The target audience for this post is quite specific, but, nonetheless, I hope it will be helpful to those who come across it while searching for information about how to apply for a UK EEA Family Permit as a US citizen in Madrid.
As you probably know by now, my plan is to move to the UK with my Spanish boyfriend in July 2016. I’ve been unhappy teaching English and I’m ready for my next step- doing a Master’s program!
However, as those of you who found this post by Google search already know, Europe doesn’t make it easy for Americans to live here for more than a few months at a time.
Luckily, for those of us who are fortunate enough to have a European family member (which includes civil partners and spouses!), there is a pretty easy way to get residence rights in the UK called the EEA Family Permit, and I’m going to outline my experience and the steps I’ve taken to apply for an EEA Family Permit, the documents I’ve submitted, and ultimately the final outcome.
If you haven’t already read the gov.uk page about the EEA Family Permit, you should do that first. There is lots of helpful information there, but you will probably be left with some questions.
Googling these questions will lead you to tons of message boards about the topics, but I found that many of these forums were from as far back as 2007, and with immigration laws, I always prefer to read about recent experiences (hence, my writing this).
I’m only going to be writing about my experiences applying as the civil partner of a European citizen (specifically, a Spanish one) and my in-person experiences at the Teleperformace Madrid VisaApplication Centre.
Apply for an EEA Family Permit
Step 1- Create an application
First, I had to create an online account for my application at the Visa4UK website. Once I logged in, I was able to create a new application by clicking “Apply For Myself” in the upper lefthand side of the menu. After filling in my basic details (name, passport number, phone number, birthdate, intended travel date and current location), I chose the type of visa.
For an EEA Family Permit visa, I choose “Other” for Reason for Visit, “EEA/Swiss Family Member” for Visa Type, and then “EEA Family Member” for Visa Sub Type
At this stage I was notified that the Teleperformance Madrid VisaApplication Centre charges an extra fee during the payment process. I ignored this for the time being. FIY, an EEA Family Permit should cost you nothing! It’s free.
Step 2- Fill out the application and book an appointment
After creating my account, I had to fill in all of the necessary parts of the application. There were about eight sections on a menu to the left of the application, and as each section is completed (with all mandatory fields filled in), it turns green.
The information you need for this sections is all stuff that you’ll probably already have on hand, but maybe not. Your personal identification documents and numbers, your EEA Family Member/Partner’s documents and numbers, and your passport to refer to all the trips you’ve made in the past 10 years (!!!) are pretty standard, but also some other stuff like an address in the UK where you’ll be staying, information about jobs (if your partner is already living in the UK) and some other basic financial questions.
Many of the forums I read said that a lot of this information was not necessary to apply for an EEA Family Permit and that you could just write “not applicable’ in a bunch of the fields and then write a not about why you did so at the end of your application, but I didn’t want to be obstinate so I filled in everything I feasibly could.
Filling out the application took me about an hour (you can save and come back though). After that, I had to sign a Declaration, which you’ll see as the next step on your Visa4UK homepage. I can’t remember specifically but I think it just said that everything was true etc.
After that, I booked an appointment to go to the Teleperformance Madrid VisaApplication Centre in-person.
As far as I can tell you can only book a month in advance which, at first, was a problem for me. I contacted them to ask about this using their contact page and surprisingly, received a reply within hours informing me that ” the appointments showing on the website are the earliest possible dates. As the website is updated on a daily basis, you may wish to keep an eye on the website as a more suitable date may appear in due course.”
I booked my appointment on Tuesday February 23rd and ultimately decided to go the following Monday, February 29th. This resulted in a scramble to get my supporting documents together in a flash, as well as figuring out transportation to Madrid which is a 6-7 hour car ride away from where I live.
Once I booked the appointment, I was prompted to make an account on the TLSContact website in order to track my application process. At this stage, I also saw that return courier service was available for 22€. I obviously paid for this so that they could send my passport back to me rather than me making the trip all the way to Madrid again. There are other premium services you can pay for too, like priority visa processing, premium lounge service and walk-in service etc.
Step 3- Bring supporting documents to an in-person appointment
After a few stressful days of gathering documents and making photocopies and getting a translation and new passport photos, I finally made it to Madrid the afternoon before the day of my appointment. Luckily I was able to stay with a friend, and the next morning hopped on the Metro to Plaza de Castilla and it was a quick 5 minute walk to the Visa Centre for my 9:30am appointment.
