The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has commenced the majority of the provisions of the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2023.

This Act has introduced significant amendments to immigration, citizenship and naturalisation law in Ireland, to take effect from 31st July 2023. The major changes are outlined below:

The Act contains amendments to a number of provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts.

Children born in the State who are not entitled to Irish citizenship by birth, will now be eligible to apply for naturalisation after three years of reckonable residency in the State, reduced from five years.

The Act also provides that minor applicants for naturalisation over the age of 14 will undergo a “good character” assessment.

All applicants for naturalisation are still required to have a period of one year’s continuous residence immediately preceding the application, and the new Act has clarified how the continuous year is to be calculated.

The so-called “six-week rule” has been replaced, and Applicants will now be permitted up to 70 days absences from the State (or from the island of Ireland in the case of spouse of Irish national applications) in the continuous year preceding the application.

An additional period of up to 30 days may also be allowed if those additional absences were necessary due to “exceptional circumstances.” This means that up to 100 days absences may be allowable in specific circumstances.

The Act contains a list of exceptional circumstances which includes health reasons, family circumstances, employment and study. The Minister for Justice has discretion to determine if the absences are considered exceptional.

The changes will apply to any applications for naturalisation which have been submitted and remain pending, and all new applications going forward.

The legislation will also allow the Department of Justice to issue correspondence and serve documents electronically.

The Act also amends the Immigration Act 1999 in relation to section 3 notices of intention to deport, by providing that persons who have convicted of a serious offence, or who are considered a danger to the security of the State, will no longer be given the option to leave the State voluntarily once an intention to deport notice under section 3 has been issued to them.

We welcome these changes, particularly in relation to the “six week rule” which was very restrictive, and caused difficulties for many clients. A permitted period of absence from the State of up to 70 days is more reasonable, and we welcome that this can be extended up to 100 days in exceptional circumstances.

We welcome that the Act is retrospective, so will be applied to all applicants who have their applications for naturalisation pending.

The full text of the Act is available here.

We encourage any persons who have queries on the changes to contact our office for assistance.