"I have never welcomed the weakening of family ties by politics or pressure" - Nelson Mandela.
"He who travels for love finds a thousand miles no longer than one" - Japanese proverb.
"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." - Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"When people's love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change". -
David Cameron.

Friday 5 April 2013

BritCits Update - April

Every few weeks, we send a campaign update email to our supporters, including many of those affected. We will share those communications on this website to generally update everyone on the work we do.

If you would like to be added to our mailing list, please contact us - britcits at gmail dot com. Especially contact us if you are affected by the rules in any way, as we would relish the chance to lobby on your behalf, as well as helping you make the connections you need for your situation. We believe that the connections we have made have been effective in raising the profile of a number of specific cases, as well as all the issues surrounding this.

The email bulletins are managed by Sonel, who tweets here - https://twitter.com/britcits .

Hi guys

Apologies for having been quiet on sending the regular update emails for a while ..as you'll see from the below, I've had my hands full.  I will write in again with the usual updates soon.

The BritCits pack:  If your story isnt in the attached document, please send in your story or if you already have done so, nudge me to ensure I include it in the next version.  If your story is in the pack without a photo, then please also send in a photo - those with pics have a much greater impact with readers as they can visualise the victims of farcial immigration rules. If there is an update to your story which you'd like included please also send that to me. (Note from Steve: The pack contains our case studies, as listed here : http://britcits.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/stories ).

Steve has been busy with the website www.britcits.com - feel free to promote. He's put an insane amount of work into it. If you're tech savvy and wish to help, please let us know as we may be able to use your help.

I've been hugely active (and loving it) on twitter. Please do follow me (https://twitter.com/britcits) and as they say, RT (retweet) my tweets to widen the audience.  You may as a few have told me they do, really enjoy the 'Immigrant of day' feature. I'm certaintly learning a lot about ppl I 'assumed' were British going back at least three generations.

Given recent discussions on the EU board, I thought it would be helpful for those considering going down the EU route - either for Surinder Singh or to live in another EU country in the long-term, with their non EU family, to read a bit of my experience in Ireland. If this isn't you, feel free to stop reading/delete the email.  Usual caveats apply - this is based on my experience. Yours may be different, but I write in the hope that even a small bit of what I have been through may help you in some way.


Accommodation - I recommend airbnb for temporary accommodation but obviously go with someone who has good references etc. Airbnb will put you in touch with local people living here, and may be a source of info re: jobs, travel, other accommodation. Given the purpose of the trip, there is no point in being holed up alone in a hotel room.

For more longer-term accommdation, daft.ie is good, even for house shares. Gumtree.ie may not be bad, but there are a lot of rogues, so do your own due diligence.

Even postcodes are south of the river and odd postcodes north. The airport is north around D9, and about 30 mins from the city centre by bus. As the numbers get higher, so does (generally) the distance from the city centre.

South is nicer, but there are good and bad areas everywhere, so judge for yourself. I prefer being close to work and the airport to minimise taxi fares and city centre apartments are tiny and dingier unless you have more money to pay for rent.

For a 2 bed apartment near the airport in a complex, therefore inclusive of things like rubbish collection charges -  I'm paying about 900 euros a month. With bills, it comes to over 1200 euros - electricity, gas, internet, telephone, bus pass - though I hope once the weather eventually warms up, heating bills will go down.  House shares are MUCH cheaper so if you and your non EU family members here with you would be happy with that, I'd defo recommend it instead.

Bills - electricity, gas, internet. No council tax or water bills. If you live in a complex, then rubbish collection should also be included otherwise can be on top.  Internet and phone - I'm with UPC now as theyre fibre optic and therefore better connection. If you dont watch stuff on the net, you may prefer Imagine, which includes unlimited calls to UK landlines (for the first 60 mins). So may be more useful for those needing to make lots of calls. Another advantage of Imagine is that its portable, so if you move house, you can really easily take it with you..or if you go elsewhere in Ireland for a weekend say, so can your wifi connection.

Everything is a 12 month contract. Electricity company told me if I move overseas then theres no charge to break the contract early. Internet there is..but you may be able to transfer it to someone else in ireland, the next batch of britcits (moving the services to another address is usually free), or maybe get your landlord to sign up to it and increase your rent accordingly.