The Teleperformance Madrid VisaApplication Centre is located at Avenida de Asturias, 9. It’s nearly impossible to miss as the whole wall at the front of the building is covered in plants and moss, and there is a playground right in front of it.
I got there about 20 minutes early and waited for about 5 minutes on a short wall at the playground until the security guard called out for anyone with a 9:30 appointment.
I went in and he asked me for my GWF number, which is the number that gets assigned to your application once you create it. I had my appointment confirmation printed out and the GWF number is clearly stated there.
Then, he searched my purse and my backpack, scanned me with his metal detection wand, and asked if I had brought a photocopy of my TIE (my Spanish residency card) and a passport photo just to make sure. I had, so he sent me to the left to wait in line at a glass window.
When it was my turn at the window, I had to give the man the printout of my application and my passport photo which he attached. I believe he also took the photocopy of my TIE and he wrote on my application “EEA Family Permit” in red marker.
He then folded up a plastic DHL courier envelope and gave me all of my documents and the envelope back in a red plastic folder and told me to go to the waiting room where they would call my name for my appointment.
I went through the turn style and took a seat, but probably only waited about 3-5 minutes. Once my name was called, I went to the desk of the woman who had called me and sat down. She asked me to hand over all of the documents I had brought.
I’m going to state again that I know most of these documents are technically not required, as even the EEA Family Permit itself is technically not required if you can prove your relationship to an EEA Citizen at the UK border, but I would much rather be safe than sorry and I had no problem with providing many of the documents that the gov.uk website suggests as supporting documents.
I sat down and the woman asked if I preferred to speak in English or Spanish and I said whichever she preferred. She was Spanish but she chose to speak in English. She asked for my stack of documents (rather than asking me for one at a time) and I presented:
- My passport and a colored copy of the personal details/signature page (if you have more than one passport, like old, full, and expired passports you are supposed to present them here, but my passport from childhood is long gone so I didn’t mention it in my application)
- A passport photo (which the man at the window had already attached to my application printout)
- My application print out
- My partner’s passport and a colored copy (Yes, she asked if she could keep both my AND my partner’s passports)
- A colored copy of my partner’s DNI (Spanish National ID)
- A letter from my partner stating that we would be traveling together to the UK and that once there he would be exercising his “treaty rights” as a jobseeker, and his request that I please be granted an EEA Family Permit, plus a list of the enclosed documents.
- Our original civil union certificate and an official translation (I also had a colored copy of the original certificate but she asked if she could take the original and I said yes as I can always get another one fairly easily)
- A printout of my offer letter from the University of Bristol accepting my application to do a Master’s program there which stated dates and tuition fees
- A letter from my dad stating that he would assume financial responsibility for me in case it became necessary and that he would be paying my university tuition fees and living expenses
- My pay slips from the past 5 months
- Printout of the confirmation of my payment for return courier service (which she didn’t need as the guy had already included my DHL delivery service envelope)
After she organized all my copies and stapled things together and put them in order, she printed out a list of the “supporting documents submitted.” I signed two copies, and she kept one and gave one to me. Then, I was told to go back to the waiting area to be called to get my biometrics taken.
I waited about 15 minutes and was called into a small room where I sat on a stool. I had to look up at the surveillance camera in the corner of the room and state my full name and birth date. Then I stood up and had to do fingerprints on a digital fingerprint machine. Next, I sat on the stool and looked straight ahead and had my picture taken, and finally, digitally signed on a little signature machine (like they have in a store when you use a credit card). Then she looked up at me and said “you can leave now,” and that was that.
I picked up my belongings and headed back out into the crisp Madrid morning. It was 10am when I left so the whole appointment from start to finish took about 40 minutes.
I was able to track the progress of my application on the TLSContact website on left side bar menu, look for “Track my application”. The steps were: Services Selected, Services Paid, Application Submitted, Transferred for Decision, Received by UKVI, Decision Made, Ready for Courier Return, and Dispatch by Courier.
I received my and my partner’s passports back on March 16th and 6:00pm via DHL delivery service. Inside my passport now on a previously empty page, is my “UK Entry Clearance” permit. It’s valid for 6 months from the date I applied for it. The next step is to apply for a residence card once in the UK, a process which I will also detail here once I complete it.
Compared with the Spanish bureaucracy I’ve dealt with for the past 5 years, this process was painless, even considering that I had to go to Madrid. Here’s hoping that the residence card process is just as easy!