A Spanish woman who has lived in the UK for 15 years has accused the Home Office of treating her family like criminals after her American husband and the father of her three children applied for a permanent residency (PR) card.
In a three-year ordeal, the Home Office threatened to deport the historian Stuart Ross three times, suggested he was lying about his wife’s work as a Spanish language teacher and refused to accept a judge’s verdict in a Belfast court that officials had been wrong to refuse him a PR card when he first applied in 2013.
“It was really frustrating and I am still angry,” said Maria Cristina Úbeda Tuero-O’Donnell, 41. “They treated us like criminals. We couldn’t travel because they had our passports. I was pregnant and I couldn’t travel on my own. I am an only child and my parents are elderly, but I couldn’t see them. My family in Spain couldn’t understand and were asking: ‘Why, what did you do?’”
Ross, 49, originally from Syracuse, New York, and Úbeda, originally from Madrid, have been married and living together in Derry since 2007. Ross moved there 16 years ago, initially as a PhD student.
He met Cristina in 2002 and they got married before he graduated. When they married he was granted a five-year permit to stay as a family member of an EU national. When that expired in 2013, he applied for PR, which is available to any non-EU spouse of an EU citizen, regardless of income.
He said he “naively” believed the application for PR would be a formality.
In his first application to the Home Office, he submitted tax returns as evidence that his wife was economically active, and thereby exercising her EU treaty rights to be in the country.
The Home Office told them this was insufficient evidence and they needed five years’ returns. He supplied these in two further applications along with other material including mortgage and bank statements, details of National Insurance contributions, a letter from his MP and…