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CHILDREN BORN IN IRELAND WITHOUT ENTITLEMENT TO NATIONALITY OF ANY OTHER COUNTRY

Berkeley Solicitors continues to act for a number of children born in Ireland without an entitlement to nationality of any other country.

We believe that our clients are entitled to Irish citizenship pursuant to Article 6(3) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956.

Section 6 (3) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended by section 3(1) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 2001, states as follows:

“A person born in the island of Ireland is an Irish citizen from birth if he or she is not entitled to citizenship of any other country.”

Berkeley Solicitors is proud to have successfully acted for one client who was approved a Certificate of Nationality on foot of Section 6 (3) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended.

We currently have a number of similar applications pending. However, these applications tend to be subject to very long delays.

Further difficulties arise because the Minister has failed to implement a lawful application procedure for such children applying for recognition of their Irish citizenship.

Berkeley Solicitors calls on the Minister to implement a lawful procedure for the small cohort of children resident in Ireland, who are entitled to Irish citizenship pursuant to Section 6 (3) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended.

 

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE ANNOUNCES CHANGES TO REQUIREMENTS FOR CHILDREN APPLYING FOR IRISH CITIZENSHIP

On 23rd March 2021, the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, announced that she will make it easier for children born here, whose parents are not Irish citizens and who are not entitled to citizenship at birth, to gain Irish citizenship themselves.

The current policy is that a child born in the State, but who is not entitled to citizenship by birth, needs to be resident in Ireland for five of the previous eight years before they can apply for citizenship.

Minister McEntee announced that she intends to reduce the residency requirements for such children from five years to three years.

These changes will be contained in the upcoming Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2021, which is expected to be submitted to Government in the coming weeks.

Once this legislation comes into force, the number of years a minor must be resident in Ireland will now be two years out of the previous eight, in addition to the requirement to have one year’s continuous residence immediately prior to their citizenship application.

Announcing this step, the Minister for Justice commented:

“The granting of Irish citizenship is a privilege and an honour which is recognised by the thousands of people who apply every year. It is my hope that reducing the amount of time children of non-Irish nationals born in Ireland have to wait before being eligible for citizenship will provide comfort and reassurance to many families across the country.

 This amendment provides increased security for children where a parent subsequently falls out of permission as the child will be entitled to Irish citizenship and will therefore be an EU citizen with the right to remain in the State with a non-EEA national guardian or parent.

However, it will not broaden the categories of children who are entitled to citizenship and this amendment will only apply to the children of those parents who are legally resident in the State. Children born here to non-national parents who have three years prior residency will continue to be Irish citizens from birth.”

This is a welcome development which will allow children who are currently on a pathway to citizenship to attain this status at a much earlier stage.

The full announcement can be read here.

If you or a family member have any queries about applying for Irish citizenship, please contact our office.

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE ANNOUNCES NEW TEMPORARY PROCESS FOR GRANTING CITIZENSHIP DURING COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS

On 18th January 2021, the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee announced a new temporary process for the granting of citizenship during Covid-19 restrictions.

In normal circumstances, successful applicants are required to attend a citizenship ceremony in order to obtain a certificate of nationality.

However, citizenship ceremonies have been suspended since March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under the new temporary system, qualifying applicants will be asked to complete a statutory declaration that will be emailed to them by the Citizenship Division of the Department of Justice. They will be required to bring the statutory declaration to one of the listed designated officials who will witness the applicant sign the statutory declaration.

The applicant must then send the signed statutory declaration, the appropriate fee and any other requested documentation to the Department’s Citizenship Division. A certificate of naturalisation signed by the Minister for Justice will then be sent to the applicant.

This new system is in place from 18th January 2021.

Commenting on the new system, the Minister stated Minister McEntee said:

“The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which is recognised by the thousands of people who apply every year. I am pleased that we can now bring some certainty to the people whose applications have effectively been on hold during the pandemic.

Approximately 4,000 applicants have not been able to receive a certificate of naturalisation due to the temporary suspension of citizenship ceremonies. The process I am opening today means that certificates can now be granted again, once the signed and witnessed statutory declaration and relevant fee has been received by my Department.”

The Department of Justice will be in contact with qualifying applicants regarding the requirements on a phased basis over the next few months until in-person citizenship ceremonies are able to recommence.

