy, public security, or public health. Long-term residents in a second Member State will enjoy the same benefits they enjoyed in the first Member State.
The provisions of the Directive do not prevent Member States from issuing permanent residence permits on terms that are more favourable than those set out in the Directive. The Directive does not apply to non-EU nationals pursuing studies or vocational training, non-EU nationals in the State on temporary grounds, asylum seekers or people granted temporary or subsidiary protection.