complied by Judit Adorjan

Positive news for family members of Northern Irish & victims of domestic violence or abuse

On 14 May 2020 the Home Office published a new statement of changes bringing immigration law in line with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which allows anyone born in Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as British, Irish, or having dual citizenship.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/statement-of-changes-to-the-immigration-rules-cp-232-14-may-2020

This concludes the 3 year battle of Emma De Souza in the landmark court case De Souza (Good Friday Agreement: nationality) United States of America [2019] UKUT 355 (IAC), to be recognised by the Home Office as Irish, a right enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement .

The case arose out of Mr De Souza’s visa problems, as an American citizen who wished to live with his wife in Northern Ireland. To avoid being subjected to stringent family immigration rules that apply to the spouses of British citizens, he applied for a residence card as the spouse of an EU citizen.

Judit Adorjan

The Home Office has rejected his application stating that this procedure is not available to family members of British citizens, Ms De Souza being legally a UK citizen as well as Irish.

Ms De Souza accepts only her Irish citizenship and strongly objects to having British nationality stating that Northern Irish people cannot be forced to start life with dual citizenship — is supported by the Good Friday Agreement. Her campaign gained the support of both countries’ prime ministers.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/may/14/northern-ireland-born-british-and-irish-win-eu-citizenship-rights

In court, the Home Office had argued the only way it could deal with the case was for Ms De Souza to renounce her status as a British citizen.

After several unsuccessful legal challenges, Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney took the case up and raised concerns that the British immigration law had not been updated to enshrine the Good Friday Agreement.

This recent policy change delivers on the commitment the UK government made in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement in January 2020 which restored the power sharing executive in Northern Ireland.

Family members of Northern Irish with British or Irish citizenship will be eligible to apply for a UK immigration status under the EUSS from the 24th August 2020 on the same terms as family members of Irish citizens in the UK.

As a result, family members of the Northern Irish could avoid having to apply for an immigration status under Part 8, Appendix FM of the immigration rules thus bypassing restrictions regarding financial and English language requirements, as well as high visa fees and surcharges.

The changes made to the immigration rules also extend the scope for victims of domestic violence or abuse to apply for a status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

The current rules limit residency rights to a former spouse or civil partner whose marriage or civil partnership has been legally terminated and who was a victim of domestic violence or abuse while the marriage/civil partnership was subsisting.

From the 24th August 2020 any family member within the scope of the EUSS (a spouse, a civil partner, durable partner, child, dependent parent or dependent relative) whose family relationship with a relevant EEA citizen or with a qualifying British citizen has broken down permanently as a result of domestic violence or abuse will have a continued right of residence where this is warranted by domestic violence or abuse against them or another family member.

A family member applying under the EUSS or for an EUSS family permit may be required to provide a certified English translation of (or a multilingual standard form to accompany) a document submitted as a required evidence of the family relationship where this is necessary for the purposes of deciding whether they meet the eligibility requirements.

Guidance relating to these rule changes will shortly follow on the government’s website.