The Department stated that the 4,000 applicants currently waiting on naturalisation will have been provided with an opportunity to gain citizenship by the end of March.

The Minister also commented that in-person ceremonies are provisionally scheduled to resume in December 2021.

In addition to this, Minister McEntee outlined some additional digital measures that she intends to implement in order to simplify the naturalisation process:

“I am putting the Justice Sector on a Digital First footing and will move our services away from old, paper-based systems.

Plans for the digitalisation of the naturalisation process are well advanced, through increased digital and ICT investment. As part of this process, eTax-clearance for citizenship applicants has been introduced. Online payments have been trialled for applications from minors and the process is currently being rolled out to adult applications on a phased basis.”

If you have any queries about the naturalisation process, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

NEW IMMIGRATION SCHEME FOR NON-EEA FAMILY MEMBERS OF BRITISH CITIZENS FOLLOWING END OF BREXIT TRANSITIONAL PERIOD

On 23rd December 2020 the ISD published the Minister’s new scheme in relation to Non-EEA Family Members of UK Citizens intending to reside in the State from 1st January 2021 onwards.

The rights of British citizens to reside in Ireland remains unchanged. The rights of family reunification with Non-EEA family members has now changed dramatically.

British citizens who exercised their rights of free movement to Ireland prior to 31.12.20 will continue to hold rights to family reunion equivalent to those provided for by Directive 2004/28/EC and the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2015.

British citizens who have moved to reside and work in Ireland and who wish to be joined by their Non-EEA family members from 1st January 2021 onwards will have their family members applications considered and assessed under this newly published scheme.

A key point to note is that all applications are to be made from outside of the State regardless of an applicant’s nationality. This is a fundamental difference to applications from family members of Irish and other Non-EEA family members- applicants from “visa required” countries apply for visas whilst remaining outside the State, applicants from “non visa required” countries can travel to the State and make their application for entry at the airport. For non-EEA family members of British citizens, a visa application must be made for visa required nationals and a preclearance application is to be made for non-visa required applicants.

The policy specifically confirms that an applicant currently in the State on visitor permission cannot apply from inside the State for a change to a long-term permission.

Where a non-EEA national holds a separate immigration permission within the State for the purpose of study, work, etc., and subsequently becomes the spouse/civil partner/ de facto partner of a British citizen, a change of status request may be made.

The INIS Policy on Non-EEA Family reunification, last updated in December 2016 continues to apply to the non-EEA family members of Irish citizens and legally resident Non-EEA nationals.

This new policy specifically relates to non-EEA family members of British citizens.

There are no minimum Irish residency requirements for UK citizens seeking to sponsor a specified non-EEA national family member.

Financial thresholds:

For all categories of applications:

In order to sponsor a specified non-EEA national family member, a UK citizen must not have been totally or predominantly reliant on social protection benefits in the State or to equivalent benefits in another State for a continuous period of at least 2 years prior to the application.

Applications involving spouses/ partners only:

The WFP does not apply in the case of a married couple, civil partner / de facto partnership where there are no children and consequently a minimum level of assessable income for couples without children is €20,000 per annum, over and above any entitlement to State benefits.

Applications involving minor children/ dependent children up to the age of 22 of British citizen or partner/spouse of British citizen:

In addition, the sponsor must have earned a gross income in each of the 3 previous years in excess of that applied by the Department of Social Protection (DSP) in assessing eligibility for Working Family Payment (WFP).

4.6 A sponsor who wishes to reside with their dependent children in the State requires the net assessable income per week for their family size as set out by the Department of Social Protection (DSP) in assessing eligibility for the Working Family Payment, as published on that Department’s website. The sponsor should comply with those limits including with respect to any changes to the WFP as published at (http://www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/Working-Family-Payment-Op.aspx.)

Applications for dependent parents (aged 66 and over)

A sponsor will be required to have earned in each of the 3 years preceding the application, an income after tax and deductions of not less that €60,000 per annum in the case of one parent. €75,000 per annum applies where two parents are involved.

The expectation is that this minimum level of income will be maintained for the duration of any permission granted under this Scheme. Where such income levels are not maintained, permission may not be renewed under the Scheme. At the date of application, the sponsor is also required to show that he/she is capable of earning a sufficient level of income to support his/her dependent family members for the duration of their proposed residence in the State.