Mobile phone - Totally go with lyca and top-up online, so for every euro you top up, they match it.  The advantage with Lyca is that Lyca Ireland users can call and text other Lyca Ireland users for free AND they can also call Lyca UK numbers for free. So get your friends and family in the UK to get a lyca UK sim card (they dont even need to top up anything.the sim card comes with free credit, so they could just use it to call and receive calls from you for free).

Travel - you can get bus/tram passes which are for a whole day, or 30 day ones which dont have to be used consecutively...so it gives you 30 days credit...you can also get ones which give you ten trips, but if you travel within 90 mins or 2 hours, then it counts as the same trip.

If you are able to enrol on a course, however short, then it may be worth it, as bank accounts for students dont have any fees, but every other one I have come across does even for things like using an ATM. Also, student rates for travel on the bus/tram are much cheaper too with a student card.  You do however need to be working to return to the UK to invoke Surinder Singh route.

Food - No big stores like Costco or Makro. Not even a Sainsburys or Asda. There is however a Tesco and I found I could use my UK Tesco Clubcard which went some way to making me feel better when I realised I was paying more for Irish butter in Ireland than I do in the UK. All food - except for maybe potatoes! - is bloody expensive here, so on trips from the UK I tend to bring non-perishables with me! (only worth it, depending on your luggage allowance)   I've been to Aldi/Lidl here more times in a couple of months than I have my entire life outside of Ireland. They are at least reasonably priced, though I still find nothing as cheap as UK Asda. I havent stepped into an M&S..and save satisfying my cravings for M&S ready meals for when I am in the UK!  They charge for plastic bags here (its the law), so ensure you bring your own unless you're happy to pay.  Small shops around for example Moore street in central Dublin may be better for fresh vegies than supermarkets.

Tesco points can be used to convert to British Airways frequent flyer points (called Avios), which are very good for travelling between London and Dublin. If anyone has any they dont want, feel free to send them my way and I'll pay you the tesco voucher equivalent as I cannot stand ryanair.

Jobs - online portals, walk around, ask ppl you live with, libraries, job boards. Be prepared to do anything and part-time work is supposed to be fine for the Surinder Singh route. Bring your CV with you, any certificates which may be of use. Scan eveyrthing and keep copies on your email, just in case.

There is a Citizens Advice Bureau on O'Connell Street - and branches elsewhere. They may be able to help and advise you on any courses, or benefits you are entitled to as well. They and the library also have free classes to help ppl improve their English.  I havent needed to claim benefits so I'm not sure, but an article I came across indicated benefits can be nearly 200 euros per week..thats got to be a huge help in the job-seeking phase.

Library - there is a library in city centre with branches all round Dublin. First thing I tend to do in a new place is join a library. It gives me peace of mind and I find its one of the best things about developed countries.

PPS number - this is the NI number equivalent in Ireland. You will need your passport and proof of address to get this - they post it to you within a few days. If proof of address takes time, your bank may be able to give you a Certificate of Balance then and there, for free, which will be dated and include your address.  I cant acutally remember if PoA is essential for British citizens, but definitely is for non EU citizens.  You will need this in order to work or claim benefits aka social welfare.

Immigration - So now we come to my experience of irish immigration. They are either clueless or deliberately ignorant. When my dad came through the airport, they asked why he didnt have a return ticket. He explained he was coming here to join me, a British citizen who was in Ireland as per my EU treaty rights. They tried to tell him he wasnt allowed to come here down that route - when the browbeating didnt work they gave in to his insistence that they speak with me - I was waiting at the arrivals. A junior officer - who to her credit, was very nice and said she didnt know much about the EU route - asked me questions about myself - my work, address etc. I didnt have a job here at the time. All questions I actually dont legally have to answer as I have 3 months to submit all this to them from when my parents enter Ireland - but given my dad was on the other side of immigration rather than with me, I gave in.

She told me this route was only for spouses, not parents..then then told me my parents could only join me here through this route if I already had a job (not true). I showed her the guidance which specified the legal requirements. She then returned with a senior immigration officer who told me that as this was Ireland, Irish immigration rules applied. I remained firm on my rights as an EU citizen. He then told me he had been doing this for 20 years and knew his job etc etc. I told him this was about my family and I had therefore even more interest in doing my research!  We to-d and fro-d on this and the senior guy deferred to the woman, as this was considered her case.  She initially said she would let my dad in for 10 days. We discussed and she agreed to it being 1 month but said she would hold on to his passport and return it when she had evidence of his return trip. Now I KNEW she was breaking EU law, but I figured I'd work it out once my dad was on this side of the terminal rather than their refusing him entry and him flying all the way back to Australia - it's a bloody long flight!

