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2,000 PEOPLE FROM OVER 100 COUNTRIES CONFERRED WITH IRISH CITIZENSHIP

Congratulations to the almost 2,000 people who were conferred with Irish citizenship at ceremonies in Co. Kerry on Monday 9th December 2019.

We especially wish to congratulate a number of our clients who have recently received positive naturalisation decisions.

The new citizens are originally from 103 different countries, with over a quarter originating from Poland and the United Kingdom.

The ceremonies took place at the Gleneagle INEC in Killarney and were presided over by retired High Court judge. The Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, and Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton, were also in attendance.

Such ceremonies had been placed on hold following the High Court ruling in the Jones case in July 2019 that anyone applying for citizenship could not spend a day outside Ireland in the 12 months before applying.

Last month the Court of Appeal overturned this ruling, calling it “unduly rigid” and “unworkable”.

Minister Stanton described the ceremony as a major life event for the candidates, stating:

“Ultimately it’s about building a society where we all live in harmony while, at the same time, respecting our cultural and religious differences… The possibilities open to you in Ireland today are almost limitless. You are now beginning a new journey and a new phase in your life by becoming Irish citizens.”

Approximately 127,000 people have received Irish citizenship in the last 18 years. If you or a family member wish to discuss applying for naturalisation, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

 

 

COURT OF APPEAL JUDGEMENT IN THE JONES CASE

The Court of Appeal have delivered their much-awaited judgement today in the case of Jones v Minister for Justice and Equality.

Applications for naturalisation have been on hold since a judgement from the High Court in July 2019. The High Court found that a person is not eligible for naturalisation as an Irish citizen, if he or she had left Ireland at all, even for one day, in the year prior to their application.

The High Court held that an absence of even one day breaks the applicant’s requirements to have one year “continuous residence” in the year immediately prior to the application.

In dealing with the High Court’s finding the Court of Appeal held that this was not a correct interpretation of Section 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 (as amended).

The Court of Appeal held as follows:

The High Court judge erred in law in interpretation of the term “continuous residence” provided by Section 15(1)(c ) of the 1956 Act. The construction is unworkable, overly literal, unduly rigid and gives rise to an absurdity. “Continuous residence” within the meaning of the sub-section does not require uninterrupted presence in the State throughout the entirety of the relevant year nor does it impose a complete prohibition on extra- territorial travel as the High Court suggests.”

The Court found that a person who took a trip to Newry for a number of hours would be ineligible to apply for naturalisation and found that this amounted to an “interpretive” absurdity.

The Court went on to consider the lawfulness of the Minister’s policy with regards to the impact of absences of over six weeks in the year prior to application.

The Court held that the legislative intention of Section 15(1)(c ) was to place a higher degree of importance on physical residence in the State in the year prior to application than in the previous years of reckonable residence. The Court found that there is a difference between “residence” /“ordinary residence” and “continuous residence”.

The Court did not agree with the appellants argument that a person is “continuously resident” in the year prior to application simply by virtue of living in Ireland and not being resident elsewhere. The court found that this would negate the substance of the requirement for “continuous residence” in the year prior to application.

The Court found that the Minister communicated in the decision under challenge in this case, “a clearly communicated practice or policy of allowing applicants six weeks absence from the state for work, or other reasons, and more in exceptional circumstances”.

The Court then went on to consider if this policy or practice was unduly harsh or if in the alternative it alleviated the protentional of a literal interpretation of Section 15(1)(c)’s requirement for “continuous residence”.

The Court held:

“The Minister has not adopted a rigid or inflexible policy in construing compliance with the first part of Section 15(1)(c). It is apparent that the objective of the Minister is to adopt a purposive, reasonable and pragmatic approach to the operation of that part of the sub-section”.

The Court further held that the operation of the minister’s “six-week policy” was for the benefit of applicants, in the interests of good administration and for consistency in decision making.

The Court found that the operation of the policy is not unlawful and does not create a “non-statutory barrier” to naturalisation. The Court found the Minister’s policy and practice was “sensible” and in line with the legislation. The Court found that the criteria of the Minister to establish “continuous residence” was reasonable and balanced and has regard to the societal norms regarding foreign travel.

On the basis of the above the Court held that the appellant did not have a year’s “continuous residence “in the State in the year immediately prior to application and was therefore the decision to refuse his application for naturalisation on this basis was not unlawful.

The Court’s judgement is to be welcomed as it has clarified what is required of an applicant to meet the “continuous residence requirement” in the year prior to application.