Eligible applicants

British citizens moving to Ireland from 1.1.21 onwards no longer have the legal entitlement to apply for entry and residence for their wider dependent Non-EEA family members and members of their households. Eligible family members are specifically listed under the Scheme and the immigration stamp to be granted to the applicant if successful are also outlined:

  • Spouse, (Stamp 4D)
  • civil partner, (Stamp 4D)
  • de factor partner (2 years cohabitation required), (Stamp 4D)
  • minor children, (Stamp 3 up to age of 18, Stamp 4D at age of 18 “upon application”).
  • children between the ages of 18 and 22 in certain circumstances of dependency (also applies to the children of the spouse/ civil partner and de facto partner of British citizen) (Stamp 4D)
  • elderly dependent parents of British citizen or spouse/partner of British citizen (must be 66 years of age of older), (Stamp 0).

The policy is silent on the conditions of Stamp 4D permission and the INIS webpage has not yet been updated to outline the conditions of Stamp 4D permission and any material differences between Stamp 4D and Stamp 4.

Other additional requirements:

There are also additional requirements, not required under the 2016 INIS family reunification policy document, namely the requirement for the applicants to have health insurance in place to commence from the date of entry to the State and the requirement to provide a police clearance certificate for any country resided in for in excess of 6 months over the previous 5 years.

Fees are payable in respect of applications under this scheme, €60 per visa/ pre clearance application and the registration fees of €300 will be applied to successful applicants.

Full details on the scheme can be found via the below:

http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/policy-document-brexit-scheme-non-eea-family-british-citizens-seeking-immigration-permission.pdf/Files/policy-document-brexit-scheme-non-eea-family-british-citizens-seeking-immigration-permission.pdf

http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/joining-your-uk-national-family-member-in-ireland

Please get in contact if you or your family are impacted by this new scheme.

SUPREME COURT TO MAKE A REFERENCE TO THE CJEU IN SUBHAN AND ALI TEST CASE

Supreme Court to make a reference to the CJEU in Subhan and Ali test case

SUPREME COURT TO MAKE A REFERENCE TO THE CJEU IN SUBHAN AND ALI TEST CASE

On the 21st December 2020, the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in the case of Subhan and Ali v the Minister for Justice and Equality.

The applicants, who are clients’ of Berkeley Solicitors, issued proceedings to challenge a refusal of the EU residence card on the basis that the applicant was not a member of the household of the EU citizen. For further details on this case, refer to our previous article below:

https://berkeleysolicitors.ie/court-of-appeal-judgment-on-membership-of-the-same-household-in-eu-treaty-rights-cases/

The Subhan and Ali case has become a test case to establish the meaning of the term members of the household of the Union citizen” for the purposes of the Citizens’ Directive, and has a number of cases following it in the High Court holding list.

Mr Justice Charleton, who delivered the judgement on behalf of the Supreme Court today, stated the issue as to who is a member of the household of an EU citizen when exercising rights of free movement from one country to another, requires reference to the CJEU.

The questions to be referred to the CJEU are as follows:

  1. Can the term member of the household of an EU citizen, as used in Article 3 of Directive 2004/38/EC, be defined so as to be of universal application throughout the EU and if so what is that definition?
  2. If that term cannot be defined, by what criteria are judges to look at evidence so that national courts may decide according to a settled list of factors who is or who is not a member of the household of an EU citizen for the purpose of freedom of movement?

The reference to the CJEU is welcomed as this should finally bring clarity to who is entitled to a residence card as a member of the EU citizen’s household.

Further updates on this case will be posted here.

STATELESS CHILD BORN IN IRELAND GRANTED A CERTIFICATE OF NATIONALITY

We at Berkeley Solicitors would like to extend our warmest congratulations to our client and their minor child who was recently granted a certificate of nationality pursuant to Section 28 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956.

The case involved a minor child whose parents hold “Aliens” passports, and do not have citizenship of any country.

Our client is therefore a stateless minor child who was born in Ireland but was not entitled to Irish citizenship by birth pursuant to Section 6A of the Irish National and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended because neither of their parents has acquired three years reckonable residence prior to the birth of their child.

Section 6 (3) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended, which states as follows.

“A person born in the island of Ireland is an Irish citizen from birth if he or she is not entitled to citizenship of any other country.”

