Skip to main content

Immigration: Northern Ireland

Question for Home Office

UIN 475, tabled on 6 January 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how an Irish citizen from Northern Ierland who does not hold a British passport or identify as British can sponsor a family member to reside in the UK.

Answered on

15 January 2020

The Government is firmly committed to upholding the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, which recognises the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and to be accepted as Irish, British, or both, as they may so choose, and also confirms their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship.

The Home Office and the Northern Ireland Office have reviewed the consistency of the UK’s family migration arrangements, taking into account the letter and spirit of the Belfast Agreement and recognising that the policy should not create incentives for renunciation of British citizenship by those citizens who may wish to retain it.

As a result of this review, the Government will change the rules governing how the people of Northern Ireland bring their family members to the UK. This change will mean that eligible family members of the people of Northern Ireland will be able to apply for UK immigration status on broadly the same terms as the family members of Irish citizens in the UK.

This immigration status will be available to the family members of all the people of Northern Ireland, no matter whether they hold British or Irish citizenship or both, and no matter how they identify.

Under UK nationality law, most people of Northern Ireland are automatically British from birth. This is consistent with the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, as confirmed by the Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) in its decision of 14 October 2019 in the case of Jake De Souza. As such, there are no plans to amend the British Nationality Act 1981 in this respect.

Until the family migration rules change is implemented, Irish citizens from Northern Ireland who do not hold a British passport or identify as British can sponsor family members under the UK’s domestic route, set out in Appendix FM to the Immigration Rules. These apply to family members of a person who is a British citizen (including where they are a dual British/EU citizen), or is settled in the UK, or is in the UK with limited leave as a refugee or person granted humanitarian protection. Irish citizens are considered to be settled from the day they arrive in the UK which means their family members can use this route.

As Appendix FM applies equally to family members of British citizens, Irish citizens, and dual British/Irish citizens, family members of the people of Northern Ireland can use this route regardless of the person of Northern Ireland’s legal citizenship or choice of identity. This means that a person of Northern Ireland who identifies solely as Irish does not need to provide evidence of British citizenship or to identify as British to facilitate their family member’s application: they need only provide evidence of Irish citizenship.

Where Irish citizens born in Northern Ireland have EU law rights to family reunification, their family member can apply for a document confirming those rights, which are implemented in UK law through the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016. In addition, the EU Settlement Scheme has been established for resident EEA nationals and their family members to implement the UK’s commitments under the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

Answered by

Home Office