However, it is unfortunate for applicants, who were not in fact made aware of the Minister’s policy and practice in advance of making their applications.

To date there remains no published policy on the six-week rule or its operation.

We would submit that that policy should be freely accessible and easy to understand. There is no outline of what constitutes “exceptional circumstances”. There remains no guidance regarding absences from work, whether all are permitted or a certain portion.

It is arguable if a period of six weeks absence is in line with the reality for a lot of persons working in Ireland who are required to travel extensively for work. By way of comparison absences of 90 days are permitted by statute in the United Kingdom.

It remains to be seen if the Minister will continue to enact much needed legislation in this area.

 

 

 

THE PROBLEM WITH STAMP 3 IMMIGRATION PERMISSION

Persons on Stamp 3 immigration permission are restricted from taking up employment or working in Ireland.

Our office has met many clients whose lives are severely negatively impacted by holding Stamp 3 permission.

Many adults, who wish to work and integrate into Ireland are prevented from doing so unless their area of expertise or work experience leaves the option of an employment permit open to them. Even then obtaining a work permit is not always possible. The vast majority of occupations are ineligible for employment permits.

Many people holding Stamp 3 have been offered secure employment but have been unable to take up their employment offers due to the restrictions placed on them by their immigration status.

We submit that to put adults, who are able and willing to work in this position is unnecessary and cruel.

It prevents individuals from getting to know people in Ireland and fully integrate. Employment gives people confidence and a sense of purpose. Being unable to work negatively impacts on a person’s mental well being. A large part of a person’s self-worth and sense of being is derived from their employment.

We submit that the Minister should promote the ideals of employment and self-sufficiency and should not leave adults who are able to work in such a position. Persons on Stamp 3 are required to remain dependent on family members well into their adulthood.

Young adults are most affected by the issuance of Stamp 3 permission at an extremely important and formative part of their lives. Our office is even aware of adults with children of their own being issued Stamp 3 permission to reside, leaving them unable to support themselves or their own families.

We submit that allowing persons to work serves in the best interests of the state as it will allow persons to contribute to the economy and promotes integration and the building of communities.

We submit that there is no risk to state resources, funding or expenditure in the granting of Stamp 4/ Stamp 1 without the need for a work permit to persons currently resident on Stamp 3 as the Minister can make it a condition of a person’s immigration permission that they cannot access State supports.

The absolute prohibition on work was found to be unlawful in respect of persons seeking asylum in Ireland in the case of  of N.V.H. v Minister for Justice and Equality and ors [2017] IESC 35 in which it was held that the ability to engage in work is connected to the dignity of the human person and that prohibiting a non-citizen, in this particular case an asylum seeker, from seeking employment is therefore contrary to the Constitution. We submit that the same reasoning should apply to individuals currently on Stamp 3 permission in the State.

We highlight in particular the Court’s judgment at paragraphs 15-17 in which it is stated:

“15…Much work is drudgery, often the subject of complaint rather than celebration, and most often an economic necessity as a means to live a chosen life rather than an end in itself. However even approaching the matter with a healthy dose of skepticism, it must be recognised that work is connected to the dignity and freedom of the individual which the Preamble tells us the Constitution seeks to promote.

Persons on Stamp 3 permission are not eligible to take up employment in the State until if and when he or she naturalises as an Irish citizen- given the current processing times this could amount to anywhere from 5 to 6 years if not more.

We submit that the restriction on work created by Stamp 3 immigration permission is unnecessary and unreasonable.

If you or a family member are affected by Stamp 3 immigration permission please do not hesitate to contact our office.

PROPOSED CHANGES TO IRISH EMPLOYMENT PERMIT SYSTEM

The general scheme of the Employment Permits (Consolidation and Amendment) Bill 2019 has been published.

This is the result of a review conducted last year by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation on economic migration policy review, which found inflexibilities in the current employment permit system.

The current system is governed by the existing Employment Permit Acts 2003-2014.

Speaking about the proposals, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, has said:

“The proposed legislation will increase the agility and responsiveness of Ireland’s economic migration system to meet skills and labour needs, while continuing to safeguard the labour market and support the employment rights of permit holders. I want to modernise the system and ensure that it is capable of adapting to changes in the future as well as fluctuations in demand across the economic cycle.”

The aim of the Bill is to consolidate existing legislation, as the Government believes any further amendment to the existing Employment Permit Acts 2003-2014 would significantly increase the complexity of the current system.

