How I applied for permanent residence as an EU citizen living in the UK

So the first thing I did, a few months after “WTF, did Brexit really just happen?” settled into my brain, was to google like mad about permanent residency.

(If you don’t want to read the whole story, you can always skip to the checklist at the end.)

Research

And…

I ended up on a few .gov websites, all of which look and sound identical. I love .gov and the GDS, but I do have trouble recognising pages. Can’t tell them apart! (Recognition rather than recall: one of the 10 usability heuristics)

Pulled some of my hair out. Figuratively. I like my hair. Some of it is blue now. I love blue. I wouldn’t literally pull my hair out.

the paper form

Mysteriously, I found a page with 2 PDF documents on it, one of which is called “Application for a document certifying permanent residence or permanent residence card: form EEA (PR)”.

Mouthful.

I read the first few pages of the big document, and confirmed it looks like it’s THE sought-after residency application form.

Set a reminder in my calendar with a link to it, so I could print it the next day at work. (Do you have a printer at home?)

Got in the next day, and the reminder came up in the middle of a meeting…

So I set another reminder for the next day.

It had been a week, and a few deleted reminders before I finally had a printed copy of all 85 pages that I could take home and read carefully.

Which gathered dust for another few weeks…

Until I started to fill it out, one afternoon. By hand. With a pen.

Until I got to this gem.

Three rows for all trips I have taken since September 2006. That is… more than ten years. TEN. YEARS.

It took me many months to compile that information through digging into my google calendar (OMG THANK YOU GOOGLE!!!) and writing down manually when those dates were. ON paper. Because screen splitting has its limits.

Eventually I put that into a spreadsheet.

I needed 69 rows.

That’s right, I have taken 69 trips outside of the UK since September 2006.

And that simmered for a few more months while I kept procrastinating printing it and figuring out how to include it with the ginormous form.

the online form

Until a friend of mine told me, over dinner, that he had applied online.

ONLIiiIIINE?

(Say it like “A haAAandbaAAag?” – this one’s for Oscar Wilde fans)

ONLIiiIIINE?

I google that on my phone… and… YES! There is (yet another) .gov.uk website that does indeed look like it takes EU citizen UK residency applications! Well, it looks just like any other .gov.uk website, but it does have a “do this thing here” button. Aaaaaall the way at the bottom of a LONG page, but it’s there.

On my way home, I filled out my details.

NOTE: The online form does NOT ask you to list all your trips since you landed in the UK. *PHEW*!!

Some emails happened. I needed to continue later, and logged back in a few days later, check on what I’ve filled in. Still looked good.

the online form WILL be deleted after N days!!

Eventually I forgot all about it, (work. life. that stuff.) and when I went to login again, it had been deleted.

DELETED!! AARRRGH!!!

The small mercy is that you can fill it out in your dead time (bus stops, queues, etc…) through the emailed login link, so in a few days I’d completed it again.

Then what…

Submit!

I was SO SCARED to press the “submit” button!!

Did I have all the documents? Would it work? Would I need to print? Would I be able to download the document so I can send it to myself at work so I can print it? (note to all developers and designers: NEVER assume people have immediate access to a printer… or personal access to one at all. Use Amazon’s “Send this to a friend” idea if you can.)

Scary.

Then I started a new job, and a new colleague told me that she had done all of that recently and had used a service whereby you could go show them your passport, and keep it, rather than send it into the bureaucratic black hole of the UK for SIX F***ING MONTHS.

That sounded like a good idea.

keep my passport? yes please!

So I googled lots, and eventually discovered the european passport return service, and how it’s available at about a dozen locations around London.

Yeah, it’s a PDF. At least it works.

Only one of those was vaguely available to me. There was an email. I emailed them.

It was a few days before they called me back, and I scheduled an appointment while talking to them, right then and there. It was a week away.

They were lovely and warned me that I had to have submitted the online form NO EARLIER THAN FIVE DAYS BEFORE my appointment. (omg!)

Thankfully the awesome colleague had given me a head’s up on the “book an appointment first and THEN submit the form in the right time window”. So I was cool. I was warned. “Un homme averti en vaut deux”, say the french.

The madness came after…

My appointment was booked for a Tuesday.

submit. for real this time

So on the Friday morning – do consider the “5 days before” rule and the “I don’t have a bloody printer” condition…. – I submitted my form.

AAAAH!

And I couldn’t retrieve the checklist from my phone.

AAAAH!!

Thankfully I found the login link on my work machine, logged in from that, and grabbed the checklist and form. Printed them. And went off to crazy land.

so. much. paper.

I spent part of the weekend digging through my paper records to find P60s and P45s, and took photos of those and shoved them into evernote so I could print them. This proved completely futile, because the bureaucrats demand original documents only… But at least I have photos of them for my records!

On Monday, I printed all of those things, and spent the night organising them into “tax year” bundles, labeled with coloured paper and secured with a bulldog clip.

I was also insanely lucky to NOT have shredded bank statements from 2007 (yup…), because HSBC does NOT let you retrieve bank statements older than 6 years. (gee, thanks BANKERS)

My application was nearly 5cm thick by the time I went to submit it on Tuesday morning!!

handing it all in

My venue of choice was Chelsea Old Town Hall, because that was the nearest one. I went in through a side street, passed the wedding rooms (weird, right), and sat in a chair by a fan at the top of a staircase, in the sweltering heat.

You’d have found me right under this sexy – and not at all creepy – sign.

About 10 minutes after my appointment time, a lady came out, took my passport pictures and application form, and disappeared again.

Five minutes later she was back, and invited me to her office.

There was a “receipt” for the application, an envelope to put all the documents and my application form with photos in, and a payment of £10 to take (cards only, no cash).

Within 20min or so, we were done! My application was off!!

By the time I made it to work more than an hour later, I’d received an email from the Home Office that my application had been received!!

HURRAH!!

all done. (?)

I am, hopefully, on my way to become a UK Permanent Resident.

Not that it means anything… but it’s en route to a British Citizenship, for which I had qualified a few years ago (before they added this damn residency thing), so it’s a good start on the way to STABILITY and FREEDOM.

Although those two words are not synonymous with the current UK government as far as I can tell…

(all statements on this website are my opinions and not those of my employers, friends, colleagues, etc, etc…)

There we go.

Checklist

If all you want is the links to the useful stuff, it’s these two things right here.

  1. The (outdated) paper form (you don’t want this)
  2. The online form (this is the one you want)
  3. The European Passport return service locations in London (you also want this)

You might also like to know the order to do things in:

  1. Fill out online form.
  2. Collect paperwork (P60s, payslips, P45s, letters, for the 5-year period).
  3. Photograph paperwork for your records, because it’s disappearing in a black hole for six months.
  4. Contact your preferred European Passport Return Service Centre.
  5. Book EPRS appointment.
  6. No earlier than FIVE DAYS BEFORE your appointment, SUBMIT your form and save it
  7. Print the form and checklist. You may have to send them to yourself at work.
  8. Collate all the paperwork. I organised mine into tax years. Apparently they like it if you include a list of documents. (oops)
  9. Take passport photos and write your name on the back of two of them
  10. Go to the appointment, and hand over all this stuff
  11. Receive the confirmation email
  12. Celebrate. Always celebrate the little things!! But not too much. You never know what the outcome will be.

Yup. That’s it.

GOOD LUCK!!!

(If this was helpful or made you laugh, please leave a comment)