Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein's O Donnghaile calls for action after Irish woman 'assumed to be British' for husband's visa

Niall Ó Donnghaile
Niall Ó Donnghaile

Sinn Fein's Niall O Donnghaile has accused the UK's Immigration and Visa Department of discrimination after an Irish woman was told to renounce her British citizenship in order to secure a family member's residency.

Emma De Souza from Magherafelt has been attempting to secure a family member residence card since 2015 for her husband Jake, who is from the United States. It was rejected because she holds an Irish passport and states her nationality as Irish.

As a result Mr De Souza's passport has been held by the authorities for the past two years meaning he can't travel abroad causing him to miss family funerals.

Speaking to the Irish Times, Ms DeSouza said that the situation had been "beyond a nightmare" and that her husband, who works as a musician, had not been able to travel with his band. He had also been left unable to drive as his year-long licence granted to him as a US national expired.

Mr O Donnaghaile, who previously served as Lord Mayor of Belfast, called on the government department to "end its attempt to impose British nationality" describing the situation faced by the couple as "intolerable" and to grant a visa to allow her husband to live and work in Belfast.

He said: "In their letter rejecting the application the Immigration and Visa Department said that Ms De Souza, who was born in Magherafelt in south Derry was 'automatically considered a British citizen' and that she would have to renounce her British citizenship and reapply for the residency card.

"This created an issue for Ms DeSouza, as to denounce British citizenship would be to acknowledge that it had applied to her to begin with."

In his statement, Mr O Donnghaile said that this issue was a matter for the British government as "one of its departments is deliberately or unintentionally misreading the Good Friday Agreement". He called on Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney to intervene.

"Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, individuals in Northern Ireland are able to define themselves as either Irish, British, or both - with this being accepted by both governments as co-guarantors of the agreement," he said.

"This is an intolerable situation for the De Souza family and I am calling on the minister for foreign affairs, Simon Coveney to intervene on the family’s behalf."

The Home Office and the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs has been asked for a comment.

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