The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that non-EU parents may receive the right to reside and obtain social welfare benefits if their child was born in one of the bloc's member states - a decision that could complicate Brexit negotiations.
The Luxembourg-based court said on Thursday that forcing a mother to leave the EU would deprive the child "of the genuine enjoyment of the substance of the rights conferred by virtue of their status".
It ruled on a case concerning a Venezuelan woman, among others, who came to the EU on a tourist visa, had a child with a Dutch national and was legally separated from him.
Authorities in The Netherlands had refused to grant the mother benefit payments, since she did not have a right of residence there.
This was the ECJ's second ruling on the matter.
The first had already stated the right to residence and benefits in 2014, but national states interpreted it in a very restrictive way - residence rights and benefits were granted to a non-EU parent only if the other EU national was physically restricted from taking a child into permanent care, including serving a prison sentence or being in a poor state of health or dying.
Bu the new ruling said national authorities must take into account the children's age, their emotional ties to the parents and whether refusing residence for one parent would impede on children's rights as EU citizens.
It said that countries cannot automatically refuse the right to residence to a non-EU parent, just because the other EU parent is theoretically available to care for the child.
Under the ruling, it is up to the non-EU parent to provide evidence of the child's dependency on them in such cases.
The ECJ ruling is poised to further complicate Brexit negotiations between the EU and the UK in the wake of Article 50 being triggered by London.
The EU insists that the rights of more than three million EU citizens in Britain be among the very first issues settled in the Brexit divorce negotiations due to start shortly. The bloc presses that its citizens get for life the rights they enjoy under EU law.
When pro-Brexit campaigners were advocating for the UK's exit from bloc in the lead-up to last year's referendum, one argument they frequently used was the so-called interference of EU institutions in national matters.
Another gripe was over the role of the ECJ, especially on migration issues.
The European Parliament will hold a hearing on EU citizens' in the UK on Thursday afternoon.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies