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13th Apr 2024

EU divorce ruling puts pressure on non-nationals

  • The ECJ ruled that foreign spouses can lose the residency rights, under certain conditions, when they divorce their EU national counterparts (Photo: Alex Proimos)

An EU court ruling could see EU nationals exert pressure on non-EU national spouses in divorce proceedings by threatening to get them expelled.

Judges in Luxembourg at the European Court of Justice on Thursday (16 July) ruled that a national of a third country who is married to an EU citizen, may in some cases, lose their right of residence.

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Member states issued around 2.36 million first residence permits to third country nationals in 2013.

Of those, around 673,000 were issued for family-related issues, according to the EU's statistical office, Eurostat.

EU rules note that whenever an EU citizen leaves a host member state, his or her family members who are not EU nationals lose their residency rights.

In case of divorce, the family member who is not a EU citizen may retain their right of residence but only if the marriage has lasted for more than three years.

“They have to have been married for at least three years and one of those years has to have been in the host member state”, said a contact at the Luxembourg-based court.

But a case in Ireland saw authorities trying to strip the residency of an Indian national whose Latvian wife left him after more than four years of marriage in Ireland.

Kuldip Singh arrived in Ireland in February 2002 on a student visa from India.

He then married a Latvian in November 2005. His wife left him in February 2010 and started divorce proceedings in Latvia in September that year.

The Irish authorities argued, following a 2004 EU directive on the rights of citizens, that Singh’s right to residency ceased to be valid the moment his wife ceased to exercise her right to reside in Ireland.

The High Court of Ireland asked the Luxembourg court whether Singh’s right of residency could be retained when the divorce took place after his wife had left the country.

However, the judges found Singh’s right to residency could be stripped because his Latvian wife started divorce proceedings after she left Ireland.

“There is big concern that it could lead to putting people in very difficult situations vis-a-vis their spouse or soon to be ex-spouse, which gives a certain amount of power to their ex-spouse”, said the EU court contact.

Singh, despite the court ruling, found another solution.

Irish authorities, even though they could have expelled him, issued him a temporary permission to let him reside and work in Ireland.

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