I have been a member of this forum since October 2008 when I applied for the EEA2 permit. I received confirmation that my application for naturalisation was successful in September 2015! A huge thank you to everyone who has helped/answered my questions. This space is such a tremendous source of support and I am very grateful to all of you.
I have included a brief summary of the 7 years for your reference. I hope this is useful -
1. EEA2 Permit (Applied directly), took 7 months and 2 days, had to complain
2. EEA4 Permit (Applied with help of agency) took 29 days (!!)
3. Naturalisation (Applied via NCS) took 3 months and a week
Schengen travel during this period:
1. In the early days of EEA2 there was confusion across different EU states about the need for Schengen visas when travelling with EU partner. But as time passed, this became common knowledge and we were rarely questioned or stopped. If you are in a civil partnership, carry the paperwork as you may be asked to show evidence.
2. When it comes to EEA4, I notice some country websites (notably Dutch and German) now mention that the same rules apply (when you are travelling with partner you don't need Schengen visa). However, this is a recent transition, so you may be questioned or face confused border agents.
3. I have also applied for Schengen visas as I have to travel abroad for work. You won't have to pay the visa fee but you will still have to pay the administration fee to VFS. Unfortunately they seem to be adamant about this. As your travel history improves you may be granted longer term (1 year or more) Schengen visas.
Returning to the UK:
1. If you have an EEA2 and returning to the UK with your partner then you can use the EU line.
2. If you have an EEA4 you can use the EU line when travelling alone**.
3. In both cases you don't need to fill a landing card.**
**Application might vary. Bigger airports are fine.
For some reason, regional airports tend to have bigots and narcissists.
Surprises and how to prepare for them:
1. There is no such thing as too much information. Please provide as much information as you can and it is helpful if you can label, sort and organise this information into folders. At the least, this may save requests for more details from the home office and speed up your application.
2. Be aware of the timeline. We applied for EAA4 too early. The application was rejected and due to clerical error got a nasty letter asking me to leave the UK in 28 days. If you made the EEA2 application when you were in a durable relationship then you can only apply for EEA4 only when the 5 year period is coming to a close regardless of the fact that you may have been living with your partner for x number of years before the EEA2 application was made.
3. We had to file a complaint for delay for EEA2 and we noticed that our MP was most helpful and SOLVIT was least helpful. At the time we had access to email addresses of UKBA regional centres to file a complaint, which also helped.
4. If you're very organised <which I am not )> and tend to travel overseas a lot, then make a little spreadsheet where you record your dates in and out of the country. This is because when you submit EEA4 and Naturalisation applications you will be asked to give a timeline (stretching back 5 years) of your travel.
5. I don't know if going via an agent has an impact on the time taken to process your application. But for naturalisation, definitely use the NCS service from your local council. It is affordable. The staff are friendly and thorough. Don't be afraid to ask questions or to go through the form with them before submission. If your city has a long waiting list to get an NCS appointment, you may find a neighbouring council can offer the service at short notice.
That's it for now. If anything else comes to mind, I will update this post.
Thank you all once again and best wishes to everyone.
Much love and gratitude,
Ar and JC
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