Well - we made it. After much campaigning and many emails, I got the visa decision overturned at the 11th hour and on Friday morning my husband was able to go and get his visa issued at the Belgian Embassy.
In the end I did three things:
1. I continued emailing the Consul
at the embassy in London and cc'ing in the member of SOLVIT to add pressure. While I managed to get SOLVIT to agree to pursue a complaint against the embassy for me if we submitted another visa request + proof of travel to Belgium and it was turned down, no one was willing to do anything in time for Christmas. The Consul at the embassy just repeated that he had no power to authorise Visas 'ex-officio' and that everything had to go through Brussels via a completely new visa application.
2. I wrote directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
in Brussels, to the attention of the director-general of the immigration department. I sent a similar email to the one I'd sent to the embassy insisting that my husband was entitled to the visa and quoting the directive. One working day later I had a reply from a caseworker from the 'Short Stay' unit saying she was going to contact the embassy in London and look in to my case. The following day I got the following email:
Dear Misses XXXXX,
The embassy did not fully inform us about the fact that Mister XXXXX intended to travel with his British spouse, therefore we have now changed the decision.
Ofcourse you shall have to give the proof that you will travel with your husband to Belgium or that he will join you in Belgium.
Best regards ,
FOD Binnenlandse Zaken | SPF Intérieur
Dienst Vreemdelingenzaken - Office des Etrangers
Kort Verblijf - Court Séjour
Antwerpsesteenweg 59 B - Chaussée d’Anvers
1000 Brussel – Bruxelles
Then a few minutes later I received this email from the consul who I'd been pleading with all week:
Dear Mrs. xxxx
Our authorities in Brussels have just informed me that they have reconsidered their decision about your husband’s visa application.
I am now authorized to give him a Schengen visa on the condition that either you travel both together to Belgium or he travels to rejoin you in Belgium.
His visa will be issued right away at our Embassy upon presentation of returns ticket London-Brussels in the name of both of you.
Our visa section will be open tomorrow 21/12 between 9 and 12 am (address: Grosvenor Crescent 17); please note that our offices will be closed between 22 and 30/12.
So in the end I had to bypass the embassy and liase directly with the immigration officers in Brussels to get anywhere, even though it turns out that the embassy actually were at fault and didn't submit the correct information in the first place.
3. In the meantime I also submitted details
of what happened to 'My Europe Advice' http://europa.eu/youreurope/advice/index_en.htm
and they sent me a response within 4 working days which was excellent. They encouraged me to do the 'EU spouse' border crossing and included links to the directive and its implementation in Belgium to print out and take with me. I was very impressed with this service and would absolutely contact them again.
Here's the response in full - sorry it's a bit long.
Please find below the reply to your enquiry. Please note that the advice given by Your Europe Advice is an independent advice and cannot be considered to be the opinion of the European Commission, of any other EU institution or its staff nor will this advice be binding upon the European Commission, any other EU or national institution.
Thank you, Ms XXX, for contacting Your Europe Advice.
We are sorry to hear that your husband has been denied a visa to Belgium. We can confirm that the Belgian authorities have breached Article 5(2) of Directive 2004/38 which exempts family members of EU citizens from the need to provide supporting documents relating to the purpose of their journey, proof of financial resources and proof of accommodation. We therefore invite you to contact the Belgian consular authorities in London again and ask them to reconsider their advice. You may wish to provide them with a copy of our advice.
In the event that your husband is not issued a visa in time for your travel, your husband must nonetheless be permitted to enter Belgium without a visa or he must be allowed to apply for a visa at the border as explained further below. You should travel with a copy of this advice, your passports and your marriage certificate.
1. YOUR HUSBAND’S RIGHT TO OBTAIN A VISA TO TRAVEL TO BELGIUM
Under Article 5(2) of Directive 2004/38, at the spouse of an EU citizen, your husband has a right to obtain his entry visa free of charge and on the basis of an accelerated procedure since he understand he will be travelling with you to Belgium or joining you there. This Directive applies to your husband regardless of whether he will be traveling to Belgium from outside the EU.
The rules on the issue of Schengen visas are contained in the Visa Code (Regulation 810/2009) and the Visa Handbook (Decision C (2010) 1620 final).
Article 23(1) of the Visa Code clearly states that applications for a Schengen visa should be decided within 15 calendar days from the date of application.
Part III of the Visa Handbook (Decision C (2010) 1620 final), sets out how the Schengen visa rules should be applied to family members of EU citizens. In particular, Section 3.4 specifies that the consular authorities should process visas within 15 days in the absence of exceptional circumstances. Section 3.6 of the Visa Handbook specifies that your husband should only need to furnish the following documents in accordance with Directive 2004/38 on residence and travel rights of EU citizens:
-proof that you are an EU citizen from whom your husband can derive his rights (by providing a copy of your passport);
-proof that your husband is a family member (by providing your marriage certificate and a copy of his passport); and
-proof that your husband is accompanying you to Belgium or joining you there (for example, ticket reservation to show you will be traveling there together and a letter from you to confirm this).
