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MINISTER FOR JUSTICE ANSWERS PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS RELATING TO EU TREATY RIGHTS REVIEW APPLICATIONS

On Tuesday 22nd September 2020, Holly Cairns TD put a number of parliamentary questions to the Minister for Justice relating to EU Treaty Rights review applications.

Deputy Cairns asked the Minister to provide details of the immigration status given to individuals that are waiting for a decision on EUTR review applications, and further asked if persons that are waiting for an EUTR review decision are permitted to work or to claim Covid-19 pandemic emergency payments.

In response to these questions the Minister stated as follows:

“A person who applies for a Residence Card on the basis of being a Qualified Family Member (QFM) of an EU National will generally be granted a Temporary Stamp 4 (TS4) of 6-9 months duration, on application, pending the processing of their application. A TS4 enables a person to live and work in the State.

If their application is refused, and they apply for a Review of this decision, another Temporary Stamp 4 will generally be issued to them, pending the Review application being processed, and a final review decision issuing. A successful QFM applicant at either application stage or Review stage will be issued a Residence card of 5 years duration (Stamp 4 EUFam).

Permitted Family Member (PFM) applicants, unlike Qualified Family Member applicants, are not issued with a temporary stamp on application or review. If a PFM applicant is deemed to be a PFM of an EU Citizen exercising their Treaty Rights, under the terms of the Directive, either when their application is processed, or when their review decision is processed, they will be issued a Residence Card of 5 years duration. (Stamp4 EUFam).

Anyone who has lost their job as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic can apply to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.”

Deputy Cairns also asked the Minister to provide details of the pending EUTR review applications according to nationality in tabular form.

The Minister confirmed that there are currently 2,142 review applications being processed in respect of 91 different nationalities. A table detailing the number of applications and the nationalities of the applicants was also published and can be accessed here.

The questions put to the Minister and the answers given can be read in full here and here.

If you or a family member have any queries about an EU Treaty Rights application, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE PUBLISHES NOTICE FOR NON-EEA FAMILY MEMBERS OF BRITISH CITIZENS WHO ARE RESIDING IN IRELAND

On 17th September 2020, the Department of Justice published an updated notice regarding the status of non-EEA family members of British citizens who are residing in Ireland.

The Brexit transition period is due to end on 31st December 2020.

The notice states as follows:

From the end of the transition period, non-EEA family members of British citizens that are newly resident in Ireland will not come within the scope of the EU Free Movement Directive. A separate preclearance scheme will apply to such persons seeking to reside in the State, and they should be in possession of a valid travel document and, if required, an Irish entry visa or transit visa for the State.”

We at Berkeley Solicitors welcome this update but the lack of clarity is concerning. The notice does not provide any information as to what will happen to applicants who have pending EUFam residence card applications that remain undetermined by 31st December 2020.

Our clients still do not have confirmation of what immigration rules and financial thresholds will be applied to residence/ pre clearance applications from the family members of British citizens after the 31st December 2020.

While the notice states that a separate preclearance scheme will apply to such persons seeking to reside in the State after the end of the transition period, details of the new preclearance scheme have not yet been announced.

We are also aware that a large number of residence applications for non-EEA family members of British citizens are taking considerably longer than six months to be determined. This is of great concern as the Minister is breaching the obligation to determine these applications within a six-month timeframe, thereby putting British citizens and their family members at risk that they may be refused after the 31st December 2020.

The full notice can be read here.

If you or your family are impacted by these issues please do not hesitate to contact the office.

HIGH COURT JUDGEMENT ON TEST FOR DEPENDENCY IN EU TREATY RIGHTS CASES

On 10th June 2020, Mr Justice Humphreys delivered his judgement in the case of Asif Rashid and Qasim Rashid v The Minister for Justice and Equality [2020] IEHC 333.

The first-named applicant is a British citizen, and his brother, the second-named applicant, is a citizen of Pakistan.

The central issue in the case was whether the Minister for Justice had erred in finding that no relationship of dependency had been established between the first and second-named applicants.

