I am an American woman in the process of gathering documents and filling in the Visa4UK form for the EEA family permit, to join my Italian husband who has been living and working fulltime in London for the last five years.
We met in London last summer while I was there on holiday, and married in Italy in July. I freelance and have a flexible schedule, so I was in and out of the UK for short holiday visits, one in March 2017 (1 week), one in April (10 days), one in June (3 weeks, when he and I first connected), one in August (one month, spending time with my then-boyfriend) and one from November-early December (staying with my then-boyfriend).
In January of this year while we were re-entering the UK from a month-long holiday in Italy, the IO flagged my entry and had me give her the account of all my visits over the last year. She said I was spending too much time outside of the US, and I got a coded landing stamp with (what looks to be) a circled "W" on it, and she verbally informed me she was giving me a warning. She asked me how long I was intending to stay in the UK (as I was honest and told her I didn't have a return ticket to the US), and I told her I was visiting my (then-boyfriend) and would probably be returning to the US in a month or so - but that I really didn't have fixed plans at the time. My entry stamp at that time said 'leave to enter for/until six months,' so (naively?) assuming it wasn't an issue I ended up staying three months, until April when I went to India for a month, and afterwards to Italy for two months. I saw my (then-fiance) in Italy over a few visits during that time, last during the week of our wedding. Since the end of July I have been back in the US with my family, while we've been getting all our documents and EEA family permit application in order.
From my research on this forum and others and in talking with friends who have been through this process recently, it's my understanding that as a non-visa citizen I should be able to forego the EEA family permit and enter the UK (alongside my husband), showing documents to substantiate our marriage and his QP status as a full-time employee in the UK. However, I'm concerned about the possibility that my entry situation in January could raise issues while we attempt to cross the border together.
I'm not sure if they have any grounds to deny me entry as we're married and he'd be exercising his treaty rights to bring me into the country? I did have to apply for a new passport as my previous one was almost full, so my passport number is now different and the coded landing stamp (obviously) isn't present in it. However, assuming that last warning could still pop up in the electronic records, I'm not sure if they could raise some issue about possible overstay on my previous visit?
It is definitely much easier to cross the border directly rather than apply for the EEA permit in advance, and it would be my preference to do that if possible. However, I'm trying to weigh the likelihood of some issue actually coming up and if it's overall safer to just go ahead with applying for the EEA permit to avoid any problems in advance. I am also going to have a consultation with an immigration lawyer on the same, but would appreciate any opinions, insights or advice!
Thanks so much!