In order for our client to have her right to Irish citizenship recognised under this provision, we applied to the Minister for a Certificate of Nationality pursuant to Section 28 of the 1956 Act which states as follows:

“(1) Any person who claims to be an Irish citizen, other than a naturalised Irish citizen, may apply to the Minister or, if resident outside Ireland, to any Irish diplomatic officer or consular officer for a certificate of nationality stating that the applicant is, at the date of the certificate, an Irish citizen; and the Minister or officer, if satisfied that-

(a) the applicant is an Irish citizen, and

(b) the issue of the certificate is necessary in all the circumstances of the case,
may issue a certificate of nationality to him accordingly.”

The granting of this application now means that our client is recognised as an Irish citizen by birth on the basis that she is not entitled to citizenship in any other country. Our clients can now apply for an Irish passport for their minor child, which is a wonderful conclusion to their case.

This is a significant decision for other stateless persons who may have a baby born in Ireland who is not entitled to any citizenship from another country. We at Berkeley Solicitors would be happy to advise any clients in similar situations and would encourage you or any family members in such positions to contact our office.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT JUDGEMENT ON GOOD CHARACTER ASSESSMENTS IN NATURALISATION APPLICATIONS

The Court of Appeal have delivered another important judgement relating to the Minister’s assessement of “good character” for the purposes of applications for naturalisation in the case of MNN v Minister for Justice and Equality [2020] IECA 187.

Along with the recent judgement of Talla v Minister for Justice and Equality [2020] IECA 135 this judgement is an important ruling with respect to the Minister’s obligations when conducting assessments of “good character” and could see a shift in the way in which applications for naturalisation are to be considered by the Minister.

The applicant in this case applied for naturalisation in October 2013 and received a refusal of his application based on good character grounds.

The applicant declared in his application that he had two convictions for road traffic matters, which occurred in December 2012, namely failure to display road tax and failure to display insurance disc. The applicant had only become aware of these matters in 2013 as the fixed penalty notices and summons had been sent to his former address with his spouse, which he never received.

In early 2016, the Minister sought further information from the applicant in relation to an incident in which he was described in the report as a “witness”, where Section 12 of the Child Care Act had been invoked following a domestic altercation.

The applicant provided a thorough explanation for this matter and had instructed legal representation in September 2017 to make further representations to the Minister. The court described the applicant as providing a “frank and forthright explanation”.

Some four and half years after applying for naturalisation, the applicant’s application was refused in February 2018. The Court examined in detail the “submission” upon which the decision to refuse was based. The Court noted that it was unclear if the decision maker had access to all the relevant information and context, including the applicant’s detailed representations in relation to the incidents.

The Court highlighted that the Minister’s absolute discretion in determining applications for naturalisation does not “relieve the Minister of the obligation to operate within the rule of law”.

The Court goes on to outline a set of principles to be applied in assessing good character and notes that even though naturalisation is a privilege, applicants do not enjoy “inferior legal protection”. Good character is to be assessed “against reasonable standards of civic responsibility” and the connection between character and criminality can only be established when the Minister has all information including “context and mitigating factors”. The Minister must undertake a comprehensive assessment of the person and “all aspects of character”, and “Whether the appellant is a model citizen plays no part in what the Minister has to determine…”.

The Court set out the test for assessing applicants who may have a criminal offence in their past:

“Criminal convictions are relevant to the assessment of character, but they are not, in themselves, determinative thereof. Thus, it is not sufficient for the Minister to have regard only to the fact that an applicant for naturalisation has criminal convictions. What is required is a consideration of ‘all aspects of an applicant’s character’ in deciding whether he or she meets the relevant requirement for the purpose of s. 15 of the Act. The correct test is worth repeating. It is not whether an applicant has previous criminal convictions- it is wider in scope than that. An applicant may be assessed as a person of good character even if he has criminal convictions, perhaps, all the more, so if the convictions in question relate to strict liability offence. Such offences do not depend of personal moral culpability. As noted by Lang J. in Hiri, a person may still be of good character notwithstanding a criminal conviction and a person may not be of good character despite having a clean criminal record.”

The Court reiterates that the Minister is entitled to take into consideration “allegations” or matters that do not result in criminal proceedings, however they should be taken into assessment with “all relevant information”.

The Minster in this case was found to have considered the “alleged incidents” as more than alleged.

