Archive for the ‘Relocating’ Category

Just how long will it take to fully settle back into life here?

Looking back on it now, it was remarkably easy for Wendy to settle into life in Northern Ireland 10 years ago. Back then, she could sign up for a doctor, get a UK driving license and even a National Insurance Number wasn’t that difficult.

This time around she already had the NI Number although it turned out that there was a non-obvious form that needed to be completed to tell the tax people that we were now living here rather than in France. She had the driving license too and didn’t even need to get her photo certified as we thought she might have had to.

The doctor was a touch more difficult as they struck her off after about three weeks as they didn’t believe that she intended to live here. That’s one notable difference in the health system from the rest of the UK. Elsewhere you just need to be there to register, in NI you need to prove you intend to continue to live in NI (and, yes, that does, or rather is intended to, apply even to those moving from England to NI).

Social security is rather more difficult and as a result we ended up in court with them last Tuesday as they simply don’t believe that she is legally here at all. It looks like the critical document is going to be one that all concerned totally overlooked but more on that anon as the matter has still to be decided by the judge.


Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Just how much is the euro overvalued?

For the most part, the relative valuation of currencies isn’t something that affects day to day life for most people.

After all, outside holidays, how often do you directly buy something from overseas? Even with Internet sales sites as numerous as they are, in reality most people buy from their closest outlet for the simple reason that to do otherwise would add to the shipping costs. Even when that’s not so much the case it needs a major price disparity to make it worthwhile shipping internationally for most products.

However, that all changes when it’s a major transaction such as a house. Which is why we find ourselves wonder just what’s going to happen to the sterling/euro rate over the next six months or so.

Frankly, most ways of predicting the future direction of exchange rates are little more than gambling. However, looking at it historically the rate has been between 1.50€ to about 1.05€ over the last five years and around 1.10€ to 1.25€ over the last year. Perhaps more importantly though is that the Euro is clearly overvalued a lot. For example, the Big Mac Index puts the over-valuation at 30% (ie the 1.50€ from getting on for five year ago is the right one); the problem is that it can take a long time before a currency reaches its correct exchange rate, however one might define that.

So what’s a person to do?

In practice most people do nothing which leaves them wide-open to what can be massive exchange rate differences. For example, that 15% change over the last year might not sound like much but translate that into a house price of, say, 200,000€ and you could be looking at a change of around 30,000€ which isn’t small change obviously.

Second choice is to translate the prices into your own currency at the current rate and build that into the sale contract. A reasonable option for you, if you can convince the other party into running with it. Chances are that in reality this is going to be a non-runner.

Finally, there’s the option of using one of the currency exchange places and fixing the exchange rate in advance. There are a whole lot of options with this route but the principle differences are between committing yourself to buy/sell at the rate quoted and getting an option to buy/sell at that rate. It’s much, much better to run with the option as, of course, the exchange rate could move in your favour. With an option, you can change your mind and exchange at the better rate.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

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Have you TRIED to get to see the doctor lately?

Supposedly our doctor operates to a maximum of 48 hours delay for appointments but in reality it’s at least a week and in the winter months it can be more like two or three weeks. The net effect of that is that a rising number of people (and it’s mainly the elderly) who make a rolling series of appointments “just in case” which, naturally, clogs up the appointment calendar. In fact, one elderly lady seems to make daily appointments as she is always there when we call in.

To get around this clogging up of the appointment system they abandon it altogether at least one day a week and two or three when it’s really bad. What happens then is that they have an “open surgery” which means you need to call them between 9am and 11am when you’re put through to a doctor who decides whether or not you need to be seen. Sounds fine, but in practice we tried to get through on every opportunity for two weeks solid and didn’t manage to get anything but an engaged tone.

But even when you do get through to a doctor they’re clearly massively overworked thanks to that 100% booking of appointments. Thus it’s very much a cursory visit. So, despite us managing to get an appointment a couple of weeks ago and exhibiting all the symptoms of swine flu were just sent home and told to keep taking liquids. That’s the instruction that has managed to kill far too many people. OK, those who aren’t so healthy at the off might well die with a cold never mind flu but you don’t expect healthy people to die of the flu these days, do you?

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

How to be a legal illegal immigrant in the UK

Many years ago when Wendy was first in the UK we applied for and received a European residence permit but after we went to France we didn’t bother to renew it.