I told her, fine, but if in the one month I found I was right after all then my dad was going nowhere. She understood and agreed and all was good.  (My memory of these events may not be perfectly accurate but the above is the gist of it)

My dad was smiling as he walked through the terminal with her - he had not been treated at all badly other than just having been delayed.

10/15 mins later I got a call from the immigration officer (the nice one) who said she had checked with a colleague and I could come pick up my dads passport which she would stamp for 90 days.  She did make it sound like she was doing me a favour, but whatever. I think it was a pride thing as opposed to her going on a power trip. She could just as easily not have called me back so quickly and let me stress and waste time preparing for battle!  I suspect they knew I would carry out checks and they would then get in trouble as they legally HAVE to let my non-EU family members in for 90 days to allow me to submit the application and are NOT allowed to hold on to passports.  We were too tired to go the same day, and picked it up the next day. She had cancelled the original stamp without prejudice, so dads passport now looks messy, but oh well. The passport was returned without any hassle..she seemed keen to hand it over. :-)

Once I got a job, I submitted the residence card application.

Documents I submitted
- my birth certificate (I only had a copy of this) as evidence of relationship
- passports and 2 passport size photos for everyone involved, including mine - there are specific requirements on size of photos
- tenancy agreement which includes names of everyone involved
- contract of employment
- evidence of dependency which is only I believe needed for family members who are not spouse/kids.  Financial one is the easiest one to satisy - bank transfers from my account to theirs - doesnt have to be huge amounts, but has to be something, in the last few months before applying, so plan this well.

Based on the above, they agreed to grant my non-EU family the right to remain in Ireland for 6 months from the date I sent in the above docs (by registered post),, while they process the residence card application, although we were all required to go to the Immigration Service (also in central Dublin) with our passports and evidence of relationship.

Note get there as early as you can, as we got there at about 10 am, and were there for most of the day just waiting. it didnt help that the birth certificate which they accepted at the initial step they now said was not acceptable as it was a copy, not the original.  I then had to go to the embassy who suggested I submit a statutory declaration to confirm that my parents are my parents, in the absence of being able to retrieve an original birth certificate - which they would sign to witness, if I paid them a fee :)   I phoned Irish immigration who initially said that was not acceptable..when I then asked what else would they accept short of a DNA test (it's actually surprisingly difficult to prove your parents are your parents without an original birth certificate!) when they backed down and said, yes ok, a stat dec is acceptable.  The embassy did tell me it would be as its a legal document.  Non EU family members are finger printed and then given an id-card valid for 6 months from the application submission date.  The staff member there told me the residence card would likely be sent across one day before the six months was up i.e. they take as long as they legally can.

Additional documents they have asked me for before they can complete the application process:
- letter of registration of tenancy from the private residential tenancies board - this is with my landlord
- utility bills in the names of everyone involved
- two recent pay slips
- most recent P60 or tax credit certifiate.

I will submit the top three of the above together - the sooner the better although if theyre going to take the full 6 months there's no rush.  I will also let them know that I cant submit the tax cert because I wouldnt get that till the end of the year. I have other than the initial experience found irish immigration officers to be really nice.

When my passport was with the Irish authorities, I was able to travel between UK and Ireland on my driving licence (once even using my library card which has a photo on it) although make your life easier and ensure you have a copy of your British passport with you.  I had an issue when flying with Aer Lingus as they said I had to have a passport - as I was living in Ireland then, they agreed to contact Irish immigration who confirmed to the airline that I should be allowed in as they had my passport.

This I found later, which shows some airlines have more stringent requirements than others, and even more stringent than Irish immigration officers - before they will let you fly:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Travel_Area  I suspect this is because if you are refused entry, then your return flight is something that the airline may need to pay for themselves.

There are immigration checks flying from UK to Ireland, none that I have come across on the reverse route. This doesnt mean they never check, just that I havent seen them check. Airlines check both ways though for suitable id so ensure you have it with you.

So that's it so far. Look forward to meeting other britcits in Dublin - let me know if you're out and about, or if there's anything specific you want to share with the others and I'll try and include it in the next update email.

Happy weekend folks.

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