The Court emphasised that where the Minister relies on traffic offences to determine that the appellant is not of good character, he must have an understanding of the nature of the offences. Also, the understanding that leads the Minister to conclude that the applicant is not of good character must be stated in reasons that can be understood by the Applicant.

The Court was not satisfied that the Minister had before him all the relevant information to enable him to form a reasonable view as to whether the appellant was of good character. The Court emphasised that there was nothing on the face of the decision to suggest the entire file, including the applicant’s submissions regarding the incidents, were considered by the decision maker.

The decision was therefore held to be unlawful as it was not evident that the Minister had considered the applicant’s submissions in reaching the conclusion that the applicant was not of good character.

The decision making process in itself, was found by the Court to be in breach of natural and constitutional justice.

This is a very significant judgement from the Court of Appeal, because it raises questions regarding the legality of many decisions of the Minister in refusing naturalisation on good character grounds.

If you have been refused naturalisation on the grounds of good character please contact the office to discuss your case with us.

CURRENT DELAYS ON THE PROCESSING OF EU TREATY RIGHTS APPLICATIONS

 

Principal of Berkeley Solicitors, Karen Berkeley, was quoted in The Times on the 6th July 2020 highlighting her concerns regarding the current delays in the processing of EU Treaty Rights applications.

The article referred to the Minister’s recent response to a Parliamentary Question, in which the Minister confirmed as follows:

There is a significant number of review cases on hand arising from a sustained increase in applications since 2014. Currently, there are 2,283 cases awaiting processing at EU Treaty Rights review stage, of which 1,751 review applications (76%) have been awaiting a decision for over a year, with the oldest cases having been received in May 2017.

Ms Berkeley indicated her concern regarding these delays which have been creeping up over the last number of years. She stated that the courts have suggested that six months is a reasonable timeframe for the EUTR review applications, and once the timeframe goes beyond six months the Department may potentially be in reach of the EU law.

Ms Berkeley highlighted some clients of her office are waiting up to 18 months for a decision, a clear breach of the EU law. She also confirmed that Berkeley Solicitors are currently taking cases to court for some clients who are experiencing these delays.

The delays are a particular problem for the family members of British citizens currently waiting the outcome of their EU Treaty Rights review applications. After the 31st December 2020, their EU Treaty Rights will cease due to the end of the Brexit transition period. There is no clarity on what will happen to these pending applications

Read the full article here:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/immigration-permits-under-eu-treaty-taking-over-a-year-hn29fv09b

Read the Minister’s response to the Parliamentary Question here:

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PQ-30-06-2020-287

SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT ON FAMILY REUNIFICATION FOR NATURALISED REFUGEES: M.A.M. (SOMALIA) AND K.N. (UZBEKISTAN)

Berkeley Solicitors are delighted to congratulate our client who won her appeal in the Supreme Court today in the joint test cases of – M.A.M. (Somalia) v The Minister for Justice and Equality and K.N. (Uzbekistan) and Others v The Minister for Justice. The judgement of Mr Justice McMenamin was a unanimous judgement of the Supreme Court in favour of the appellants, and was delivered on the 19th June 2020.

The judgement is very significant as it affects not just the individual families taking the appeal, but approximately fifty other applicant families who have cases pending in the High Court holding list awaiting the outcome of this Supreme Court appeal.

The case arose from a challenge to the decision of the Minister for Justice to refuse family reunification to our client’s family members under The Refugee Act of 1996 (as amended). The sole reason for the Minister’s decision was the fact that our client had become an Irish citizen by naturalisation prior to her family reunification application, and the Minister held she was not therefore entitled to the family reunification rights as a refugee.

During the course of the proceedings, the Minister accepted that the Department of Justice had previously interpreted Section 18 of the 1996 Refugee Act to permit naturalised refugees to apply for family reunification for their family members, and this favourable scheme was in operation between 2010 and October 2017. The Minister also accepted that in October 2017, following new legal advices, the Minister commenced a new procedure to preclude naturalised refugees from applying for family reunification. This change in policy resulted in many naturalised refugees being refused family reunification during the period of 2017 and 2018, prior to the commencement of the family reunification provisions of the International Protection Act 2015.

