CJEU - C-257/17, C, A v Staatssecretaris van Veiligheid en Justitie

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Date of Decision: 
07-11-2018
Citation: 
C-257/17
Court Name: 
Court of Justice of the European Union (Third Chamber)
Headnote: 

The case concerned the conformity of integration requirements for residence permit applicants in Dutch law with Article 15 of Directive 2003/86, regarding autonomous residence permits. The CJEU held that it cannot be excluded that such a residence permit may be dependent on the successful completion of a civic integration examination on the language and society of that Member State. However, the connection of residence permits with integration frameworks cannot go beyond what is necessary for the objective of facilitating integration of third-country nationals.

Facts: 

A and C both held residence permits to reside with their respective spouses, who were Dutch nationals (A for 6 years and C for 19 years). The Dutch authorities rejected both applications on the ground that they had not proved that they had passed, was not subject to, or had been exempted from, the civil integration requirement.

Following a complaint lodged by C, she was awarded an autonomous residence permit as she could prove she had been exempted from the civic integration requirement. However, they reaffirmed the withdrawal of C’s residence permit to reside with a spouse, as it was found she was no longer living at the same address as her spouse.

The Dutch Court asked three questions:

  1. If the CJEU has jurisdiction, on the basis of Article 267 TFEU, to interpret Article 15 of Directive 2003/86 in situations such as in these cases, where a national court is called upon to rule on the grant of an autonomous residence permit to a third country 1.       national, who is a family member of an EU citizen who has not exercised his right of free movement, if that provision was made directly and unconditionally applicable to such situations under national law
  2. If Article 15(1) and (4) of Directive 2003/86 preclude national legislation which permits an application for an autonomous residence permit, lodged by a third country national who has resided over five years in a Member State by virtue of family reunification, to be rejected on the ground that he has not shown that he has passed a civic integration test on the language and society of that Member State.
  3. If article 15(1) and (4) of Directive 2003/86 preclude national legislation which provides that an autonomous residence permit cannot be issued earlier than the date on which it was applied for. 

If Article 15(1) and (4) of Directive 2003/86 preclude national legislation which permits an application for an autonomous residence permit, lodged by a third country national who has resided over five years in a Member State by virtue of family reunification, to be rejected on the ground that he has not shown that he has passed a civic integration test on the language and society of that Member State.

Decision & Reasoning: 

With regards to the first question, the Court first points out that the (Family Reunion) Directive 2003/86  is not intended to apply to a third country national family member of an EU citizen who has not exercised his right of free movement.

However, it is clear from previous CJEU case law that the Court has jurisdiction to give a preliminary ruling on questions concerning provisions of EU law in situations in which, even if the facts of the case in the main proceedings do not fall directly within the field of application of EU law, provisions of EU law have been rendered applicable by domestic law due to a renvoi made by that law to the content of those provisions.

In this case, the national Dutch law made Directive 2003/86 directly and unconditionally applicable to situations such as those at issue in the main proceedings and that it is therefore clearly in the interest of the European Union that the Court rule on the request for a preliminary ruling.

In answer to the second question, the Court first found, by reading Article 15(1) and 15(4) together, that although issuing an autonomous residence permit is, in principle, an entitlement arising from five years of residence in a Member State by virtue of family reunification, the EU legislature nevertheless authorised the Member States to subject the grant of such a permit to certain conditions, which it left to be defined by the Member States.

This may take the form of a civic integration test on the language and society of that Member State. However, this examination cannot legitimately go beyond what is necessary to attain the objective of facilitating the integration of those third country nationals. In its consideration on the need for proportionality, the Court largely relied on its previous judgment in case C-153/14 (K & A), adding that the national court must ensure that the knowledge requirements and cost of the exam are not unreasonably high, effectively preventing willing applicants from succeeding. Moreover, individual circumstances, such as age, level of education, health and financial situation, should also be taken into account, leading the authorities to provide for exemption from the examination requirement when needed.

