NI: Hundreds gave up British citizenship to take advantage of family migration rules

NI: Hundreds gave up British citizenship to take advantage of family migration rules

Hundreds of people in Northern Ireland renounced their British citizenship from 2012 to 2020 to take advantage of more favourable family migration rules for those with only Irish citizenship, data suggests.

Figures published by investigative news and analysis website The Detail show a dramatic increase in applications to renounce British citizenship after the rules were tightened from just two in 2012 to 20 in the following year and 50 in the year after that.

Applications to renounce UK citizenship peaked at 85 in 2018, declined to 75 in the following year and then collapsed to 20 last year.

The Home Office last year revised the immigration rules to allow for family members of people in Northern Ireland to apply for status under the EU settlement scheme have come into force.

The revised rules specify that a “relevant person of Northern Ireland” – meaning a British citizen, an Irish citizen, or British-Irish dual citizen who was born in Northern Ireland – should be treated as an EEA citizen for the purposes of the scheme.

The changes, which were announced in May 2020 after being agreed in January 2020 as part of the deal to restore devolution, followed years of campaigning by Emma DeSouza and her husband.

Belfast solicitor Una Boyd, immigration project co-ordinator at the Belfast-based Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), told The Detail that the rules from 2012 to 2020 “openly encouraged renunciation of British citizenship, often forcing people into a brutal choice between their citizenship and having their family members with them”.

She has called on the Home Office to introduce a “free and accessible route back to British citizenship for those who were unfairly forced to renounce under the old policy”.

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