Northern Ireland

Home Office rejects Belfast-born woman's right to live in Northern Ireland

A Belfast-born woman has criticised the UK Home Office after being told she needs proof that she is entitled to live in Northern Ireland.

Gemma Capparelli applied for residency for US-born husband Dominic after 10 years overseas, but the application was refused on the grounds that she had no evidence she was entitled to permanent residency herself. The 36-year-old had included her birth certificate with the application.

Ms Capparelli, who holds an Irish passport, says the denial is in breach of her rights under the Good Friday Agreement.

The case mirrors that of Emma and Jake DeSouza, who also faced rejection by the Home Office when Co Derry-born Emma applied for a visa for Californian husband Jake following their 2015 wedding. Ms DeSouza applied as an Irish citizen living in the UK, but was told that because she was born in the North she must reapply as a British citizen.

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The Desouzas are awaiting the outcome of a Home Office appeal after a judge initially ruled in favour of the couple.

Ms Capparelli, who has a 10-year-old son with husband Dominic (38), told The Guardian: "I never thought coming home would cause such angst."

She renounced her British citizenship over fears the Home Office would force her husband to apply for residency as a spouse of a UK citizen - a more expensive route.

Gemma Capparelli said: "The Home Office really are not living up to the Good Friday agreement. They are saying I’m not even a resident in my own country. It is mind-boggling. You feel like you are in limbo."

Mr Capparelli has lodged an appeal, while a Home Office spokesperson said it was "absolutely committed to upholding the Belfast Agreement and we respect the right of the people of Northern Ireland to choose how they identify."