The Minister argued that in order for a person to have rights to family reunification under Section 18 of the 1996 Act, not only must they hold a declaration confirming their refugee status, but they must also be a refugee in line with the definition of a refugee in Section 2 of the Act. As this definition requires a person to be outside their “country of nationality” to be a refugee, the Minister’s argument was that a refugee who becomes naturalised is no longer deemed to be a refugee as they are not outside their country of nationality, when that country becomes Ireland.

The Supreme Court disregarded this argument, holding that there was nothing to suggest in the Act that the appellants’ “country of nationality” had altered from Somalia and Uzbekistan to Ireland, as their well-founded fear of persecution remained  in those countries and not Ireland.

The Supreme Court carried out a detailed statutory interpretation exercise in respect of the 1996 Refugee Act, and highlighted the absurdities that would follow if a refugee with a declaration of refugee status would also have to be “deemed” to be a refugee in order to avail of the important rights of family reunification.

The court stated:

“The consequence of the interpretation urged by the Minister would be to create substantial legislative uncertainty when the purpose of the 1996 Act was to achieve clarity. The case advanced would run counter to the legislative aim of the Oireachtas, which was, by a carefully devised procedure defined in the Act, to identify one definitive “mark” of recognition to persons who were entitled to refugee status in this State, which, in turn, would grant them benefits and entitlements.”

In conclusion, the Supreme Court held as follows:

“This judgement concludes that the fact that the appellants became citizens did not deprive them of the right to apply for family reunification under s.18 of the 1996 Act.”

This is a very welcome decision from the Supreme Court, because it gives certainty to the definition of a refugee and the interpretation of the family reunification provisions in the 1996 Refugee Act.

In effect it means that all the decisions issued by the Minister during the period of 2017 and 2018 to refuse applications for family reunification under the 1996 Act because the sponsors were refugees who had naturalised as Irish citizens, were unlawful.

It also means that the decisions granting family reunification to naturalised refugees during the 2010 to 2017 period are lawful, bringing legal certainty to the status of countless families now settled in Ireland.

We would expect that Minister will now agree to withdraw these previous unlawful decisions refusing family reunification, and reconsider and re determine the applications in line with the Supreme Court’s judgement.

We welcome the clarity that this judgement brings and look forward to working with our clients to have the unlawful family reunification decisions withdrawn and re determined.

The full judgement can be read here.

We are happy to advise further to anyone believes they are affected by this judgement.

Berkeley Solicitors

UK GOVERNMENT CONFIRMS PEOPLE BORN IN NORTHERN IRELAND ARE TO BE CONSIDERED EU CITIZENS FOR CERTAIN IMMIGRATION PURPOSES

The UK Government has announced a change to its immigration laws following a landmark court case involving Derry woman Emma De Souza and her US-born husband Jake De Souza.

The case concerned the right of people in Northern Ireland to be considered Irish or British citizens, or both, as per the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Mr De Souza had applied to the UK Home Office for an EEA residence card to live and work in Northern Ireland on the basis of his marriage to Ms De Souza in 2015. The application was rejected on the basis that Ms De Souza was considered a British citizen because she was born in Northern Ireland, and therefore she was not entitled to EU free movement rights. This was despite the fact that Ms De Souza had never held a British passport and identified as an Irish citizen.

The UK Home Office originally argued that people born in Northern Ireland are automatically British citizens according to the 1981 British Nationality Act, even if they identify as Irish. It stated that the only way it could deal with Mr De Souza’s application was if Ms De Souza renounced her status as a British citizen.

Ms De Souza argued that the UK’s immigration laws were incompatible with the right of Northern Irish people to be accepted as Irish or British, or both, under the Good Friday Agreement.

The UK Home Office has now made a change to its immigration laws, confirming that British and Irish citizens born in Northern Ireland will be treated as EU citizens.

This decision has far-reaching consequences in light of the UK’s EU Settlement Scheme, which is open for applications until June 2021. The Scheme allows EU citizens and their family members to apply to reside in the UK post-Brexit. Until now, family members of British or dual British-Irish citizens from Northern Ireland were ineligible to apply for status under the Scheme.

All citizens in Northern Ireland will now have the right to apply for a non-EEA family member to remain in the UK through the Scheme, up until June 2021. This means that British citizens in Northern Ireland now have more rights than their counterparts in England, Wales and Scotland.

Speaking about the announcement, Ms De Souza commented:

“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.”