The Court ultimately upheld the decision of the Minister for Justice to refuse the second-named applicant’s application for residence based on his dependency on his EU Citizen brother.

Mr Justice Humphreys emphasised that the test for dependency in EU Treaty Rights cases is “definitively to be found in the CJEU jurisprudence, the most helpful summary of which is at paras. 19-28 of Case C-423/12 Reyes v. Migrationsverket”.

The Court found that the concept of dependency as defined in national case law, most notably in the case of VK v Minister for Justice and Law Reform [2019] IECA 232, does not change or add to the test for dependency established by existing CJEU jurisprudence.

In this regard the Court stated at paragraph 10:

“…the test has been phrased in different ways in different cases so the V.K. judgment should most certainly not be treated as a statute imposing another finer mesh of procedural and substantive legal complexity on top of the existing law. The really central point is the one [Baker J] makes at para. 81 of her judgment that “The test for dependence is one of EU law”. Therefore, any paraphrases in national jurisprudence are just that; and any language in any Irish case that is not found in CJEU jurisprudence is not creating or changing the CJEU jurisprudence. The latter remains the primary source of the meaning of dependency irrespective of any decisions at national level.”

The Court stated that the key issues in establishing dependency are the regularity of money transfers to the dependant applicant over a significant period, the necessity of those payments in enabling the dependant to support himself or herself in their country of origin, the financial and social conditions of the dependant, and the demonstration of a real situation of dependence.

Importantly, the Court emphasised that the payment of significant sums on a regular basis to the dependant in the country of origin, will not, by itself, constitute sufficient evidence of dependency.

This judgment of the High Court can be seen as a more conservative approach to the concept of dependency in EU Treaty Rights cases.

The full judgement can be read here.

If you or a family member have queries about EU Treaty Rights, please do not hesitate to contact the office.

CURRENT DELAYS ON THE PROCESSING OF EU TREATY RIGHTS APPLICATIONS

 

Principal of Berkeley Solicitors, Karen Berkeley, was quoted in The Times on the 6th July 2020 highlighting her concerns regarding the current delays in the processing of EU Treaty Rights applications.

The article referred to the Minister’s recent response to a Parliamentary Question, in which the Minister confirmed as follows:

There is a significant number of review cases on hand arising from a sustained increase in applications since 2014. Currently, there are 2,283 cases awaiting processing at EU Treaty Rights review stage, of which 1,751 review applications (76%) have been awaiting a decision for over a year, with the oldest cases having been received in May 2017.

Ms Berkeley indicated her concern regarding these delays which have been creeping up over the last number of years. She stated that the courts have suggested that six months is a reasonable timeframe for the EUTR review applications, and once the timeframe goes beyond six months the Department may potentially be in reach of the EU law.

Ms Berkeley highlighted some clients of her office are waiting up to 18 months for a decision, a clear breach of the EU law. She also confirmed that Berkeley Solicitors are currently taking cases to court for some clients who are experiencing these delays.

The delays are a particular problem for the family members of British citizens currently waiting the outcome of their EU Treaty Rights review applications. After the 31st December 2020, their EU Treaty Rights will cease due to the end of the Brexit transition period. There is no clarity on what will happen to these pending applications

Read the full article here:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/immigration-permits-under-eu-treaty-taking-over-a-year-hn29fv09b

Read the Minister’s response to the Parliamentary Question here:

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PQ-30-06-2020-287

NO NEW VISA APPLICATIONS ACCEPTED BY INIS SINCE MARCH 2020

RTÉ News has reported that the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service has not accepted any new visa applications as of 20th March 2020 due to Covid-19.

A spokesperson from the Department of Justice was quoted as saying:

“While it will still be possible to apply for an Irish visa online in the normal manner, these temporary measures mean that applicants will not be able to complete their application process. However, any application made online will remain valid until such time as restrictions are lifted.”

VFS Global, which provides a wide range of visa-related services, has also closed many of its Visa Application Centres.

