The Ware familyTustin Rose Photography

An American/Canadian couple desperately fighting to stay in Ireland after moving there five years ago has been granted a two week extension to their June 12 deadline for leaving the country and a further meeting with the Irish Naturalization and Immigration Service (INIS) to discuss their situation.

As first reported by IrishCentral, the Ware family: Shannon, Katharine (Kate) and their three daughters Zoe, 11, Grace (Gráinne), 8, and Abigael (Gobnait), 7, were given until May 31 to show proof of paid passage to leave Ireland by June 12, uprooting the life they’ve built there for the past five years.

The Ware family appears to have truly integrated into their community in Ballinskelligs, Co. Kerry, a Gaeltacht community. The Wares’ emails start, finish and are interspersed with Irish words and phrases. The three girls are Irish speakers and their eldest daughter, Zoe, has even received some attention as a sean-nós singer, performing at the acclaimed Irish-language festival Oireachtas na Samhna in Killarney last October.

Supported in their quest by the local community in Kerry and by local Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris, the Wares have questioned INIS’s decision to turn down their visa application.

The family were previously required to leave by mid-June, meaning that their three daughters were unable to finish the school year in Kerry.

Their eldest daughter, Zoe, was among those who wrote a letter to Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, pleading for the right to stay and finish her education in Ireland.

“She was devastated … She was saying, ‘I love it here. I love my house, I love my friends, please let me attend school next year,’” her mother, Kate, tells us.

Since the family originally spoke to IrishCentral, they have been granted a two-week extension to this deadline, allowing the three young girls to finish the academic year, and the family has now booked air tickets for July 2.

In response to the support shown for the family in the past two weeks, a senior INIS official has also contacted the family to arrange another meeting with the couple to “set the record straight” on their financial situation. The Wares must now present five years of full financial information—bank statements, receipts, business correspondence, tax documentation—on which the senior official will again make “one final determination” on their application for leave to remain.

The family arrived in Ireland five years ago, in July 2010, on a three-month holiday visa, intending to make plans for a long-term return in the future. On reaching Ireland, however, they chose to remain straight away and applied for a Stamp 3 at the end of their holiday visa. [The Stamp 3 is for Non-EEA visitors - This person is permitted to remain in Ireland on conditions that the holder does not enter employment, does not engage in any business or profession and does not remain later than a specified date.]

They had independent income and were never reliant on the State.

The Wares continued to renew their Stamp 3 and, in May 2012, they made a written application to INIS for a Change of Status. At first, the family continued to renew their visas on 3 month extensions, awaiting word on their change of status. This was until a Garda (police officer) told them that this was not required once they had an open INIS Change of Status application.

The Ware family. Image: Tustin Rose Photography.

The Ware family. Image: Tustin Rose Photography.

Unfortunately, the family now believes that there is a difference in the application of this rule between the GNIB (Garda National Immigration Bureau) and INIS and they are seen as having been undocumented by INIS during this time.

Upon submitting all of their financial documents for the two prior years with the Change of Status application, the family received a refusal from INIS on the grounds of insufficient finances. Their bank balance was at the time just €1,500 ($1,688) despite a €25,000 ($28,140) annual household turnover, and having never having sought recourse to public funds.

When the family rectified their financial situation, they applied for a Change of Status again and were once again turned down, they believe, because they had been refused on a financial basis before.

Through their solicitor, the Ware family then made a Humanitarian Leave to Remain (HLTR) request on the grounds of the three girls' integration into their community. Unfortunately, Kate’s father and Shannon’s mother are both currently battling cancer and the couple wished to make a short-term return to the US/Canada so as to support their sick parents. The family remained in Ireland, afraid to leave the country with an open HLTR application in place, but instead applied for permission to temporarily travel out of the country on compassionate grounds.

Two weeks after being denied permission to leave on compassionate grounds, the Ware family’s whole application was refused and they were given until mid-June to leave Ireland.

Recent developments have afforded the family some extra time to fulfill the INIS' request to establish their financial history while in Ireland, although they have purchased tickets to fly to Canada to avoid being issued with a deportation order.

The date for the meeting is not yet set.

As tough as it is on Shannon and Kate to think of relocating back to North America, their three girls are leaving a place where they have spent the majority of their lives.

“We try to keep them very gently in the loop, but they’re devastated,” Shannon admits.

“They’re starting to have signs where we can say that’s because of stress; she’s acting out because she’s looking at not seeing her friends.”

“Our youngest, she was two years old when we came here and now she’s seven, so she doesn’t even remember living in Canada … even though she’s technically a Canadian citizen,” Kate adds.