Northern Ireland news

Co Derry woman Emma DeSouza receives court date for next stage in citizenship dispute with the Home Office

Jake and Emma DeSouza. Picture by Hugh Russell

CO Derry woman Emma DeSouza has told of her relief after receiving a court date for the next stage of her citizenship dispute with the UK Home Office.

Ms DeSouza from Magherafelt and her US-born husband Jake are involved in a legal wrangle with the Home Office over her refusal to declare herself British.

But in a fresh development in recent days, Ms DeSouza has revealed that after a year of waiting, they have finally been set a date for the next stage of their case.

"The uncertainty of waiting has been like a cloud following us all the time," she said.

The couple, who married in July 2015, have been battling to secure Mr DeSouza's right to live in Northern Ireland as the husband of an Irish citizen residing in the UK.

They had been told that due to his wife being born in the north, she must declare British citizenship to secure the visa.

Under the Good Friday Agreement people born in Northern Ireland can choose to be British citizens, Irish citizens or have dual citizenship and Mrs DeSouza - an Irish passport holder - challenged the decision.

A first-tier tribunal ruled in their favour.

The Home Office appealed against the tribunal's decision, but was told there was "no error in law" and could not challenge in that court.

However, it had the right to go direct to the higher court, the upper tribunal, to argue that an important point in law needs to be tested.

Last May, the Home Office was granted permission to appeal the decision of the first tier tribunal before the upper tribunal.

Speaking at the time, Ms DeSouza said her life had been "put on hold again" after the UK Home Office was granted permission to appeal her citizenship case at a higher court.

Now a year on, Ms DeSouza last night told The Irish News that she was "excited, but nervous" about the next stage of their case.

"It is definitely good news that something is finally happening," she said.

"I have to say I had a real flutter of butterflies when I got the letter with the court date.

"We are ready and our legal team is ready, we are excited, but nervous to get started."

Ms DeSouza said while it could "potentially be another three months" before they learn the outcome of the appeal, she hoped the next stage in the dispute will help other families caught up in similar situations with the Home Office.

"The uncertainty of waiting has been like a cloud following us all the time," she said.

"I know it will be an emotional day for us and I'm sure intimidating as well.

"But I know that we have so much support behind us and so many other people who are caught in similar situations.

"I just hope that the Home Office turn out and we are able to get some movement going."

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