Major changes proposed by the Bill including streamlining the processes for ‘trusted partner’ and renewal applications, and making the system more agile and easier to modify to meet changing economic circumstances, technological advances and process changes as they arise.

Another proposal is to modify the ‘50:50 rule’, which currently requires that 50% of an employer’s staff be EEA nationals before an Irish employment permit may be granted, allowing it be waived in cases where the permit holder would be the sole employee. However, this change is subject to the employer demonstrating that they have made efforts to recruit from within Ireland and across the EEA in the first instance. The 50:50 requirement would resume from the point at which a second employee is contracted.

The Bill also proposes the introduction of new categories of employment permit, namely a Seasonal Irish Employment Permit and a Special Circumstances Employment Permit.

The Seasonal Irish Employment Permit would cater toward those working in the short-stay and recurrent employment sectors. Ireland is an outlier in not offering this type of permit, which would allow individuals to come to the State to work in sectors such tourism, farming and horticulture on a short-term basis.

The Special Circumstances Employment Permit would allow for bilateral, reciprocal agreements between Ireland and other States and could be used, for example, to address a need for a niche, but critically important skillset, for which no formal training is available in Ireland.

The proposals also include an extensive revision of the Labour Market Needs Test, the requirement whereby employers need to firstly advertise vacancies within Ireland and across the EEA.

Ms Humphreys has said:

“The overhaul [of the Labour Market Needs Test] will make it more relevant, efficient, and modernised to reflect current advertising practices. It will also ensure that the test is more targeted and effective in reaching Irish and European jobseekers in the first instance.”

The primary aim of Irish government policy when it comes to the labour market is to promote the sourcing of labour and skills from within Ireland, the EU and other EEA States first and from there look at alternatives from further afield. Permits for highly skilled personnel from outside the EEA can be granted where the requisite skills cannot be met by normal recruitment or training.

The aim of the proposed changes, according to Ms Humphreys, is to enhance accessibility and improve the transparency of the employment permit process while “retaining the core focus of a vacancy led employment permits system focused on meeting the skills and labour needs in the State.”

At present, these proposals are at a very early stage and are subject to change as the Bill moves through the legislative process.

The full text of the general scheme of the Employment Permits (Consolidation and Amendment) Bill 2019 can be found here.

 

 

NEW PRE-CLEARANCE PROCESS FOR NON-EEA DE FACTO PARTNERS OF IRISH CITIZENS

In order to streamline the process for Irish emigrants to return home with their Non-EEA De Facto Partners, a new pre-clearance process has been introduced.

Launched on the 19th of August 2019, this new process enables De Facto Partners of Irish nationals to apply for their permission to reside in Ireland prior to travelling, providing heightened certainty for those planning on moving home to Ireland with their De Facto Partners.

Under the previous system, the application process for De Facto partners could only begin after their arrival in Ireland. The new process aims to speed up the permission process, thereby allowing applicants to register, reside and work in Ireland without delays.

For immigration purposes, a person is considered a De Facto Partner, opposite or same sex, of another person if they have a mutual commitment to a shared life to the exclusion of others, akin to the practice of marriage or a civil partnership but not in law.

The Minister for Justice and Equality hopes that “this will encourage more people to come home… While away, some have met life partners and perhaps even started their own families. We want to show these people that Ireland is ready to welcome them home and that we will provide a clear immigration and labour market pathway for their De Facto Partners”.

For more information, please read here

SUPREME COURT DELIVER JUDGEMENT IN P -v- MINISTER FOR JUSTICE AND EQUALITY [2019] IESC 47

An important judgement has been delivered by the Supreme Court in the case of P -v- Minister for Justice and Equality [2019] IESC 47.

The Courts highlighted that this is a difficult and novel area of law. O’Donnell J in his judgement noted: “this is a very difficult area, with competing considerations, an absence of legislative structure, and little by way of guidance from the decided cases.” 

The applicant in his proceedings contended that the reasons provided to him in the refusal of his application for naturalisation remained insufficient and that it ought to have been possible for the Minister to offer to provide “the gist” of the information relied upon.

The applicant contended that if necessary, a special advocate procedure ought to have been adopted.

There is a special advocate procedure in place in other common law countries, most notably the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand, which are now the subject of detailed procedures providing for the appointment of a special advocate, and what are described as closed material hearings.