To get the European family permit (ie entry clearance visa) whilst we were in France would have entailed a three or four day trip to the embassy in Paris and a wait of anything up to a year. This made it impractical for us so we didn’t bother and instead just went without the visa. Wendy’s Australian so doesn’t need a visa to get into the UK but as it turned out, the immigration people at Rosslare just accepted our statement that we were living in Belfast and let us pass.

So, we’re in the UK sans visa. Interestingly, since there’s no requirement to register with local authorities in the UK, there appears to be nothing stopping you just staying on regardless of what any stamp in your passport may say about when you should leave.

Anyway, to get Wendy legal we, in principle, are supposed to apply for a residence permit for her. Snag is that when we arrived the processing time for this was getting on for two years (despite the legal obligation for the authorities to do it within six months) and we knew that we needed to go back to France that summer. So we didn’t bother. Next time we came back the immigration people accepted our statement about living here (which we had been doing) and off we went again.

Since we’re notionally in the process of selling our place in France we knew that we’d need to go back there at some stage to finish packing etc. but didn’t know when so a two year processing time (during which time they keep your passport) also wasn’t on. Thus we find ourselves living in the UK for getting on for two years now with nothing to show any right to do so and nobody making any attempt to deport Wendy as yet.

The one problem is with social security who have already stated that they don’t believe Wendy is here legally but, despite their obligation to do so, have done nothing about reporting her to the border agency people although they do insist that we need a European family permit.

Funnily enough, we’ve since found that, courtesy of a determination made right here in Belfast, we were correct in our assumption that we didn’t need a European family permit to enter the UK. Just as well really since it’s a visa and you can’t get a UK visa when you’re actually in the UK as you can only get UK visas from British embassies and, of course, there are no British embassies in the UK.

What we are doing, somewhat belatedly, is applying for a European residence permit. At present, the advice is that we may be turned down for this (although we may not). Being refused this permit doesn’t appear to be a problem though as there are no limits to the number of applications and appeals that you can make (all of which are free) and you’re legal in the UK whilst they’re processing the application. Since it currently takes them about six months to process an application, all that you need to do is to reapply if/when you get the refusal and you’ve another six months legality. Weird, huh?

Quite why anyone bothers trying to stay here illegally when they can legalise things seemingly permanently so easily is beyond me.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

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Tidying up the unfinished car administration from years back

When we moved to France we drove our car there with the intention of officially importing it at some stage.

However, we were rather busy in the first few months in France setting things up, then spent the rest of that first year trying to catch up on various bits of administration that we’d put off in the early part of the year. Thus it was quite late on that we started looking into importing the car.

By then we’d become rather wary of the circular path that administration often takes in France and so it was no great surprise to find that it was going to be almost impossible to import our car. Compounding the difficulties was that it was a grey (ie personal) import to the UK so it didn’t have the European type approval. That added another circle of administration to be worked through.

Fortunately in some ways the car developed a couple of what seemed like major problems if the garages were to be believed (which we later found out were relatively trivial things) at around the time when we needed to do something concrete in terms of importing the car. So we ended up just leaving it in the car park for the next six years. It’s not that we intended to do nothing about it, just that one thing or another always had a higher priority and besides the more we looked at the administration required to import it officially, the more we tended to look away.

Anyway, it’s obviously not worth a whole lot now and it’s become one of the French annoyances that need to be cleared up so we thought we’d either sell it or at least get it towed away.

It turns out that thanks to the French love of administration that we can do neither until we can come up with some ownership papers that they will recognise. The ancient log book was never going to be a runner in their eyes even if we could find it so we figured that we’d get the new V5 certificate which is a European style document that they should recognise. Now, those that have read the small print of their own V5 certificate will note that it specifically says that it’s not proof of ownership but seemingly is accepted as such in France as it is here.

So, after finally getting the VIN without which the DVLA said they wouldn’t issue a new one, we set off to Coleraine this morning. We’d a couple of queries so couldn’t use the local offices hence the trip to Coleraine. Nope, can’t issue you that. There’s a note on the record that says the car was exported back in 2005. Well, would you expect anything to do with European administration to be easy?

After some debate, it turns out that they can issue the export certificate which they should have issued back in 2005 though. This contains the same information as the V5 and moreover is free. All being well, the French will accept it.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.