Will I be allowed back into the UK?
August 4, 2008 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Can I leave (or rather re-enter) the UK before I've gotten my Residence Permit?

I am currently in the UK on an EEA Family Permit. This is fine as it allows me to live and work here based on the fact that I'm married to an EU Citizen. I've already traveled abroad and allowed to enter based on my EEA FP.

However, the EEA FP expires in October. I have an application (EEA2) in for a Residence Permit but current waiting times are 6-7 months. This means I'll be in the country with an expired EEA FP and no Residence Permit. The fact that the EEA FP is only valid for 6 months and yet it takes more than 6 months to get a Residence Permit has been noted as a serious implementation issue.

It is ok and legal for me to be here during that period since I am exercising my EU rights via my wife. I'm not worried about that.

What I am worried about is whether people at the border will recognize all that and let me back in. I've scoured personal anecdotes on the Web. Some say not to worry about it as long as I am traveling with my wife and I have a copy of our marriage certificate. Others say that without a valid entry permit I may not be allowed to enter the country (and may have to apply for an EEA FP extension outside the country)

Needless to say, this is all very confusing. I simply want to know if I can visit my family for Christmas. I know the "safe" thing to do is to stay put until I get my residence card. But...I'd really like to be able to leave the country if I am confident I can get back in.

(Extra info: I am an American and thus dont need a visa. Working in the UK for a UK subsidiary of an American company)
posted by vacapinta to Law & Government (10 answers total)
Avoid the entire dilemma by flying in via Dublin. You can hope on Ryan Air or Aer Lingus or whatever to London with no passport control at all. If you're REALLY paranoid, take the train from Dublin to Belfast, and the flight home is a domestic flight.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:18 AM on August 4, 2008

Well, my first inclination is probably spot on - drop some coin and chat with a Solicitor. Your situation seems fairly complicated, certainly more so than my own - American, came over in 1997 on a one work permit which was exteneded several times, finally switched on my own initiative to Indefinite Leave to Remain after four years.

That being said, I do recall HR (I was working for Deutsche Bank at the time) being very, very cautious with respect to me entering or leaving the UK during periods when my paperwork was in transition. Not totally certain what was on their mind, but several times I had to take a holiday in Amsterdam or some othe European city because a new permit was coming into force, and other times I simply could not leave the UK.

So no disrespect to any of my MeFite colleagues, but for peace of mind you may want to sit down with a Solicitor and find out precisely what their view is.

One things for certain - this is an arcane / complex area of law. I read your links several times and I don't have a definitive opinion, other than this is complicated stuff (I'll stick with finance thank you!). A Solicitor could only help to clarify the issue, and there is no sense in going through a nasty immigation experience after a nice Christmas holiday.
posted by Mutant at 10:24 AM on August 4, 2008

Avoid the entire dilemma by flying in via Dublin. You can hope on Ryan Air or Aer Lingus or whatever to London with no passport control at all

Actually, that's not completely true. Ryanair, for one, requires a passport as ID for non-EU nationals AFAIR, and it's likely you would have to go through passport control in Dublin at some stage. What's more, the rules regarding travel within the Common Travel Area are set to change soon (bringing in passport checks at ferry ports, etc). So I would advise you to play it safe.
posted by macdara at 12:06 PM on August 4, 2008

I'm an immigrant in the US in a similarly arcane situation. If I need to travel the Immigration Service will stamp my passport. Call the UK equivalent and find out if they do the same or something similar. You may not need to hire a solicitor.
posted by Kattullus at 12:16 PM on August 4, 2008

Hmm. I can see passport control going either way on this one. Yes, you do have a right to live in the UK, but proving it with an expired EEA FP rather depends on the suspiciousness of the agent at the time. I can see a risk of being denied entry.

It does look like EEA family permits can be reissued, but only from embassies and consulates etc outside the UK - Inside the UK, you can only apply for the residence permit, which you've done, but they're currently still processing applications from january!

This is a complicated area, because you're in effect immigrating twice; once from the US into the EU, then using her right of residence from the EU to the UK. I only have to deal with the second half (my parter is french) but even that causes subtle difficulties.

