Tag Archive for: citizenship

IMPORTANT HIGH COURT JUDGEMENT ON FAMILY REUNIFICATION RIGHTS OF REFUGEES

SIGNIFICANT SUPREME COURT DECISION- REFUSAL TO ISSUE IRISH PASSPORT TO MINOR CHILD BORN IN IRELAND

The Supreme Court have delivered a very significant judgement in the case of U.M ( a minor) v Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and Ors.

U.M is a minor child, born in Ireland on 1st June 2013. UM’s father is a citizen of Afghanistan, who was granted a declaration of refugee status on 14th July 2006, having arrived in Ireland on 22nd April 2005.

UM’s father in 2012 returned to Afghanistan and returned to the State at a time when his Stamp 4 registration had lapsed. His fingerprints were taken at Dublin airport and were found to match with the identity of another person, who had been refused refugee status in the United Kingdom in 2004.

UM’s father subsequently received a decision from the Minister for Justice revoking his refugee status, on the basis that he had returned to Afghanistan and had not given truthful information in his asylum application. UM’s refugee status was revoked pursuant to the Minister’s powers under the now repealed Section 21(1) of the Refugee Act 1996. Under the International Protection Act 2015 revocation of refugee status must take place where various circumstances arise, the Minister no longer has a discretion as she did have under the 1996 Act. The 2015 Act also confirms the revocation will have prospective effect. UM’s father’s refugee status was revoked with effect from 31st August 2013. UM’s father did not appeal the Minister’s decision.

An Irish passport application was submitted for UM in 2014, a decision was made to refuse this application on 11th June 2014 and a request for a review of this decision, affirmed the initial decision by decision dated 17th November 2014.

This decision was challenged by way of Judicial review proceedings and a declaration was sought from the Courts that UM is an Irish citizen.

Section 12 of the Passport Act 2008 outlines that the Minister shall refuse to issue an Irish passport if the Minister is not satisfied that person is an Irish citizen.

Entitlement to Irish citizenship is in turn governed by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act1956 (as amended).

Section 6A of this Act outlines that children born in Ireland to parents who are not Irish or British citizens will be entitled to Irish citizenship at birth only if one or either of their parents have at least three years reckonable residence in the island of Ireland in the four year period prior to their birth. Residence in the State for the purpose of study, for the purpose of seeking asylum or residence that is in breach of Section 5(1) of the Immigration Act 2004 (As amended) is not reckonable for this calculation. By default, all other permissions are reckonable.

Within Section 5(1) of the 2004 Act there are specific types of permission which are excluded from the remit of Section 5, including those persons who have a refugee declaration in place.

UM’s case was lost in the High Court. The Minister for Justice argued that for permission to be reckonable for the purpose of Section 6A, it must be lawful and bona fides residence and not obtained by fraud. The applicant argued that the specific residence permissions excluded from reckonable residence are only those specifically excluded under Section 6B. The Applicant argued that his father’s refugee status was revoked from the date of the decision, and this was in fact stated on the decision and was not void from the outset. The Court acknowledged that there had been no wrongdoing on the part of the applicant, a minor child, but did not grant UM the relief of quashing the refusal decision, nor was the court prepared to make a declaration that UM was an Irish citizen.

The case was appealed to the Court of appeal, who issued their decision on 11th June 2020 The Court of Appeal held that there was a key question in the case- is permission obtained fraudulently reckonable or non-reckonable for the purposes of the 1956 Act? The Court found that it was not permissible for the Minister to add in a requirement not found in the legalisation – that for permission to be reckonable it must be lawful and bona fides. For residence not to be reckonable, it must be specifically excluded in the Act. Therefore the Court of Appeal went on to assess whether UM’s father’s permission within the relevant period was in breach of Section 5(1) of the Immigration Act 2004. The Court of Appeal found that the permission of UM’s father during this period was in breach of Section 5(1)- the Court of Appeal found that the Court must look behind the permission held, to the deceit upon which it was grounded.

UM appealed his case to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found that the key question is whether UM’s father’s refugee declaration was “in force” for the relevant period.

UM argued that the revocation of his father’s refugee status had prospective effect, from 31st August 2013, as was stated on the decision itself. UM highlighted that the power to revoke refugee status under Section 21(1) of the Refugee Act 1996 was a discretionary power and the Minister had a discretion as to whether to proceed to revoke MM’s refugee status or not in spite of any potential grounds for revocation. The Minister argued that in the same way a declaration of refugee status has a date, the declaration does not confer the refugee status, only recognises its existence, therefore the revocation decision recognises the refugee status never existed in the first place. The Court of Appeal held that “fraud unravels everything”.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission acted as amicus curiae in the Supreme Court proceedings. They argued that any system resulting in nullification of citizenship should include procedural safeguards and an assessment of the impact of such an action of impacted parties. UM also argued that the Minister was required to carry out a proportionately assessment in relation to the decision that would ultimately result in UM’s loss of citizenship. UM further argued that even if the decision of the Minister to revoke MM’s refugee status was retrospective, this did not make his residence in the relevant period in breach of Section 5(1), as the refugee declaration and the permission (Stamp 4) are separate and distinct from one another.

The Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeal, that it was not permissible to add a requirement that residence be lawful and bona fides for it to be reckonable.

In examining whether a decision to revoke refugee status renders the declaration void from the outset, the Supreme Court examined various scenarios and held it is difficult to reach a definitive answer and in fact it would depend on the facts leading to revocation and the timing of those events. The Court found that the Minister has a discretion to revoke and does not have to revoke, would therefore result in a conclusion that in most cases the revocation would be from the date of revocation and not from the date the events occurred.

The Court looks at various scenarios and highlights the difficulty in establishing the legal position for persons who obtain derivative rights through the permissions of others, which were fraudulently obtained. The Court highlights difficulty that flows from situations where there was a finding of nullity resulting in a deprivation of citizenship of those claiming a derivative right to citizenship.

In allowing UM’s appeal The Supreme Court concludes:

To all intents and purposes, the declaration of refugee status was valid and effective for all purposes while it remained unrevoked. If the Minister had decided
not to revoke, as it appears could have been the case having regard to the discretion given to the Minister in s. 21 (1), then, that would have meant that the declaration would have remained in force notwithstanding the circumstances in which it was obtained.
Given the status of the declaration until such time as it was revoked I find it difficult to conclude that in holding the declaration was void
ab initio, as was found by the Court of Appeal. It was valid, binding and of effect until revoked

The Court highlighted the difficult position that arises for persons, particularly children, who derive a right from the existence of a right of their parents and are then a risk of losing that right due to cancellation/ revocation of their parents’ right. The Court commented that even if a permission is void ab initio, as was found not to be the case in this instance, there are further questions as to the rights of those who hold derivate rights.

It may well be that the declaration is void ab initio, but there may be a limit to the consequences of such a conclusion. The Court further notes that …invalidity is a relative and not an absolute concept

This is an extremely important decision and as the Supreme Court itself has recognised –“The acquisition or loss of citizenship is a matter of profound significance for the individual concerned”.

Berkeley Solicitors is of the view that this judgement is likely to have a far reaching impact in relation to decisions made to cancel Irish passports for Irish children, following revocation of their parent or parents’ EU fam residence cards.

RECOMMENCEMENT OF CITIZENSHIP CEREMONIES

The first citizenship ceremony since early 2020 was recently held on the 20th June 2022 in Killarney, County Kerry.

The in-person ceremonies were postponed for over two years due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The ceremonies were temporarily replaced with the signing of a declaration of fidelity to the State.

Berkeley Solicitors wishes to congratulate all those who have recently received their Irish Citizenship and we welcome the return of the citizenship ceremonies which allows the recipients to celebrate this occasion.

If you or a family member has any queries regarding your immigration status please do not hesitate to contact us.

CLIENTS OF BERKELEY SOLICITORS APPROVED CERTIFICATES OF NATIONALITY

Berkeley Solicitors would like to congratulate our clients and their minor children who were recently granted certificates of nationality pursuant to Section 28 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956.

The applicants were minor children who were born in the State but not entitled to citizenship at birth of any other country.

We applied to the Minister to grant them certificates of nationality on the basis that they were Irish citizens by birth pursuant to Section 6 (3) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended by section 3(1) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 2001, which states as follows:

“A person born in the island of Ireland is an Irish citizen from birth if he or she is not entitled to citizenship of any other country.”

The granting of this application results in our clients being recognised as Irish citizens.

We are delighted in this wonderful outcome for our clients.

Berkeley Solicitors would be happy to advise any clients in similar situations and would encourage you or any family members in such positions to contact our office.

NEW SCORECARD APPROACH INTRODUCED FOR CITIZENSHIP APPLICATIONS FROM JANUARY 2022

On the 31st December 2021, the Department of Justice announced that it would be introducing a scorecard approach for supporting documents that are required for citizenship applications, to prove required residency and establish identity.

The scorecard approach, which is applicable from the 1st of January 2022, is intended to clarify the information that applicants are intended to provide to establish their identity and required residency when applying for Irish citizenship.

Previously, applicants were required to provide a certain number of proofs of residency for each year of the period of residence claimed on their application form. Under the new approach, applicants will now need to reach a score of 150 points in each of the years proof of residency is required. A certain proof of residency will have a definite point value that has been predetermined by the Department.

