Divorce ruling hits non-EU nationals

A person who is allowed to live in Ireland because they are married to an Irish citizen can be thrown out of the country if they divorce in particular circumstances, the European Court of Justice has ruled.

Three men, all non-EU nationals, took their cases to the High Court and the judge asked the European Court of Justice to decide whether they could remain in Ireland when they were divorced by their wives who had already left the country.

None of the couples were Irish while the women were from EU states Latvia, Germany, and Lithuania. All left their husbands, left Ireland, and then got divorces in their own country — except for the German woman who got hers in Britain.

Kuldip Singh arrived in Ireland in 2002 on a student visa and lived in the country legally. He married a Latvian, who was also working and living legally in Ireland. They had a child in 2007 and Mr Singh had a pizzeria and supported his family.

After his wife returned to Latvia and divorced him he was refused permission to remain in Ireland, but was granted the right to remain for a year while the case was being heard.

Denzel Njume from Cameroon applied for asylum in Germany in 2004 where he met a German. They moved here — he illegally. He applied for asylum in 2006 and married his German partner in Cork in 2007 and worked before she returned to Germany in 2011.

In relation to a previous report that detailed concerns raised by the Department of Foreign Affairs, there is no suggestion that Mr Njume’s marriage was bogus.

Khaled Aly, an Egyptian, came to Ireland in 2007 on a visitor visa and married a Lithuanian woman working in the country. He was given a residence card and got work and supported both of them when his wife lost her job in 2009.

Later they moved to London to find work but he returned to Ireland and she looked for a divorce in Lithuania. He reported his situation to the authorities, and an officer destroyed his residence card and contacted Mr Ally’s employer to prevent him working any more. He later got it back temporarily while the case was going through the courts.

The court decided that because the wives left Ireland before suing for divorce, their partners were not entitled to remain in Ireland.

Under EU law the non-EU spouse is only entitled to live where their EU partner is living. If they divorce the non-EU spouse is only entitled to live in the host or native country of their former partner, and only provided the couple was married for three years, one of which was in the host country.

The couple need to be living in the same country when divorce proceedings begin. If the EU citizen partner moves country, leaving their non-EU spouse behind before initiating divorce, then their partner loses their right of residence.

The case will now go back to the High Court that will issue its final ruling.


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