OK to enter the UK on a settlement visa via Dublin?
May 29, 2014 2:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm a US citizen living in the US, but I will be moving to London this summer. I'll be traveling on a spousal settlement visa. Is there anything wrong with entering the UK from Ireland the first time I travel?

Here's why I want to do it that way. My husband's family is in Northern Ireland and we'd like to visit them first. Ideally, we would fly to Dublin first (the flight's a lot cheaper than a flight to London) and cross the Northern Ireland border for some family time. Then, a few weeks later, we'd fly to London and begin our new life.

Here's the potential problem. If I enter the UK via the Northern Irish border, I won't come into contact with the UK immigration authorities (unless I choose to seek out the immigration authorities later on, when we land in London). I won't get a stamp on my passport indicating my first entry to the UK on my visa. It seems like there's nothing wrong with doing it that way: so long as I have the visa, I'm entitled to be in the UK. But immigration law is full of traps for the unwary. Am I missing something? Could the lack of a stamp on my passport cause problems later on?
posted by caoimhe to Law & Government (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The basic CTA immigration rule is outlined here, but talking directly to the people who make the rules is going to be your best option.
posted by holgate at 2:52 PM on May 29, 2014

The best thing to do would be to present at Immigration when you arrive in Northern Ireland. Although it's an open border and you won't meet any Immigration (UKBA - Border Agency) officials unless you fly into NI, there is a UKBA office in Belfast which you can present at. Depending on where your relatives live it might mean a bus/train trip but it's a small place so it won't take too long. I'll check the office address tomorrow with a colleague who is the Immigration advisor where I work so I'll update with contact details when I can.
posted by billiebee at 4:16 PM on May 29, 2014

My experience of landing foreign artists who are coming into the UK via Ireland is that it is literally impossible to get an immigration officer to OK their work permits. Because there are no immigration controls between Ireland and UK, effectively. Whilst they may say there are, in practise they're not and it's caused untold problems later. This is not spousal visas but Tier 5 entertainment and sports workers but nonetheless I'd be very careful about what a lack of stamp could mean for you in the future. Basically you won't get a stamp if you come in this route. Feel free to memail me for further details if I can be of help.
posted by stevedawg at 6:16 PM on May 29, 2014

When we arrived in 2009 with my husband's spousal visa it was absolutely essential to get the visa stamped because you are going to need that proof when it comes time to renew visas, get ILR, and citizenship. It is your only proof that you arrived when you say you did.

Change your plans if you can. Many posts on immigration forums (at least when I was reading in 2009) have reported problems and coming via Ireland has been viewed as a way to dodge immigration control.

And, welcome to London!
posted by wingless_angel at 2:49 AM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I checked with Belfast UKBA today. What they said was that in order to have your passport stamped, therefore activating your Visa, it needs to be by flying into the UK from an international destination. There are no immigration controls between NI and rest of UK so flying to London from NI won't count and it won't count just to voluntarily present at Immigration on arrival in NI (my mistake). You have six months from entry to the UK to activate your visa. You can fly directly into Belfast from Newark - don't know if this is possible for you as I'm not sure where you live in the US, and don't know how the fare would compare with US-London or US-Dublin but it might be worth checking out as this would mean your passport is stamped as soon as you enter. If you travel to Dublin then to London via NI you would have to leave the UK again at some point during the six months and it would then be activated when you flew back in. If you want to speak to someone directly the number is 00442894422500.
posted by billiebee at 7:56 AM on May 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you travel to Dublin then to London via NI you would have to leave the UK again at some point during the six months and it would then be activated when you flew back in.

In that case you might be better off getting as cheap a Ryanair/Easyjet/etc flight as possible from Stansted or Luton to somewhere outside the CTA. Day trip to Paris or Amsterdam?
posted by holgate at 8:46 AM on May 30, 2014

Thanks so much for these answers, with extra special thanks to billibie! I emailed the immigration authorities who said it was fine to enter the CTA in Dublin, but the person giving the answer plainly wasn't considering the potential difficulties pointed out by wingless_angel. Holgate's idea of a day trip to Paris or Amsterdam is enticing. But I think we will just fly from the US to Heathrow, then on to Belfast. (Flying Newark to Belfast would be ideal, but is just too expensive.)
posted by caoimhe at 9:41 AM on May 30, 2014

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