Two judgements were issued in this matter, by Mr Justice Clarke C.J. and Mr Justice O’Donnell which reach the same conclusion on slightly different legal bases.

Clarke C.J.’s judgement found that it is possible to put in place an “enhanced process” by which an “independent assessment” could be made, “as to whether any version of the information could be provided in a way which would not affect State interests to the extent that disclosure should not be required at all”.

Clarke C.J. also noted that such a process of advice from an independent person would also enhance confidence in any decision made.
O’Donnell J’s discusses “special advocate procedures” stating:

“During these procedures decision-makers, and sometimes courts will consider material and hear evidence which is not provided to the individual or the advocate of his or her choice, but where the individual is represented by a special advocate with security clearance who cannot, however, communicate the substance of the information disclosed to the individual or seek instructions upon it.”

There is currently no provision for such procedures in Ireland.

In his judgment O’Donnell J found that the case of Mallak v. Minister for Justice [2012] IESC 59, [2012] 3 I.R. 297, a case which strongly affirmed the “duty to give reasons” did not govern this particular case.

O Donnell J held that the issue in this particular case was:

“(i) what by way of fair procedures is required where it is said that the basis for the refusal of citizenship is contained in information which cannot be disclosed by way of reasons for the decision, and
(ii) if it is possible to justify the refusal to give reasons, what is required by way of fair procedures to constitute such justification, so that a decision which did not provide reasons, would nevertheless be valid and not liable to be quashed?”

O’ Donnell J found that if national security concerns are properly raised, it cannot be the case that merely by seeking a decision, an interested party can demand access to information, the confidentiality of which is deemed essential to national security. The judge also highlighted, however that it must be recognised that fundamental issues are involved in this case- that a person can be the subject of an adverse decision on a matter of significance to them based upon materials not disclosed to them, and where the reasons for that decision are similarly withheld from them.

The judge referred to a case of the UK courts, R. (Haralambous) v. St. Alban’s Crown Court [2018] UKSC 1, [2018] A.C. 236, in that case, the restrictions on providing the gist of material occurred after there had been a limited closed materials procedure in which the information concerned was subject to some scrutiny independent of the state.

We welcome the Supreme Court’s determination in this case and hope that an “enhanced process” or “special advocate procedure” is introduced by the Minister as soon as possible. An application for citizenship is a hugely important matter for an applicant, who has made their home in Ireland. A fair and balanced system with an element of independence is to be welcomed and will assist both the applicant and the Minister to deal with these particular matters.

The full judgement of O’Donnell J. can be read here and the full judgement of Clarke C.J. can be read here.

RE-ENTRY VISAS NOW ABOLISHED FOR ADULT HOLDERS OF IRP/GNIB CARDS

As of 13th May 2019, visa required nationals who hold a valid IRP/GNIB card will no longer need a re-entry visa to travel back to Ireland. An individual will only need to be able to show their IRP/GNIB card and their passport or travel document to airline staff and immigration authorities as evidence of their right to travel to the State.

With this change Ireland has come into line with other EU Member States who rely similarly on residence permits rather than requiring re-entry visas from those holding immigration permission in the State.

This change has been long requested and will benefit an estimated 40,000 persons each year, taking away the need for them to pay a re-entry visa fee and submit their passport or travel document to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service while awaiting the outcome of their application, which could take in and around five weeks to process.

It is important to note however that as minors under the age of 16 years are not issued with an IRP/GNIB card their parent or guardian will still need to apply for a re-entry visa for them to allow them to travel to and from the State. While all other visas must be applied for from outside of the State, an application for a re-entry visa for a minor can be made from within the State.

Further worth highlighting are the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service’s instructions that in light of the delays in securing an appointment to register immigration permission at the Burgh Quay Registration Office, if living in Dublin, and the further two week period it may take to receive one’s IRP card, it is advised that visa required nationals intending to travel to and from the State in the first four months of their stay should apply for a multiple entry visa, which will allow for them to undertake travel in the interim period before their IRP card is issued to them.

For further information on these changes and their implications please see the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service website here.

SPECIAL SCHEME FOR NON-EEA NATIONALS WHO HELD A STUDENT PERMISSION IN THE STATE DURING THE PERIOD 1 JANUARY 2005 TO 31 DECEMBER 2010

The INIS has launched the new scheme for non-EEA nationals who held a student permission in the State during the period 1 January 2005 and 31 December 2010 to apply for permission to remain.This scheme applies to non-EEA persons who commenced their presence in the State lawfully under a student permission with a limited right to work and who maintained that lawful presence for at least two years.

