Can an African expat with granted residence in Spain freely travel and work across the Schengen zone? For example, let us consider the case of my wife. I've resided in Spain as a EU national for the last five years. We got married last week. I expect her to gain the right to reside in Spain for at least five years as a family member of an EU national.

1. Does she automatically gain such right for the entire Schengen Zone (I mean here the free right to reside in any of the 27 countries of Schengen, the country of her choice not necessarily being the same as mine, e.g. I live in Spain whereas she freely chooses to live in Germany - and all this without divorcing me)?

2. Would she need to become an EU citizen to gain such right?

3. In what legal acts and regulations could I read about her rights of travel and of residence? Would they differ depending on the country we got married in? In respect to the Schengen, are there any recent national laws enacted that could endanger whatever the rights my wife already have?

1 Answer 1


Different answers to different parts of the question. The various parts are best asked on Travel SE (for travel) or Expatriates SE (for work), stating the specific countries and nationalities.

  • With a Spanish residence permit, unless special conditions apply she can travel in the Schengen area as if she had a 90/180 visa. This does not include the right to work.
  • As the spouse of an EU citizen, she has the right to travel with and reside with the spouse in other EU countries. She still would have to apply for residence and work permits, it is just that checking the boxes for 'spouse of an EU citizen' should lead to routine approval. As long as you are resident there, too. Becoming resident in many different EU countries after each other could complicate the route to eventual citizenship in any one of them.
  • She would need EU citizenship of her own (or a work permit in the country in question) to work in a different country from you.

Summarized, the EU treaties strongly support her right to live with you in EU countries other than your homeland (for that, national law matters). There is no independent right to live and work elsewhere.

  • And so without me she can stay and work in other countries of Schengen for no more than, correct? In what EU treaty or law (be it Spanish or European) could I read more about this 90/180 rule?
    – John Smith
    Nov 24, 2023 at 21:39
  • 1
    @JohnSmith she has the right to travel to other Schengen countries without you because she has a residence card issued by Spain. This is covered primarily in the Schengen Borders Code. Her rights in this regard do not depend on being married to an EU citizen. O.m.: where does "this does include the right to work" come from? My understanding is that it doesn't include the right to work.
    – phoog
    Nov 25, 2023 at 1:24
  • @phoog, yes, editing error.
    – o.m.
    Nov 25, 2023 at 5:27
  • 2
    @JohnSmith, no, sorry, I had rearranged sentences and made a mistake. She can travel but not work.
    – o.m.
    Nov 25, 2023 at 5:27

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