I think your first port of call (haha) should be a call to the new UK Border agency, their IEB arm specialises in this area. I think their standard advice is not to travel until your documentation is in order though. That said - how long did it take to get the family permit issued in the first place, given it's a glorified visa? If you're going back to the states for christmas, perhaps you could arrange a reissued family permit from the original consulate in advance, and collect it when you return home temporarily?
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:08 AM on August 5, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you all!
I do feel like I'm back where I started but let me summarize for any future people.

DarlingBri: Thats pretty clever and something I hadn't considered. Thanks. I may keep that in my back pocket.

Mutant: Believe me, if this was about business travel I would not hesitate to draw upon the considerable resources of my company's lawyers. As it is, they're helping me out with my taxes. On this point, however, I'm almost 100% sure of my rights. Its that I dont know how this is being enforced at the border. A solicitor may be able to help me in advance somehow...but I'm not sure...

ArkhanJG sums it all up pretty well. Yes, I could try and get another EEA FP while I'm out of the country. Believe it or not, I obtained that in about 3 days! However, it requires that I mail them my passport, which I cant do from here (because I need it) and there is no guarantee I could get it back before I have to travel back (They say they usually process them in less than a week but perhaps I just got lucky...)

I will now: 1) Contact my company's lawyers and see if they have any friendly advice (probably to stay put) and 2) Contact the IEB or someone else and see if I can get more info. I will post any followups if I have them. Thanks again!
posted by vacapinta at 2:30 AM on August 5, 2008

I'm just thinking what other options you have to enter the country on different grounds as a backup option in case you can't clear the paperwork.

I wouldn't recommend lying at the border and claiming you're here as a tourist etc on the 6 month visa exemption for travel and business negotiations; they're very trained to look for the signs, and that's just asking for trouble if you're caught out.

You could probably get a work permit through your company if they're feeling helpful, though they're not simple or particularly cheap to get, and have the right to stay and work purely off your own bat. Most of the schemes have now closed, in preparation for the november points system that's coming in and replacing everything, but the sponsored skilled workers work permit system is still open until november I believe - and since you already have leave to reside and work, you can carry on working in your current job while you apply.

The other option is to wait until november, and apply under the points based scheme - though whether you'd get the response back before leaving for christmas is anyone's guess.

One final port of call if your work solicitors and IEB aren't helpful, would be to contact both the US embassy and the embassy of your partner's EU country of citizenship, both of whom would have experience of dealing with immigration into the UK.

My final thought would be to take an early short break to your partners home country in the EU (you might need a schengen visa, but I don't think so), then get an EEA FP from the UK embassy while you're there, staying as long as you need to get the paperwork. Arranging beforehand, and turning up in person with your passport would hopefully expedite the matter.

To be fair to the border control guys, the government kicked off a huge shakeup of immigration a couple of months ago with the biggest changes in legislation in 30 years, while completely re-arranging the agencies that deal with the paperwork - all in a time when immigration was at it's highest ever, the EU expanded by 6 countries, and the passport office was already swamped by applications. You picked a bad year to come to england :)
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:27 AM on August 5, 2008

Wow, don't ask where the '6 countries' came from. I meant 2.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:34 AM on August 5, 2008

Actually, that's not completely true. Ryanair, for one, requires a passport as ID for non-EU nationals AFAIR, and it's likely you would have to go through passport control in Dublin at some stage.

The situation between the UK and Ireland is... special... probably because if you started requiring passports, a certain contingent of the population would start bombing airports. This may change in the future, but currently (and for decades now) you do not need a passport to travel between Dublin and London, regardless of your country of origin. The airline requires photo ID, and a driving license will do nicely.

Obviously, when you land in Dublin from the US, there is an immigration stand to go through, and your passport will be stamped with an entry visa, but this has nothing to do with the UK thing.

On the train from Dublin to Belfast, there's nothing required at all. You don't even know you're crossing a border.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:46 AM on August 5, 2008

Response by poster: Adding some things I've learned.

1) If you are applying for a Residence Permit, then if you apply for another EEA Family Permit, you''re application for the Residence Permit (EEA2) will be REVOKED! This means you will have to start the process all over again. (info in the thread linked below)

2) Best option is to stay in the country until you receive your Residence Permit. If you really need to travel, a family emergency for example, then follow the instructions in this immigration thread. The law is on your side. You just have to be prepared to prove it.
posted by vacapinta at 6:54 AM on February 23, 2009

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