Belfast Telegraph

Japanese woman denied visa to marry in Belfast because of 'misunderstanding', court hears

By Alan Erwin

A Japanese woman was initially denied a visa to marry her Northern Ireland fiance in Belfast due to a "misunderstanding", the High Court heard on Tuesday.

Counsel for the Home Office confirmed the decision to refuse Makiko Takeoka's application has been overturned.

She has now flown to Tokyo with her passport amid attempts to have all paperwork completed in time for her wedding to Ciaran Doole on October 21, a judge was told.

With a legal challenge put on hold, Mr Doole expressed both relief and frustration that the couple's plans were plunged into uncertainty.

Outside court the 31-year-old charity worker said: "The whole process has been pretty horrific.

"We have people coming from all over the world for this wedding, and it's all a bit last-minute.

"I'd prefer if Makiko wasn't jet-lagged on her wedding day."

Judicial review proceedings were launched after 32-year-old Ms Takeoka's visa application was turned down - allegedly because her fiance holds an Irish passport.

A failure to establish that he is settled in the UK was said to be the reason for declaring her ineligible.

Mr Doole, who was born in Northern Ireland and currently lives in south Belfast, was set to argue that the decision was in breach of the Good Friday Agreement.

During preliminary courtroom discussions Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan was told he considers himself both British and Irish.

In the visa application process Irish had been selected for his nationality, while his status within the UK was described as British citizen.

Proceedings were initially adjourned for clarification around the Home Office's current position in the case.

As the hearing resumed today, Sir Declan said it looked as if there had been a misunderstanding.

Counsel for the Home Office replied: "It's precisely what it is."

Ms Takeoka was informed by email on Sunday that the original decision had been overturned, the court heard.

Once officials in Tokyo receive her passport steps will be taken to have the visa printed in Manila.

"Time is of the essence," the barrister acknowledged.

"With a fair wind, doing their best they believe they can have a turnaround within three days of receipt of the passport."

Ronan Lavery QC, for Ms Takeoka, said: "It's good news."

Adjourning the challenge, Sir Declan indicated the case can be brought back to court immediately if there are any hiccups.

As he left court Mr Doole confirmed his fiancee has travelled from Hokkaido to the Japanese capital.

Bespite securing the outcome they hoped for, he claimed the application should have been dealt with by officials familiar with the politics of Northern Ireland, rather than those "who don't have a clue about the Good Friday Agreement".

If everything goes according to plan they will now get wed at Belfast City Hall, before heading on for a reception in Co Down.

But Mr Doole added: "I'm relieved, though I wish Makiko had a bit more time to prepare, relax and acclimatise - I'd prefer if she wasn't jet-lagged on her wedding day."

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