HUMANITARIAN ADMISSION PROGRAMME (IHAP) NOW OPEN FOR APPLICATIONS

Berkeley Solicitors, immigration law specialists, welcome the newly announced Humanitarian Admission Programme (IHAP). This programme is undoubtedly a positive development for many of our clients who could potentially benefit under this new scheme.

The Humanitarian Admission Programme 2, also known as “IHAP” allows naturalised Irish citizens, programme refugees, persons with Convention refugee status, and subsidiary protection status to apply for immediate eligible family members to join them in the State between May 14th 2018 and 30th June 2018. The scheme will therefore be closed on the 30th June 2018.

Up to 530 vulnerable family members will qualify for admission under the scheme. Beneficiaries accepted under the IHAP receive Programme Refugee Status from the Minister under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme.

In a press release dated the 12th May 2018 it is stated that the purpose of the scheme is to meet Ireland’s commitments in relation to the ongoing migration crisis. With this in mind, the scheme is limited to beneficiaries in states where they are in the “most vulnerable situations internationally”. In the press release Minister of State David Stanton TD states that:

“The IHAP is a humane and flexible response to the needs of those fleeing high-risk areas and will facilitate their reunion with family members in Ireland. The Programme reaffirms the Government’s commitment and ability to respond positively to humanitarian crises. Persons admitted under this programme will be part of the IRPP and will therefore receive a status in their own right rather than a dependency status on their family member. This is important for their long term integration and sense of belonging in our communities.”

The list of eligible countries is based on the UNHCR Annual Global Trend Reports which lists the top ten major source countries of refugees. INIS in their FAQ on the IHAP instructs that the current list of countries is “subject to change”. Beneficiaries must be nationals of one of the following countries to be eligible under the scheme:

  • Syria
  • Afghanistan
  • South Sudan
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Central African Republic
  • Myanmar
  • Eritrea
  • Burundi

Those who are from one of the above eligible States must also fall under one of the categories provided under the Scheme. These are as follows:

  • Adult Child (unmarried and without dependants)
  • Minor Child (where the Minor Child is not eligible for reunification with a sponsor under the terms of the International Protection Act 2015. The Minor Child must be unmarried and without dependants)
  • Parent (where not eligible for reunification with a sponsor under the terms of the International Protection Act 2015)
  • Grandparent
  • A Minor Child for whom the Sponsor has parental responsibility (e.g. Orphaned Niece/Nephew/Grandchild, Sibling) (In certain circumstances, where a Sponsor does not have sole parental responsibility, the consent of the person that shares responsibility will be required)
  • A vulnerable close family member for whom the Sponsor is the primary caregiver and who is not part of another family unit.
  • The Sponsor’s spouse or civil partner as recognised under Irish law (where not eligible for reunification with a sponsor under the terms of the International Protection Act 2015) or the Sponsor’s de facto partner (may be granted to both opposite and same sex partners who have been together in a relationship similar to marriage or civil partnership and have a mutual commitment to a shared life together to the exclusion of all others. The Sponsor must be in a position to provide sufficient evidence of a durable relationship.)

Under the IHAP scheme the Sponsor (i.e. the person residing in Ireland who is inviting a family member in the State) must themselves meet a number of requirements.

  • The Sponsor must have been granted Convention refugee status, programme refugee status or subsidiary protection status in Ireland or be an Irish citizen
  • The Sponsor must be residing in Ireland and complete the IHAP proposal on behalf of the family member they wish to join them in Ireland (i.e. the beneficiary)
  • The Sponsor must be a person of “good character”.

While there are no explicit minimum financial requirements place on sponsors, such as a certain minimum income, nominations will be prioritised where the Sponsor is able to demonstrate that they can provide accommodation for their family member in Ireland. This is due to the ongoing housing crisis in Ireland.

There are no fees that must be paid by the sponsor to make an IHAP application. The sponsor may incur other costs relating to postage or translation for documents, if necessary.

One important point to note is that a proposal for a family member under  IHAP cannot be made if there is an ongoing application for family reunification under the International Protection Act, 2015.

The introduction of IHAP is seen as a welcome change by Berkeley Solicitors. We hope that our clients eligible under this scheme have the opportunity to benefit. For further information on the scheme please see the INIS FAQ on IHAP and the IHAP application form., or contact our office by email or phone.