A WIRRAL “local legend” could finally become a British citizen after 46 years living in the country.

Nelson Shardey, 75, ran Nelsons News on Borough Road in Seacombe for 31 years from 1991 to 2022 but has lived in the UK since November 1977. He considered himself a British citizen, paid taxes, and worked hard but in 2019, he was told he didn’t have official leave to remain in the UK.

The dad, who has three adult children, was told to apply for a 10 year route to settlement but this could have cost the family around £18,000 over the 10 years. Despite having already lived in the UK for 46 years, Nelson did not think he would get British citizenship until his mid 80s.

The family were hoping for an update on the case after the 2024 General Election but last week they were notified of the decision to settle the case shortly before voters went to the polls, something they said they “didn’t expect at all.” Nelson has now been offered indefinite leave to remain with the Home Office covering the fees and he can apply for British citizenship in a year.

After the LDRS, the Guardian and the BBC reported on the story in May, there was widespread anger and thousands raised to support their legal effort. The family said Wallasey MP Dame Angela Eagle also wrote a letter to the Home Office in May arguing the case was unacceptable.

The Home Office said it was now working with Nelson to process his application for indefinite leave to remain, adding: “We apologise for any inconvenience and distress caused.” The money donated towards the legal fund will now go to three charities including two based on the Wirral.

Nelson said: “I am feeling great. All along I was battling every day inside,” adding: “I do not like to make them (his family) worry but it did affect me. It did affect me honestly. I was battling it even though I didn’t show it to the boys because I didn’t want them to worry about me.”

He said the process had been particularly difficult when he was receiving treatment for cancer and looking at another 10 years to become a citizen, adding: “It’s like punishment. It’s not a deterrent. If punishment was a deterrent, then there would be no prisons in this world.”

Now he said he plans to have a party when he applies for British citizenship in a year’s time, adding: “I am smiling. I am happy and I hope everyone should have some faith and belief that justice will one day be granted.”

He said: “A very big weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel I can go out and go about like I used to but before then I kept thinking what will even happen tomorrow? It’s very disheartening. Everyone knows now and kept asking how is it? I did not know what to say but now I hold my chest up and say it has been done.”

If the family had gone to court against the Home Office and lost, they would have had to pay for the government’s legal fees but the family’s fundraiser broke its £20,000 target in a day and has raised over £47,000.

As the Home Office have now dropped the case, more than £15,000 will be going to three charities. One third will go to the Clatterbridge Cancer Charity, another to the Boaz Trust, and the final third will go to the Wirral Foodbank.

After the outpouring of public support over Nelson’s story, Jacob, his son, said: “Definitely the support from everybody has opened up the government’s eyes. This has happened to other people. We have had messages from people who are in a similar boat but they didn’t have the network or support that we have.”

Nicola Burgess from the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit was the family’s legal representative throughout the process. She said: “I am thrilled that he will now be granted ILR so that he has security and certainty in his retirement.

“It wasn’t an easy process to get here: incorrect applications, a lack of legal advice, wrong information from the Home Office and two previous refusals to grant ILR.

“Despite this and despite the considerable financial risk to Nelson and his family he made the decision to fight on and speak out about the injustice he has experienced. Nelson’s bravery in the face of a dysfunctional immigration system has been inspirational.”

She said: “It shouldn’t be this difficult. There are many more Nelsons, long-term UK residents who are forced to live with precarious leave due to the unfairness of the 10-year route to settlement.

“Due to misunderstanding of the complex legal framework, to a lack of legal representation, or to a change of financial or personal circumstances, many individuals are forced off the route and into an endless cycle of applications, bureaucracy and expensive fees. We call on the new Government to commit to shortening the route, capping all routes to settlement at five years.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are working with Mr Shardey to process his application for Indefinite Leave to Remain. We apologise for any inconvenience and distress caused.”

Dame Angela Eagle who is now a Home Office minister said she was unable to comment on individual decisions.