The VFS website states that Ireland has suspended visa services globally as of 23rd March 2020.

This is despite the fact that a limited category of “Priority/Emergency” visas are still being processed, as outlined in INIS notice issued on 21st March 2020. These include professionals, health researchers and elderly care professionals, immediate family members of Irish citizens who are returning to their ordinary place of residence in Ireland, persons legally resident in the State, and persons entitled to avail of the provisions of the EU Free Movement Directive.

In instances where the local Consulate or Embassy is unable to process visa applications falling within these categories due to local Covid-19 restrictions, the Department has arranged to accept visa applications in its Dublin Visa Office.

RTÉ News questioned whether the decision to cease accepting new visa applications since March 2020 was allowing any backlog of applications to be cleared, and asked the Department of Justice to clarify what the situation is today.

The Department responded:

“…it is not possible to state a total number of employment visa applications on hand at a specific point in time, be it December or now. This is because of the fact that visas are received and processed throughout our network of missions globally and not just at the office here in Dublin.”

The spokesperson for the Department also stated that the intention is to resume accepting visa applications as soon as it is safe to do so.

The article can be read in full here.

If you or a family member have any queries about applying for an Irish visa, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

UK GOVERNMENT CONFIRMS PEOPLE BORN IN NORTHERN IRELAND ARE TO BE CONSIDERED EU CITIZENS FOR CERTAIN IMMIGRATION PURPOSES

The UK Government has announced a change to its immigration laws following a landmark court case involving Derry woman Emma De Souza and her US-born husband Jake De Souza.

The case concerned the right of people in Northern Ireland to be considered Irish or British citizens, or both, as per the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Mr De Souza had applied to the UK Home Office for an EEA residence card to live and work in Northern Ireland on the basis of his marriage to Ms De Souza in 2015. The application was rejected on the basis that Ms De Souza was considered a British citizen because she was born in Northern Ireland, and therefore she was not entitled to EU free movement rights. This was despite the fact that Ms De Souza had never held a British passport and identified as an Irish citizen.

The UK Home Office originally argued that people born in Northern Ireland are automatically British citizens according to the 1981 British Nationality Act, even if they identify as Irish. It stated that the only way it could deal with Mr De Souza’s application was if Ms De Souza renounced her status as a British citizen.

Ms De Souza argued that the UK’s immigration laws were incompatible with the right of Northern Irish people to be accepted as Irish or British, or both, under the Good Friday Agreement.

The UK Home Office has now made a change to its immigration laws, confirming that British and Irish citizens born in Northern Ireland will be treated as EU citizens.

This decision has far-reaching consequences in light of the UK’s EU Settlement Scheme, which is open for applications until June 2021. The Scheme allows EU citizens and their family members to apply to reside in the UK post-Brexit. Until now, family members of British or dual British-Irish citizens from Northern Ireland were ineligible to apply for status under the Scheme.

All citizens in Northern Ireland will now have the right to apply for a non-EEA family member to remain in the UK through the Scheme, up until June 2021. This means that British citizens in Northern Ireland now have more rights than their counterparts in England, Wales and Scotland.

Speaking about the announcement, Ms De Souza commented:

“These changes are on the back of years of campaigning for the full recognition of our right to be accepted as Irish or British or both under the Good Friday Agreement.

We have always contended that no-one should be forced to adopt or renounce a citizenship in order to access rights, to do so goes against both the letter and the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, the Home Office now concedes that point.

These changes will only apply to Northern Ireland and recognise the unique status that the region holds within the United Kingdom. Something that we have longed called for.

We personally know a number of families that will benefit from this change and are filled with joy and relief that these families will not face calls to renounce British citizenship or face years in court like we have.”

UPDATE ON BREXIT AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR NON-EEA FAMILY MEMBERS OF BRITISH CITIZENS EXERCISING THEIR EU TREATY RIGHTS IN IRELAND

At midnight on 31st January 2020, the United Kingdom left the European Union on the basis of the Withdrawal Agreement. This means that the transitional period has commenced and will run until the 31st December 2020.

