Eve Woods, 57, could be forced to return to South Africa, which she left when she was four, after stringent background checks when she started a new job as a carer brought up that she was not a British citizen.
The mum-of-two was asked to show she had the right to work in the UK so contacted government officials who told her she did not have “settled status” in the country.
A follow-up letter from the Home Office stated: “You do not have permission to be in the United Kingdom” and she may be liable to be deported.
Eve, who lives in Medway, Kent, came to the UK from South Africa in 1962 with her mother and two siblings, travelling on her mum’s passport.
She said she was made to feel like a criminal – and all she wanted to do was get a job.
Eve said: “I feel like a criminal. All I wanted to do was get a job and earn some money for myself.
“I didn’t want to get citizenship as I don’t see why I need to take a citizenship test when I’ve lived here all my life. I’ve never known anything different.
“I don’t know anyone in South Africa. I don’t have any family there. I’m devastated.”
Eve has been educated in the UK, worked, has been married twice, brought up three sons and mourned one of them, James, who died in 2003.
She decided it was time to go back to work when her youngest son, Shane, turned 18.
But despite providing a National Insurance number, marriage certificates, and her sons’ birth certificates, the government department told her she was unable to demonstrate that she had settled status in the UK.
Eve was then sent a letter from Capita, on behalf of the Home Office, which said she was liable to be deported.
It read: “We are contacting you because the Home Office has informed us that you do not have permission to be in the United Kingdom. Whilst you remain in the UK without leave you are liable to be removed.”
Eve also looks after her elderly father, who lives in a care home in Rochester, and said there would be no one to help him if she was forced to leave the country.
She has contacted Kelly Tolhurst, MP for Rochester and Strood, who is now investigating Eve’s case with the Home Office.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We have been in touch with Ms Woods via her MP, to explain the options available to her, which includes the option of making another application.
“All immigration applications are treated on their individual merits and on the basis of the evidence provided.”