Northern Ireland news

Relief for citizenship row couple after Home Office grants travel rights to US-born husband

Jake DeSouza and wife Emma have been battling the UK Home Office to gain a visa for Jake after Emma refused to declare herself a British citizen. Picture by Hugh Russell
Paul Ainsworth

A Co Derry woman has spoken of her "relief" that her US-born husband can travel again amid a lengthy citizenship dispute with the UK Home Office over her refusal to declare herself British.

Emma and Jake DeSouza have welcomed permission for the Californian to visit home while the case over his right to stay in Northern Ireland continues.

Following their wedding in 2015, the couple applied for a visa that would allow Jake to live in Northern Ireland as the spouse of an Irish citizen living in the UK.

As part of the process he surrendered his passport, but they were told that as Ms DeSouza was born in the north, she must reapply declaring herself a British citizen.

Emma, from Magherafelt, holds an Irish passport and claimed the requirement undermined her right to be an Irish citizen under the Good Friday Agreement.

A tribunal judge ruled in favour of the DeSouzas last November, but the Home Office was granted permission to appeal.

The couple spoke of their lives being "put on hold" while awaiting a resolution, but have welcomed the granting of "Leave Outside the Immigration Rules" (LOTR).

The musician has been prevented from travelling for work due to the dispute, and has also missed family funerals in the US.

Home Office rules state: "LOTR on compelling compassionate grounds may be granted where the decision maker decides that the specific circumstances of the case includes exceptional circumstances. These circumstances will mean that a refusal would result in unjustifiably harsh consequences for the applicant or their family."

The couple are now preparing for a long-awaited trip across the Atlantic to celebrate his birthday.

Emma told The Irish News: "At first we were really sceptical, especially with everything we have been through in regards to the Home Office. We received a letter in May that outlined the LOTR, and we had our solicitor go through it to make sure accepting it wouldn't affect our case. We got clarification this week and we have accepted it.

"This grants Jake rights for five years, and sadly, we have been told by our legal team that this whole process could actually last that long.

"It's overshadowing our lives - it's always at the back of our minds - but I feel really strongly about my rights to be an Irish citizen under the Good Friday Agreement, and we will continue to fight for that right."

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