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My wife (Italian citizen) and I (Commonwealth but not EEA citizen) recently moved to the UK. I had done quite a lot of research about the immigration rules before we arrived, but admittedly mostly read about what the law says rather than what people's actual experiences were.

My wife will be working here, so is a qualified person.

Our arrival at Gatwick went very smoothly, with a friendly immigration officer checking our marriage certificate and then stamping "Admitted to the United Kingdom under the Immigration (EEA) Regulations 2016" in my passport.

I then quickly discovered that the advice on the gov.uk website saying "You can apply for a residence card [...] to confirm your right of residence. You do not have to apply but it will make it easier to prove your right to live and work in the UK" should probably be read as "You should apply for a residence card if you want to be able to do anything official in the UK". It's very difficult to open a bank account or rent a house, for example, without a residence card.

I also quickly discovered that not every immigration officer understands the rules. We took a weekend trip to Paris, and on the way back the UK immigration officer insisted that I only had the right to live in the UK if my wife and I had been living in a different EEA country first (seemingly, he was confused with the Surinder Singh rule for UK nationals, which clearly doesn't apply since neither of us are a UK national). He did eventually relent (saying that since I'd already been allowed in once, he would let me in again, but reiterating that he didn't think it was right) but was very unhappy that I didn't have a residence card.

Applying for a residence card right now is very inconvenient because I need to travel regularly for work. If I apply, at a minimum I will be without my passport for a month (if I immediately request it back after placing the application) but possibly more. My country of citizenship doesn't offer additional passports for this type of situation.

Because of this, I have considered traveling to another EEA country and applying for an EEA Family Permit there. The EEA Family Permit seems to usually take less than 10 days to be granted. I understand that this should then let me travel in and out of the UK without any trouble for six months, and then I should be able to schedule 1-1.5 months without my passport somewhere into those six months to get the residence card. My questions are:

  • Is this option open to me considering that I am already living in the UK?

  • What should I list as my permanent address? We have already rented an apartment in the UK and I would prefer to list this since it's my correct permanent address. Will it raise an issue though?

  • Are there other, better options for my situation?

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Is this option open to me considering that I am already living in the UK?

Yes. You have to be outside the UK to apply, but it is not necessary to reside outside the UK.

What should I list as my permanent address? We have already rented an apartment in the UK and I would prefer to list this since it's my correct permanent address. Will it raise an issue though?

It should not cause a problem.

Are there other, better options for my situation?

The European Passport Return Service may be of interest, but to use it you will need to combine your residence card application with your wife's application for a registration certificate.

You can also apply for an EEA family permit in any place where you have traveled for work. It need not be an EEA country. I mention this only because it is not clear from the question whether your proposed plan to apply for an EEA family permit in an EEA country arises from a mistaken belief that the point of application must be within the EEA or for other reasons.

  • thank you very much for this clear and concise answer. In response to your last paragraph: the reason I said EEA country was mostly just because most of my work travel is there. However, I did notice that the UK visa processing times tool seems to show times for EEA family permits for EEA countries and not for other countries. This gave me some concern that if I, for example, apply in New York (which would actually be quite convenient for me) I might have a longer wait than the usual 10 days or so. – J. Doe Mar 5 at 20:36
  • @J.Doe the EU directive mandates "an accelerated procedure" or something like that. My mother in law got one in Sarajevo in (as I recall) about a week. No idea about New York. – phoog Mar 5 at 23:06
  • I've applied for it. Interestingly, the company that handles the applications in the city I chose to apply in has an option to allow me to keep the passport during processing. I took this option, so now my application is processing and I still have my passport. Now I'm curious whether I could go and wait at home in the UK and come back here when they're ready to issue the permit, since it only says you must be outside the UK to apply, it doesn't say you must remain outside during the processing...! – J. Doe Mar 12 at 12:31
  • @J.Doe I suppose you probably could go home to the UK. The only real requirement for the EEAFP is so you can board a plane if you are a visa-required national. Otherwise, it's mostly a convenience document that allows you to reduce your burden of proof at the border when you enter. – phoog Mar 12 at 17:18
  • One alternative option that I haven't seen discussed much is the Registered Traveler scheme. You can select family as the reason for traveling when signing up. Then you have to go through the usual way once, and can subsequently use the automated gates. If one was lucky enough to get a well-informed immigration officer the first time (it would probably be sensible to be traveling together with the EEA national spouse the first time), it could be a good alternative to the EEAFP for visa-exempt nationals that travel a lot, couldn't it? – J. Doe Mar 16 at 20:04

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