Furthermore, an applicant will be need to provide sufficient documentation to accumulate 150 points to establish their identity. In the circumstances where an applicant is not able to meet the 150 points standard, the Department has indicated that the applicant will need to engage with the Citizenship Division to provide reasons as to why this is the case.

In the announcement, the Department highlighted the importance that proofs of identity and residence hold for a citizenship application, and confirmed that insufficient documentation can lead to an application being deemed ineligible.

An applicant is no longer required to submit their original passport with their citizenship application; however, the Minister reserves the right to request original passports from an applicant at any stage in the process.

The full announcement can be read here.

If you or a family member have queries about your naturalization application, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE ANNOUNCES THE RESUMPTION OF PROCESSING OF FOREIGN BIRTH REGISTRATION

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the processing of Foreign Birth Registration (FBR) was temporarily put on hold. However, processing of Foreign Birth Registration recommenced on a phased basis on Monday, 15th November. Any applications that were sent to the FBR team while processing was closed have been kept on file, and the FBR team has assured that those applications will now be processed in strict date order. The Department of Foreign Affairs has noted that due to the complexity of the process itself, and the backlog of applications that has built up over the paused period, they predict an average of a two-year processing time for current applications.

Foreign Birth Registration allows for persons of Irish descent and children of Irish citizens born outside the State to become Irish citizens themselves.

Who is eligible to become an Irish citizen?

If you were born outside of Ireland, you can apply for Foreign Birth Registration if;

  • One of your grandparents was born in Ireland, or
  • One of your parents was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth, even though they were not born in Ireland

Depending on the specific situation, there are certain documents that need to be submitted with an application for FBR on behalf of the applicant and the Irish citizen family member. There is also an online form that needs to be completed. The fees for FBR are €278 for an adult (over the age of 18) and €153 for registration of those under the age of 18.

Once a person is registered on the Foreign Birth Registrar, they can apply for an Irish passport as an Irish citizen.

The full notice on the Department of Foreign Affairs website can be found here.

If you or a family member have queries about the Foreign Birth Registration process, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE ANNOUNCES CHANGES TO NATURALISATION APPLICATIONS AND IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS OVER THE CHRISTMAS PERIOD

In notices dated the 15th and 16th November 2021, the Minister for Justice has announced a number of immigration changes to the processing of naturalisation applications and immigration requirements over the Christmas period.

With regards to the processing of naturalisation applications, the Minister has announced that that from the 1st January 2022, new applicants for naturalisation will not be required to submit their original passports with the initial application.

Applicants will instead be required to submit a full colour copy of their entire passport, including the front and back covers. The colour copy must be witnessed by a solicitor and submitted with the application form and supporting documents.

In addition, the Minister announced that significant changes are being introduced regarding the number of proofs required to establish identity and residency as part of the application process. More details will be announced on the Department’s website in the coming weeks.

With regards to immigration requirements over the Christmas period, the Minister announced that anyone holding an Irish Residence Permit card that was in-date at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 can use their current expired card to depart from and return to Ireland in confidence over Christmas and until 15 January 2022.

It was also announced that re-entry visa requirements for children under the age of 16 have also been suspended until 15th January 2022.

The notice states that holders of expired IRP cards wishing to travel over the Christmas period must be able to show a copy of the travel confirmation notice, available here, and their original expired IRP when travelling.

This is a temporary measure and travellers with expired cards will need to return to Ireland before the 15th January 2022. This measure is not available to persons who do not have a physical IRP card in their possession.

We welcome these changes which will simplify the naturalisation application process and will allow individuals with expired IRP cards to travel and visit family over Christmas.

The full notices can be read here and here.

Further updates will be posted on our blog.

If you or a family member have queries about your immigration status, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

CONGRATULATIONS TO CLIENTS OF BERKELEY SOLICITORS WHO HAVE BEEN RECENTLY APPROVED FOR NATURALISATION

Berkeley Solicitors offers congratulations to a number of our clients who have recently received approval on their naturalisation applications.

This is very welcome news for our clients, many of whom have been waiting in excess of two years to have their applications approved.

The successful applicants have been invited to attend a citizenship ceremony on Monday 13th December 2021, the first in-person ceremony in many months due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Berkeley Solicitors congratulates our clients on receiving this good news after a very long wait.

If you or a family member have queries about the naturalisation process, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

CHILDREN BORN IN IRELAND WITHOUT ENTITLEMENT TO NATIONALITY OF ANY OTHER COUNTRY

Berkeley Solicitors continues to act for a number of children born in Ireland without an entitlement to nationality of any other country.

We believe that our clients are entitled to Irish citizenship pursuant to Article 6(3) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956.

