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Dublin: 17 °C Sunday 31 May, 2020

UK government says those born in the North to be treated as EU citizens for certain immigration purposes

Spouses of those born in the North can apply for official EEA residence permits.

Emma DeSouza and her US born husband Jake.
Emma DeSouza and her US born husband Jake.
Image: Niall Carson via PA

THE UK GOVERNMENT HAS today confirmed that the spouses of those living in Northern Ireland can now apply for official European residence permits following a change in the immigration policy.

Originally, anyone born in the North was considered a British citizen and therefore their spouses would not be entitled to an EEA residency card after Brexit.

The UK’s Home Office today confirmed that British and Irish citizens born in the North will be treated as EU citizens for certain immigration purposes, meaning that the spouses of these people who are born outside the EU can apply for a residence permit to stay in the UK post-Brexit.

Derry woman Emma De Souza brought this case to public attention.

The UK’s Home Office had rejected her husband’s, Jake DeSouza’s application for an EEA residence card in Northern Ireland, for complex reasons. Although Emma DeSouza was born in Northern Ireland, and has a right under the Good Friday Agreement to identify as either Irish or British or both, the UK has her classified as being British.

UK lawyers argued that people born in Northern Ireland are British citizens according to the 1981 British Nationality Act, even if they identify as Irish.

Speaking today, Emma DeSouza said she and her husband were “delighted” at the change of the rules.

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“These changes are on the back of years of campaigning for the full recognition of our right to be accepted as Irish or British or both under the Good Friday Agreement. 

“We have always contended that no-one should be forced to adopt or renounce a citizenship in order to access rights, to do so goes against both the letter and the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, the Home Office now concedes that point.

These changes will only apply to Northern Ireland and recognise the unique status that the region holds within the United Kingdom. Something that we have longed called for. 

“We personally know a number of families that will benefit from this change and are filled with joy and relief that these families will not face calls to renounce British citizenship or face years in court like we have.”

These changes are time-limited, from August 24th until the end of the UK’s post-Brexit transition period. 

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