Finally, the Court looked at the third question. First, the Court notes that Article 15 does not contain any specific rules relating to the progression of the procedure for granting an autonomous residence permit or to the date from which a permit issued must take effect. It follows from Article 15(4) that it is for the Member States to lay down the conditions relating to the granting of an autonomous residence permit, which may, inter alia, include procedural conditions circumscribing the grant of that permit.

Therfore, Articles 15(1) and (4) do not preclude national legislation that provides that an autonomous residence permit cannot be issued earlier than the date on which it was applied for.

Outcome: 

1.The Court of Justice has jurisdiction, on the basis of Article 267 TFEU, to interpret Article 15 of Council Directive 2003/86/EC of 22 September 2003 on the right to family reunification in situations such as those at issue in the main proceedings, where a national court is called upon to rule on the grant of an autonomous residence permit to a third country national, who is a family member of an EU citizen who has not exercised his right of free movement, if that provision was made directly and unconditionally applicable to such situations under national law.

2. Article 15(1) and (4) of Directive 2003/86 does not preclude national legislation which permits an application for an autonomous residence permit, lodged by a third country national who has resided over five years in a Member State by virtue of family reunification, to be rejected on the ground that he has not shown that he has passed a civic integration test v provided that the detailed rules for the requirement to pass that examination do not go beyond what is necessary to attain the objective of facilitating the integration of those third country nationals.

3. Article 15(1) and (4) of Directive 2003/86 does not preclude national legislation which provides that an autonomous residence permit cannot be issued earlier than the date on which it was applied for.

Subsequent Proceedings : 

Judgement of 7 November 2018, K v Staatssecretaris van Veiligheid en Justitie, Case C‑484/17

Observations/Comments: 

OPINION OF ADVOCATE GENERAL MENGOZZI, delivered on 27 June 2018 (1), Case C‑257/17

AG Mengozzi came to a different conclusion on the second question. It was his view that Article 15(1) and (4) of Directive 2003/86 must be interpreted as precluding national legislation which provides that an application for an autonomous residence permit on the part of a foreign national who, for the purposes of family reunification, has been allowed to reside lawfully for more than five years in the territory of a Member State may be rejected because of non-compliance with conditions relating to integration laid down in national law, since such conditions are substantive conditions for which no provision is made in Article 15(1) and (4) of Directive 2003/86

Case Law Cited: 

CJEU - Judgment of 27 June 2006, Parliament v Council, C‑540/03

Judgment of 12 April 2018, A and S, C‑550/16

CJEU - Judgment of 18 October 1990, Dzodzi, C‑297/88 and C‑197/89

Judgment of 27 June 2018, SGI and Valériane, C‑459/17 and C‑460/17

CJEU - Judgement of 14 June 2017, Online Games and Others, C 685/15

CJEU - Judgment of 17 July 1997, Leur-Bloem, C 28/95

Judgment of 19 October 2017, Solar Electric Martinique, C 303/16

CJEU - Judgement of of 7 November 2013, Romeo, C 313/12

CJEU - Judgment of 4 June 2015, P and S, C 579/13

Judgment of the ECtHR - Grand Chamber of 15 November 2016, Ullens de Schooten, C 268/15

CJEU - Judgment of 18 October 2012, Nolan, C 583/10

CJEU - Judgment of 9 July 2015, K and A, C 153/14
Authentic Language: 
English
Country of preliminary reference: 
Netherlands
National / Other Legislative Provisions: 
Vreemdelingenwet 2000 (Law on Foreign Nationals
‘the Vw 2000’): Article 26(1)
Wet inburgering (Law on Civic Integration
‘the Wi’): Article 6(1)(a) and (b)
Article 7(1) and (2)
Vreemdelingenbesluit 2000 (Decree on Foreign Nationals 2000
‘the Vb 2000’): Article 3.51(1)(a) and (5)
Article 3.80a