The Department of Justice and Equality, has published a communication on their website aimed at non-EU/EEA nationals who are residing in the State as the family member of a British citizen.

The Department has confirmed that during this transition period, which will last until at least the 31st December 2020, EU rules and regulations will continue to apply to the family members of British citizens who are currently resident in Ireland, that is to say they will continue to benefit from Directive 2004/38 and the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2015 which provide for the rights of British citizens to live and work in the EU.

Unfortunately, the Minister has yet to clarify what plan is in place for the family members of British citizens who currently hold EU Fam residence cards after the 31st December 2020.

Furthermore, the update is also silent on the policy to be applied to the family members of British citizens who will have EU residence card and visa applications pending at termination of the transition period.

It is indicated that the Department will announce details of arrangements for non-EEA family members of British citizens closer to the end of the transition period.

This lack of clarity on the status of such applications after the 31st December 2020 is disappointing.

Meanwhile, the EUTR Section of the Irish Naturalization and Immigration Service are in delaying issuing decisions in most applications well beyond the permitted timeframes. For example, many of the residence card applications are taking approximately ten months when the EU Regulations require that they are determined in a six-month period.

This delay is very unsatisfactory especially for the family members of British citizens who are now concerned regarding the pending deadline of the 31st December 2020.

It is advisable to regularly check the Department’s website. Berkeley Solicitors will also update the Immigration Blog as further information becomes available.

We understand many people are concerned regarding the uncertain impact of Brexit on their applications and right to reside and access the labour market in Ireland. If you or your family members are affected please do not hesitate to get in contact with our office.

The update can be read in full here.

 

SOCIAL DEPENDENCY IN EU TREATY RIGHTS CASES

Applications for visas and residence cards for family members of EU citizens pursuant to EU Treaty Rights often require proof that the Applicant is dependent on their EU Citizen family member.

The concept of dependency is not defined in the Citizens’ Rights Directive (Directive 2004/38/EC) or the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2015. However, case law of the Court of Justice of the EU has established that an Applicant must show that they are not in a position to support themselves, having regard to their financial and social conditions.

Thus, while dependency is often assessed in terms of the existence of financial support between the Applicant and the EU Citizen, it can also arise from social, emotional and medical circumstances.

Several recent judgments of the High Court have shed some light on the importance of social dependency in EU Treaty Rights cases.

The case of Chittajallu v The Minister for Justice and Equality, Record Number 2019/28, in which Berkeley Solicitors were acting for the Applicant, involved a British citizen who submitted a visa application for her dependent mother.

In his judgment delivered on 11th July 2019, Mr Justice Barrett highlighted that the Minister had not properly considered the issue of social dependency arising from the Applicant’s medical circumstances in the initial decision.

Berkeley Solicitors also acted for the Applicant in the case of Agha v The Minister for Justice and Equality, Record Number 2019/374, the facts of which similarly involved a British citizen who applied for a visa for his elderly dependent mother who had serious health issues and was not capable of living independently.

In his judgment of 23rd December 2019, Mr Justice Barrett states at paragraph 6:

“There is a further separate error presenting in this regard, viz. that, in breach of European Union law, the Minister did not have any regard to the particular illness of Mr Agha’s mother and how this impacted on dependence…

As is clear from Jia, at para. 37 (as touched upon in Chittajallu v. Minister for Justice & Equality [2019] IEHC 521, at para. 4): “in order to determine whether the relatives in the ascending line…are dependent…the host Member State must assess, whether, having regard to their financial and social conditions, they are not in a position to support themselves” [Emphasis added]. No such analysis was not undertaken here…”

It is clear from the above High Court decisions that a failure to take into account an Applicant’s social dependency on the EU citizen constitutes a breach of EU law. An analysis of the Applicant’s financial dependency alone will not be sufficient.

In both of the above cases, the Court ruled that the initial refusal was unlawful and remitted the matter to the Minister for fresh consideration.

