Adviser Backs UK Welfare Limits on Nonresidents

     (CN) – Finding that members of the European Union should be able to check the resident status of children who apply for Social Security benefits, an adviser to the EU’s highest court called for the dismissal of charges against the United Kingdom.
     The recommendation Tuesday comes on the heels of several complaints by EU nationals living in the United Kingdom who say UK authorities have unfairly denied their welfare claims.
     British authorities countered that host state are allowed to check the residency status of social-security claimants before granting them benefits.
     Although such practices primarily benefit UK nationals, the kingdom disputed that the efforts were discriminatory.
     The European Commission brought an action against the UK, noting that it is more difficult for other EU nationals to prove U.K. residency than for British citizens.
     Advocate General Pedro Cruz Villalon urged the European Court of Justice on Tuesday to dismiss the charges over the U.K. residency test, which has been on the books for about a decade.
     Since EU citizens have the right to move around member nations freely, they must also be subject to the limitations set down in EU laws, Villalon said.
     Indeed EU Regulation 883/2004 stipulates that EU citizens who exercise their right to free movement and residence can receive social benefits only if they adhere to certain conditions.
     “The host Member State is entitled, where appropriate, to ensure that a [European] Union citizen is not unlawfully present in its territory,” the adviser’s opinion states.
     Villalon’s opinion follows a similarly restrictive decision by the European Union’s high court last month.
     In September, the European Court of Justice supported Germany’s decision to deny social benefits to Swedish migrants looking for work.
     That case also clarified that migrant workers who lost their jobs after working for less than a year retained “right of residence” – and therefore access to social benefits – only for an additional six months.
     Villalon’s opinion on the U.K.’s welfare restrictions is not binding on the Court of Justice, which has now begun its own deliberations of the case.
     The issue has been one of the sticking points for U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron in his battle with EU authorities.
     Cameron has suggested that the UK should be allowed to make nonresidents seeking social security benefits face waiting periods as long as four years.

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