EU citizens who become British will keep family immigration rights

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Nov 15, 2017
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The European Court of Justice had been wrong to use the family immigration rules that apply to British citizens to the woman

Francois Lenoir/REUTERS

EU migrants who become British citizens can bring in partners and spouses from non-EU countries, the European Court of Justice has ruled (Richard Ford writes).

Lawyers described the ruling as “great news for European nationals living in the UK”. The court found that Toufik Lounes, an Algerian illegal immigrant, had the right to live in Britain with his wife, Garcia Ormazábal, who retained her Spanish nationality after becoming a British citizen in 2009. It said that the Home Office had been wrong to refuse this on the ground that Ormazábal was now a British citizen and that therefore the couple had to meet stricter immigration controls.

The ruling has implications for EU nationals applying for UK citizenship and those already married or planning to marry non-EU citizens. 

“This is great news for European nationals living in the UK who have non-European family members,” Gemma Goodhead, a lawyer with the London and St Albans law firm SA Law, said. “By extending the European treaty rights to those who have naturalised to become dual British-European nationals, it will likely result in those who previously could not apply to become British citizens, at the risk of their family members losing their rights to remain in the UK, to naturalise as British.”

Goodhead also claimed that the ruling would benefit qualifying citizens of European Economic Area countries in advance of the UK leaving the EU. “They can become British before the Brexit date in which their current status is ambiguously balancing on a deal being agreed upon between the UK and other member states,” she said. “We don’t know what will happen after Brexit and whether this judgment will continue to be relevant but, for now, this is great news for those affected.”

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