This is a positive development for family members who are dependent on their EU Citizen family member for reasons other than, or in addition to, their financial circumstances.

Social dependency may arise from factors such as an Applicant’s medical circumstances or the nature of the social and emotional relationship between the Applicant and the EU Citizen.

If you or a family member wish to discuss an EU Treaty Rights application, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

The full judgments will be published shortly on the website of the courts, which can be found here.

COURT OF APPEAL JUDGMENT ON MEMBERSHIP OF THE SAME HOUSEHOLD IN EU TREATY RIGHTS CASES

On the 19th December 2019, the Court of Appeal delivered its judgment in the case of Subhan and Ali v the Minister for Justice and Equality, in which Berkeley Solicitors acted for the Applicants.

The decision is significant for family members of EU citizens who have applications, or are considering making applications, for visas or residence cards based on the fact that they are members of the same household of an EU citizen family member under Directive 2004/38/EC on the Right of Citizens of the Union and Their Family Members to Move and Reside Freely Within the Territory of the Member States, (‘the Citizens Directive’).

The case concerned the refusal of an EU Fam residence card to the cousin of a British citizen, who had lived as the member of his household for many years in the United Kingdom prior to moving to Ireland.

The central issue before the Court of Appeal was the meaning of the term ‘household of the Union Citizen’  for the purposes of the Citizens’ Directive.

The Applicants argued that the household of the Union citizen consists of those persons who are family members and who reside in the same dwelling as the Union citizen. The Respondent argued that what is to be established is that the household concerned is that of the Union citizen, and that the centrality of the Union citizen in the family living arrangements is to be assessed.

The Applicants also put forward submissions regarding other language versions of the term ‘membership of the same household’ and found that there was no ‘head of the household’  test in those versions.

Ms Justice Baker ultimately upheld the decision of the High Court in finding that the criterion of ‘membership of the same household’ is not simply established where family members live under the same roof. Rather, members of the household of the Union citizen must be those persons who are some way central to the family life of the Union citizen.

The Court held:

“68. It may be more useful to consider the notion of household by reference to what it is not. Persons living under the same roof are not necessarily members of the same household and they may well be what we colloquially call housemates. An element of sharing that is necessary in a household may well be met in that the persons living together may agree on a distribution of household tasks and a proportionate contribution towards household expenses. But because, for the purpose of the Citizens Directive, one must focus on the living arrangements of the Union citizen, the members of the household of the Union citizen must, on the facts, be persons who are in some way central to his or her family life, that those family members are an integral part of the core family life of the Union citizen, and are envisaged to continue to be such for the foreseeable or reasonably foreseeable future. The defining characteristic is that the members of the group intend co-living arrangement to continue indefinitely, that the link has become the norm and is envisaged as ongoing and is part of the fabric of the personal life of each of them.

69. It is not a test of with whom the Union citizen would choose to live, but rather, with whom he or she expects to be permitted or facilitated to live in order that his or her family unit would continue in being, and the loss of whom in the family unit is a material factor that might impede the Union citizen choosing to or being able to exercise free movement rights. That second element, it seems to me, properly reflects the core principle intended to be protected by the Citizens Directive.

70. It may be dangerous to give an example, and I do so by way of illustration only. A family member who had resided in the same house as a Union citizen for many years before free movement rights were exercised might well have become a member of the family with whom there has developed a degree of emotional closeness such that the person is integral to the family life of the Union citizen. That person could be a member of a household because the living arrangements display connecting factors that might, in an individual case, be termed a “household”. If the rights of free movement of a Union citizen within the group are likely to be impaired by the fact of that living arrangement, whether for reasons of the moral duty owed to the other members of the group or otherwise, then the rights under the Citizens Directive fall for consideration.”

The Court found that the EU Citizen’s Free Movement rights where not impeded or restricted by refusing a right of residence to his family member in this case.

The full judgment has been published on the website of the courts and can be found here.

