A BRIDE-TO-BE has been told she cannot marry because she is not a British citizen – despite having lived here for 15 years.

Rebecca Prior, 25, moved to the UK from Zimbabwe when she was ten and has been educated and lived here ever since.

Her parents, who were allowed long-term residency due to their British parents, were given advice that Rebecca and her brother Jason would also be granted the same rights after three years.

But when Rebecca, from Basildon, applied for a new passport at the age of 20, she discovered she was neither a citizen here, nor in Zimbabwe.

She could now face a ten-year wait to be able to marry her partner, Scott Doman.

Miss Prior said: “To be honest, it’s devastating.

“It is an absolutely gut-wrenching and heart-breaking situation to be in because my fiance has to take the financial stress himself and I have to try to raise the boys as best I can.”

Rebecca was working at McDonald’s using a Zimbabwean passport from the age of 16, but when she applied for a new job, the problems with her residency came to light.

She was initially able to claim benefits while waiting for the situation to be resolved, but has now been told she is not eligible.

Despite sending her school records to the Home Office, which prove she was educated in the UK, she is now having to apply for Leave of Stay visas every two years.

Miss Prior could have to do this for the next decade to prove she has been living here, before she can then apply for long-term residency and get married.

The couple, who have two boys – Benjamin, four, and Oliver, four months – say they also have to apply for the £601 visas for each of their children, as a child’s nationality follows their mother’s.

She has already bought her wedding dress, veil and shoes, but the big day is now in limbo.

Miss Prior added: “To be honest, it is fair enough. We have to have an immigration system that works – I totally understand that.

“I don’t think it is unfair, but I do think it should have been sorted a lot quicker, when I was a child, so I would be able to live my life now.

“The UK is where I had my education.

I wanted to be a nurse and was studying at college. It’s not like I didn’t have plans to put something back into the community and the country itself.

“It is purely by accident that no one realised. But the law has changed so much over the years, it is now harder to become a citizen.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “All applications are considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules.

“Applications for British citizenship through descent need to be made before a person reaches the age of 18. Unfortunately, Miss Prior did not do this.”