Friday, September 10, 2010

Ireland Take Two

I'm baaaaack. So I got a little caught up living the Irish life this past 7 months (lots of work, travelling, and a pint or two). One hundred and seventy-six episodes of Bargain Hunt later (see previous post), I have returned a wiser, more seasoned ex-patriate, which loads more to talk about. And so begins year two in Ireland. I'm still pretty jet lagged after flying in from New Jersey earlier this week. It was definitely pretty hard to come back, since I had such an amazing time with my friends and family. But luckily, I have alot to look forward to this year, including beginning part time grad school in a few weeks (more to come on that later).

It was definitely really important for me to come back to Ireland since my boyfriend and I have gotten pretty sick of doing the whole long distance thing. He's such an important part of my life, and I was desperate to find a way to stay here with him. I originally came to Ireland on a working holiday visa. This is great for people who have been out of college for less than twelve months, because it allows them to work and travel freely in Ireland for up to a year. The application process is pretty simple as well. Unfortunately for me, these visas can't be extended.

After a few months of trying to figure out how I could make this work, I started hearing about gaining De Facto Relationship Status in order to obtain a visa to remain in Ireland for another year. It seemed like some phantom loophole that no one knew two much about and most of my searches yielded nada. With my visa expiration date quickly approaching, I started to feel like Cinderella as the clock ticked towards twelve. Was this going to be the end of my fairy tale adventure abroad?

I did a bit of research on my eligibility to stay on in Ireland under this status. Official De Facto relationship information can be found here. But to be honest, it isn't really a comprehensive guide (i.e. practically no information can be found here) and I was lucky enough to have a friend whose boss went through the process himself. Basically, if you are the partner of an Irish or any EU national, for a minimum of two years, you qualify for this status if you can prove the duration and quality of this relationship.

Once you get past this point, you can start your application. Basically, the process all takes place through the post, which can be frustrating in a time when we are used to picking up the phone or shooting an email to someone for a quick piece of advice. Get over this, and half of your de facto status battle is already done. In defense of the Justice Department, they are incredibly quick and efficient in their mail responses.

There are no specific forms which must be filled out, and basically each person make up their own portfolio with information on their case. The justice department requires copies of both partner's passports (every page) and financial information on both partners (for example: pay slips, bank statements etc). Then its up to you to prove the length and quality of your relationship. This sounds weird, I know, but its actually much easier to do than you would think. Collect any piece of evidence you might have. My "relationship portfolio" included:
* A cover letter with mine and Kevin's contact details
* A letter I wrote giving a history of our relationship, why I wanted to stay, description of what I had done in Ireland for the past year, and plans for the future
*Kevin's letter giving an account of our relationship and why it was important for me to stay.
*Testimonials from my parents and siblings, Kev's parents, friends, and co workers attesting to our relationship duration and "quality"
*Our lease agreement for the apartment we share, and a few other joint contracts (ie gym membership)
*Flight records and early emails / facebook message with dates as far back as early 2008
*Tons of pictures
*Wedding invitations that were addressed to both of us
*Proof of my health insurance coverage

I placed everything in a binder and sent it off in the mail. (Address is on site linked above). Within the month, I had my response (and just four days before my original visa expired phew!). I guess the hardest part was waiting to hear back. After I received my letter saying my application was accepted, I went down to the GNIB office to register for my Stamp 4 Visa. Get their early to be seen early. And by get their early I mean around 5 am. I am not kidding. This is when the line starts outside. Otherwise, you will probably be on line for around 6 hours. Make sure you and your partner go together, and both bring your passports since they will have to verify that he/she is in fact a citizen. Hopefully this post is helpful to anyone else who is looking into the De Facto Relationship Visa. I wish I had someone to spell it all out for me. Anyone else who wants to add their experience on here, feel free.

Sorry for this information heavy post, I just figured it might be helpful to someone out there. Anyways, more to come later. I promise I'll be a little more consistent in my posts. Aka more than once in seven months. ;)

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