The other documents required for ordinary Schengen visas do not apply to family members of EU citizens.
We can therefore confirm that you should not need to provide supporting documents relating to the purpose of travel, sufficient accommodation, subsistence and travel insurance.
This is made clear on the official standard application form for Schengen visas available on the website of the Belgian Office for Immigration:
https://dofi.ibz.be/sites/dvzoe/FR/Docu ... V%20FR.doc
The form clearly states:
“The fields marked with (*) shall not be filled in by family members of EU, EEA or CH citizens (spouse, child or dependent ascendant) while exercising their right to free movement. Family members of EU, EEA or CH citizens shall present documents to prove this relationship and fill in fields No 34 and 35”
This applies to questions 19, 20, 31, 32 and 33 on the form:
*19. Current occupation
*20. Employer and employer’s address and telephone number. For students, name and address of educational establishment
*31. Surname and first name of the host person(s) in the Member State(s). If not applicable, name of hotel(s) or temporary accommodation(s) in the Member State(s)
Address and e-mail address of host person(s)/hotel(s)/temporary accommodation(s)
*32. Name and address of host company/organisation
Telephone and telefax of company/organisation
Surname, first name, address, telephone, telefax, and e-mail address of contact person in company/organisation
* 33.Cost of travelling and living during the applicant's stay is covered
The form also clearly states that the application should be free.
This is all confirmed on the website of the Belgian Officer for Immigration:
https://dofi.ibz.be/sites/dvzoe/FR/Guid ... union.aspx
We therefore invite you to make contact with the Belgian consular authorities in London and ask them to reconsider their refusal. Please feel free to provide them a copy of this advice.
2. YOUR HUSBAND’S RIGHT TO ENTER BELGIUM WITHOUT A VISA OR APPLY FOR A VISA AT THE BORDER WHEN ENTERING BELGIUM
In the event that your husband is unable to secure a visa for himself before your departure, you should know that the Belgian authorities must allow your husband to enter Belgium after proving that he is the family member of an EU citizen and allow him to apply for a visa at the border if need be.
Directive 2004/38 (which regulates travel and residence rights within the EU) would also allow your husband to enter another country even if he does not have the correct an entry visa.
Article 5(4) of the Directive specifies that “Where a Union citizen, or a family member who is not a national of a Member State, does not have the necessary travel documents or, if required, the necessary visas, the Member State concerned shall, before turning them back, give such persons every reasonable opportunity to obtain the necessary documents or have them brought to them within a reasonable period of time or to corroborate or prove by other means that they are covered by the right of free movement and residence.”
In Belgium Directive 2004/38 is implemented by the Belgian Immigration Decree of which reads as follows in French:
Arrêté royal du 7 mai 2008 sur l'accès au territoire, le séjour, l'établissement et l'éloignement des étrangers, Article 47 § 1.
« Conformément à l'article 41, alinéa 2, de la loi, les autorités chargées du contrôle aux frontières autorisent l'accès au territoire au membre de la
famille du citoyen l'Union qui n'est pas citoyen de l'Union, et qui n'est pas titulaire des documents requis en vertu de l'article 2 de la loi, sur la
production d'un des documents suivants :
1° un passeport national ou une carte d'identité valable ou non ….
Si le membre de la famille est soumis à l’obligation de visa, il reçoit un visa, ou, si l’intéressé n’a pas de passeport en cours de validité, une autorisation tenant lieu de visa d’une durée de validité de 3 mois.»
In accordance with the EU Court of Justice’s ruling in MRAX Case C-459/99  ECR I-6591, national authorities are prohibited to send back a non-EU national who is able to prove his identity and that he is married to an EU citizen where there is no evidence to suggest he represents a risk to public policy, public security or public health.