Section 6 (3) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended by section 3(1) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 2001, states as follows:

“A person born in the island of Ireland is an Irish citizen from birth if he or she is not entitled to citizenship of any other country.”

Berkeley Solicitors is proud to have successfully acted for one client who was approved a Certificate of Nationality on foot of Section 6 (3) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended.

We currently have a number of similar applications pending. However, these applications tend to be subject to very long delays.

Further difficulties arise because the Minister has failed to implement a lawful application procedure for such children applying for recognition of their Irish citizenship.

Berkeley Solicitors calls on the Minister to implement a lawful procedure for the small cohort of children resident in Ireland, who are entitled to Irish citizenship pursuant to Section 6 (3) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended.

 

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE ANNOUNCES CHANGES TO REQUIREMENTS FOR CHILDREN APPLYING FOR IRISH CITIZENSHIP

On 23rd March 2021, the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, announced that she will make it easier for children born here, whose parents are not Irish citizens and who are not entitled to citizenship at birth, to gain Irish citizenship themselves.

The current policy is that a child born in the State, but who is not entitled to citizenship by birth, needs to be resident in Ireland for five of the previous eight years before they can apply for citizenship.

Minister McEntee announced that she intends to reduce the residency requirements for such children from five years to three years.

These changes will be contained in the upcoming Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2021, which is expected to be submitted to Government in the coming weeks.

Once this legislation comes into force, the number of years a minor must be resident in Ireland will now be two years out of the previous eight, in addition to the requirement to have one year’s continuous residence immediately prior to their citizenship application.

Announcing this step, the Minister for Justice commented:

“The granting of Irish citizenship is a privilege and an honour which is recognised by the thousands of people who apply every year. It is my hope that reducing the amount of time children of non-Irish nationals born in Ireland have to wait before being eligible for citizenship will provide comfort and reassurance to many families across the country.

 This amendment provides increased security for children where a parent subsequently falls out of permission as the child will be entitled to Irish citizenship and will therefore be an EU citizen with the right to remain in the State with a non-EEA national guardian or parent.

However, it will not broaden the categories of children who are entitled to citizenship and this amendment will only apply to the children of those parents who are legally resident in the State. Children born here to non-national parents who have three years prior residency will continue to be Irish citizens from birth.”

This is a welcome development which will allow children who are currently on a pathway to citizenship to attain this status at a much earlier stage.

The full announcement can be read here.

If you or a family member have any queries about applying for Irish citizenship, please contact our office.

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE ANNOUNCES NEW TEMPORARY PROCESS FOR GRANTING CITIZENSHIP DURING COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS

On 18th January 2021, the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee announced a new temporary process for the granting of citizenship during Covid-19 restrictions.

In normal circumstances, successful applicants are required to attend a citizenship ceremony in order to obtain a certificate of nationality.

However, citizenship ceremonies have been suspended since March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under the new temporary system, qualifying applicants will be asked to complete a statutory declaration that will be emailed to them by the Citizenship Division of the Department of Justice. They will be required to bring the statutory declaration to one of the listed designated officials who will witness the applicant sign the statutory declaration.

The applicant must then send the signed statutory declaration, the appropriate fee and any other requested documentation to the Department’s Citizenship Division. A certificate of naturalisation signed by the Minister for Justice will then be sent to the applicant.

This new system is in place from 18th January 2021.

Commenting on the new system, the Minister stated Minister McEntee said:

“The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which is recognised by the thousands of people who apply every year. I am pleased that we can now bring some certainty to the people whose applications have effectively been on hold during the pandemic.

Approximately 4,000 applicants have not been able to receive a certificate of naturalisation due to the temporary suspension of citizenship ceremonies. The process I am opening today means that certificates can now be granted again, once the signed and witnessed statutory declaration and relevant fee has been received by my Department.”

The Department of Justice will be in contact with qualifying applicants regarding the requirements on a phased basis over the next few months until in-person citizenship ceremonies are able to recommence.

The Department stated that the 4,000 applicants currently waiting on naturalisation will have been provided with an opportunity to gain citizenship by the end of March.

The Minister also commented that in-person ceremonies are provisionally scheduled to resume in December 2021.

In addition to this, Minister McEntee outlined some additional digital measures that she intends to implement in order to simplify the naturalisation process:

“I am putting the Justice Sector on a Digital First footing and will move our services away from old, paper-based systems.

Plans for the digitalisation of the naturalisation process are well advanced, through increased digital and ICT investment. As part of this process, eTax-clearance for citizenship applicants has been introduced. Online payments have been trialled for applications from minors and the process is currently being rolled out to adult applications on a phased basis.”

If you have any queries about the naturalisation process, please do not hesitate to contact our office.