Our immigration team has welcomed the recent announcement from the UK Government confirming that eligible family members of ‘relevant’ people from Northern Ireland will be able to apply for immigration status under the EU Settlement Scheme. From 24th August 2020, people from Northern Ireland and their family members will enjoy the same rights as Irish citizens in the Republic of Ireland when it comes to accessing the scheme. The scheme is in place to offer EU citizens and their non-EEA family members settled or pre-settled status on the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
The changes to immigration rules mean that family members of people from Northern Ireland will, for a specific time, not have to meet the financial and English language requirements as set out in the UK’s immigration rules for family members of British citizens. The cost of making applications for residency under Appendix (FM) are substantial with many people struggling to pay the Home Office fees. Read more here…
To give the new rules some context, applications made by Northern Irish sponsors for their non-EEA family members to join them were not covered in the EU Settlement Scheme. The Home Office regarded such sponsors to be British for immigration purposes and therefore eligible to apply through the normal UK immigration route only. Going forward, all British and Irish citizens born in Northern Ireland will now be treated as EU citizens for immigration purposes.
The move is a major victory for Derry woman Emma deSouza and her American husband Jake who fought a 3-year legal battle and campaign for her to be recognised by the Home Office as Irish, a right enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement. Jake will be permitted to remain in the UK indefinitely if he applies through the EU Settlement Scheme.
What is a ‘relevant’ person?
A relevant person from Northern Ireland is defined as a person who is British, Irish or both; who was born in Northern Ireland and whose parents were British, Irish or both or had settled status at the time of their birth. This definition clearly reflects the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
However, the change may raise issues of proportionality as the rules are contingent on the sponsor having been born in Northern Ireland. It also means that British citizens in Northern Ireland will automatically have more rights than their counterparts in England, Wales and Scotland, who will still have to go through the strict immigration route for non-EEA family members with no guarantee of success.
The new rules are time-limited an eligible person who wishes to apply for settled status will only have until June 2021 to do so. This is the date the EU settlement scheme closes.
The Home Office said it would start accepting applications on 24 August and only those who are living in the country at the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December this year would be eligible.
If you want to find out more about the EU Settlement Scheme, contact our immigration team:
028 3026 2200