RECENT CJEU JUDGEMENT FINDS THAT INCOME OBTAINED FROM UNLAWFUL EMPLOYMENT CAN BE USED AS PROOF OF SUFFICIENT RESOURCES

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has recently ruled in Bajratari v SSHD (Case 93/18) that there are no requirements with regards to the source of income in providing evidence of self-sufficiency. It further held that a child is to be considered self-sufficient and not to be a burden on social welfare system of a host State where they are supported by the unlawful employment earnings of a third country national parent.

The case specifically concerned Article 7(1)(b) of Directive 2004/38 which provides two criterion for a Union citizen’s right of residence in a host Member State for a period of over three months.

(i) having sufficient resources for themselves and their family members not to become a burden on the host state’s social assistance system;

(ii) comprehensive medical insurance.

The decision involved the right of an Albanian Applicant, Ms Bajratari, to reside in Northern Ireland in the capacity of the primary carer of two minor Union citizens, who had obtained certificates of Irish nationality. Ms Bajratari’s husband, and father of the minor EU citizens, had been working in Ireland without a residence card or permit, the former which expired in 2014. This income is the only available financial resources to the family.

After the birth of the couple’s first child in September 2013, Ms Bajratari applied for recognition of a derived right of residence under the Directive.

The Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland referenced Alokpa (Case C-86/12) where the CJEU had previously held in paragraph 27:

“the expression ‘have’ sufficient resources in a provision similar to Article 7(1)(b) of Directive 2004/38 must be interpreted as meaning that it suffices that such resources are available to the Union citizens and that that provision lays down no requirement whatsoever as to their origin…”.

However, the decision did not specifically address the issue of unlawful employment and therefore the application was rejected.

The Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland referred two main questions to the CJEU:

  1. Can income from employment that is unlawful under national law establish, in whole or in part, the availability of sufficient resources under Article 7(1)(b) of [Directive 2004/38/EC]?
  2. If “yes”, can Article 7(1)(b) [of the Directive] be satisfied where the employment is deemed precarious solely by reason of its unlawful character? [para 17]

The CJEU affirmed that Ms Bajratari’s right to reside was subject to limitations including the condition of having sufficient resources not to become a burden on the social welfare system. [para 28 – 29]

However, the court held that this condition did not contain a requirement as to where these financial resources originated from and therefore does not exclude income derived from the third country national parent’s unlawful employment.

The court confirmed that in such situations there is a greater risk that the minor Union citizen will be dependent on the social assistance system, given the greater risk at losing this income. Nevertheless, the Directive contains provisions allowing the State to act in such situations to protect the social assistance system. Therefore, the CJEU found that excluding unlawful employment would lead to:

Para 42: “a further requirement relating to the origin of the resources provided by that parent, which would constitute a disproportionate interference with the exercise of the Union citizen minor’s fundamental rights of free movement and of residence under Article 21 TFEU, in so far as that requirement is not necessary for the achievement of the objective pursued”.

CJEU noted that Mr Bajratari had paid tax and social security contributions on his income even after his residence card expired.

Excluding unlawful employment income from meeting the social assistance requirement, in a situation where the family have been able to provide for themselves for ten years without relying on the social welfare system goes manifestly “beyond what is necessary in order to protect the public finances of that member state”. [para 46]

The court rejected the UK government’s argument that a restriction of the free movement rights of the couple’s children was justified on the grounds of public policy. [para 52]

In conclusion, Mr Bajratari’s employment was held to be satisfactory under the concept of sufficient resources despite it being unlawful. This is a very positive decision from the CJEU, one which highlights the interdependence between the right to work and the right to reside.

A third country national parent must have a right of residence to obtain a work permit. Yet often require the right to work in order for their EU citizen child to fulfil the conditions under the Directive to reside in the host state. Therefore, the exclusion of income derived from unlawful employment would inherently reduce the family’s chance of acquiring the right to reside in the host state.

The CJEU has underscored and promoted the rights of Union citizens in this decision.

The judgement can be read in full here