Thursday, March 29, 2012

EU TREATY RIGHTS AND PERMANENT RESIDENCY – UK DEVELOPMENTS

CASE STUDY:  Idezuna (EEA - permanent residence) Nigeria [2011] UKUT 00474 (IAC) is a case concerning  the approach to be taken by the First and Upper Tribunals in deciding whether the non-EEA national family member (of an EEA national) has or has not acquired the right to reside permanently in the UK under Art 16 of Diretive 2004/38/EC which is transposed into UK law by Regulation 17 of the EEA Regulations. The right of permanent residency is acquired by EEA nationals and their family members who have resided in the UKfor a period of 5 years. 

In Idezuna the Nigerian Appellant married his spouse who was a national of Portugal in April 2004.  He had been given a 5-year residence card showing that he was the family member of an EEA national, which expired on the 13 September 2009.  Mr. Idezuna and his wife divorced in March 2010, and Mr Idezuna applied to the appropriate authoirties for a residence card showing that he was entitled to live in the UK permanently. 

Mr Idezuna’s application was refused.  The UK Border Agency said that he had not provided evidence showing that his Portuguese wife had been exercising her EU Treaty rights at the time of their divorce or that he had been living in the UK in accordance with the EEA Regulations for a period of 5 years.  

He appealed the decision to the First Tier Tribunal which upheld the UKBA’s decision, stating that Mr Idezuna had not shown that his ex wife had been exercising Treaty rights in the UK for the 5 years up to the divorce.  He had also not shown that he lived in the UK continuously after marriage. 

Subsequently, the Upper Tribunal found that the First Tier Tribunal judge had materially erred in law.  The judge had failed to appreciate that the Appellant had acquired the necessary 5 years living in the UK from the date of his marriage in April 2004 until April of 2009.  During this time his ex-wife had been in the UK"unbrokenly” exercising her EU Treaty rights.   The Immigration Judge’s error was in failing to include in his calculation of the 5 year period, time prior to the coming into force of the Directive.  (See Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v Lassal (2011) Imm AR 134, in which the ECJ had held that any interpretation of the continuous residence requirement such  that the first or last day of the period of five years' continuous residence had to fall after 30 April 2006 (when the Directive came into force) would be contrary to the purpose and effectiveness of the Directive.)

The Appellant had therefore acquired his right to permanent residence in the UK in April of 2009 (when he was still married to his wife). Whether or not he was living together with his wife for the whole of this period was irrelevant.  The fact that they both had been in the UK was important.  (See also Turkey [2011] UKUT 89 (IAC) (07 March 2011)  Regulation 15(1)(b) of the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006 (UK) applies to those who entered a genuine marriage where both parties have resided in the United Kingdom for five years since the marriage; the EEA national‘s spouse has resided as the family member of a qualified person or otherwise in accordance with the Regulations and the marriage has not been dissolved. The ‘residing with’ requirement relates to presence in the UK; it does not require living in a common family home.)

The second matter to assess was whether or not Mr Idezuna had been living in the UK continuously since the date of marriage.  The Immigration Judge in the First Tier Tribunal had taken this point against Mr Idezuna without giving him an opportunity to comment on it.  In fact, there had been only two short absences which fell comfortably within those permitted by the Directive’s Article 16 (3) and Regulation 3 (2) of the transposed UK Regulations. 

The Tribunal made it clear to the First Tier Tibunal that the focus was not so much directed to the nature of the relationship between the non-EEA national family member of the EEA national. What had happened up to and after Mr Idezuna’s divorce, and what his wife had been doing at those times had in fact been wholly irrelevant to the question of whether he had the right to reside in the UK.

Brophy Solicitors
28.03.12



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