The relevant part of the MRAX judgment reads as follows in French:
Arrêt de la Cour dans l’affaire C-459/99 Mouvement contre le racisme, l'antisémitisme et la xénophobie ASBL (MRAX), points 60 et 61:
« 60 Cependant, les articles 3, paragraphe 2, de la directive 68/360 et 3, paragraphe 2, de la directive 73/148 [désormais l’article 5, paragraphe 4, de la directive 2004/38] précisent que «[l]es États membres accordent à ces personnes toutes facilités pour obtenir les visas qui leur seraient nécessaires». Cela signifie que, sous peine de méconnaître le plein effet des dispositions précitées des directives 68/360 et 73/148 [remplacées depuis par la directive 2004/38], la délivrance du visa doit intervenir dans les plus brefs délais et, dans la mesure du possible, sur les lieux d'entrée sur le territoire national. »
« 61 Compte tenu de l'importance que le législateur communautaire a attachée à la protection de la vie familiale (voir point 53 du présent arrêt), le refoulement est, en tout état de cause, disproportionné et, partant, interdit si le ressortissant d'un pays tiers, conjoint d'un ressortissant d'un État membre, est en mesure de prouver son identité ainsi que le lien conjugal et s'il n'existe pas d'éléments de nature à établir qu'il représente un danger pour l'ordre public, la sécurité publique ou la santé publique au sens des articles 10 de la directive 68/360 et 8 de la directive 73/148 [remplacées depuis par la directive 2004/38]. »
Under Article 5(4) of Directive 2004/38, the national authorities must grant family members of EU citizens “every reasonable opportunity to obtain the necessary documents”. This would include the obligation on national authorities to give family members the right to apply for a Schengen visa at the border in accordance with Article 35 of the Schengen Visa Code (Regulation 810/2009) read in conjunction with Article 5 of the Schengen Borders Code (Regulation 562/2006).
Article 35 of the Schengen Visa Code (Regulation 810/2009) reads as follows in French:
Règlement (CE) No 810/2009 du Parlement européen et du Conseil du 13 juillet 2009 établissant un code communautaire des visas (code des visas), Article 35 :
« Visas demandés aux frontières extérieures
1. À titre exceptionnel, un visa peut être délivré aux points de passage frontaliers si les conditions ci-après sont remplies:
a) le demandeur remplit les conditions énoncées à l’article 5, paragraphe 1, points a), c), d) et e), du code frontières Schengen;
b) le demandeur n’a pas été en mesure de demander un visa à l’avance et, sur demande, il fait valoir par des pièces justificatives la réalité de motifs d’entrée imprévisibles et impérieux; et
c) le retour du demandeur vers son pays d’origine ou de résidence, ou son transit par des États autres que les États membres mettant en œuvre l’intégralité de l’acquis de Schengen est considéré comme garanti. »
Article 5 of the Schengen Borders Code (Regulation 562/2006)
Règlement (CE) No 562/2006 du Parlement européen et du Conseil du 15 mars 2006 établissant un code communautaire relatif au régime de franchissement des frontières par les personnes (code frontières Schengen), Article 5 :
« Conditions d'entrée pour les ressortissants de pays tiers
1. Pour un séjour n'excédant pas trois mois sur une période de six mois, les conditions d'entrée pour les ressortissants de pays tiers sont les suivantes:
a) être en possession d'un document ou de documents de voyage en cours de validité permettant le franchissement de la frontière;
c) justifier l'objet et les conditions du séjour envisagé, et disposer des moyens de subsistance suffisants, tant pour la durée du séjour envisagé que pour le retour dans le pays d'origine ou le transit vers un pays tiers dans lequel leur admission est garantie, ou être en mesure d'acquérir légalement ces moyens;
d) ne pas être signalé aux fins de non-admission dans le SIS;
e) ne pas être considéré comme constituant une menace pour l'ordre public, la sécurité intérieure, la santé publique ou les relations internationales de l'un des États membres et, en particulier, ne pas avoir fait l'objet d'un signalement aux fins de non-admission dans les bases de données nationales des États membres pour ces mêmes motifs. »
We hope this answers your query.
We remain at your disposal, should you require further information.
To submit another enquiry, please visit Your Europe Advice, but do not reply to this e-mail.
Your original enquiry was:
My husband, a non EU national was refused a Schengen Visa from the Belgian Embassy in London. The reasons given included a lack of proof of financial means, a lack of hotel booking etc - all reasons that are irrelevant under the EU directive 2004/38/EC.
My husband has had 4 previous Schengen visas - 2 of these were granted by the same Belgian embassy in London, however under the last visa they granted, we had to change our travel plans to visit Belgium due to a series of Eurostar Strikes.
My belief is that the visa was denied solely because the last visa was not used to visit Belgium (this was another reason given) and is an act from the embassy to prevent what they consider to be 'visa shopping'.
My husband visited Belgium with the first visa he was granted and therefore does not have a 'history' of applying for visas and failing to visit the Schengen member state he has applied with.
We had made plans to travel on Dec 22nd (the visa application was lodged 4 weeks ago today) which we believe should be honoured and the visa granted.
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I hope this is helpful to anyone else who might end up in a similar situation.
Happy holidays and thanks again to Ca Funke, EUsmileWEallsmile and Directive/2004/38/EC who have given so much of their time and excellent information on this board.