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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.

REVOCATION OF IRISH CITIZENSHIP – IRISH SUPREME COURT DECLARES SECTIONS OF THE IRISH NATIONALITY AND CITIZENSHIP ACT ARE UNCONSTITUTIONAL FOLLOWING JUDGEMENT IN DAMACHE V MINISTER FOR JUSTICE

On 14th October 2020, the Supreme Court found that the system in place for the revocation of Irish citizenship by way of naturalisation, as set out in section 19 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, was unconstitutional.

Under the provisions of Section 19 the Minister for Justice is required to notify a person that she intends to revoke their certificate of naturalisation. The affected person can then apply for an inquiry as to the reasons for revocation, and this application is referred to an independent committee of inquiry appointed by the Minister.

The Supreme Court held that this process does not meet the high standards of natural justice applicable to a person facing the severe consequence of losing their Irish citizenship. Central to this decision was the fact that the Minister for Justice is not bound by the findings of the independent committee, and that there is no right of appeal from the Minister’s decision.

Ultimately, the revocation process under Section 19 resulted in a situation where the same person who initiated the revocation process (the Minister), and whose representatives make the case for revocation before the committee, also makes the final decision to revoke.

The Supreme Court therefore found that Section 19 of the 1956 Act was unconstitutional. However, it deferred making its final orders until it had heard further submissions from the parties and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, who acted as amicus curiae in the proceedings, as to whether any aspects of Section 19 should be upheld, or whether Section 19 should be struck down in its entirety.

The Supreme Court heard these additional submissions on 21st January 2021.

On Wednesday 10th February 2021, the Court granted declarations that Sections 19(2) and 19(3) be struck down in their entirety but found that it was not necessary to strike down section 19(1), which contains the ministerial power to revoke and the grounds for such revocation.

As a result of these declarations, new statutory provisions for the revocation of certificates of naturalisation will have to be implemented. Until this occurs, the Minister for Justice cannot exercise her statutory power to revoke a certificate of naturalisation.

As reported by the Irish Times, Ms Justice Dunne said it is “inconceivable” that the Minister for Justice could revoke a grant of citizenship until a new process is in place with safeguards to meet natural justice requirements.

The full judgement of the Supreme Court can be read here (https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/9f6e2c6d-eb77-4c9f-ad57-fffe7ffc65f6/2020_IESC_63.pdf/pdf) and the Irish Times article can be read here (https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/courts/supreme-court/supreme-court-ruling-to-require-new-rules-for-revoking-citizenship-1.4481073)

Berkeley Solicitors will post further updates on the ever-evolving law surrounding revocation of Irish citizenship as it become available.

If you or a family member have queries about the naturalisation process, 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.

SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT ON FAMILY REUNIFICATION FOR NATURALISED REFUGEES: M.A.M. (SOMALIA) AND K.N. (UZBEKISTAN)

Berkeley Solicitors are delighted to congratulate our client who won her appeal in the Supreme Court today in the joint test cases of – M.A.M. (Somalia) v The Minister for Justice and Equality and K.N. (Uzbekistan) and Others v The Minister for Justice. The judgement of Mr Justice McMenamin was a unanimous judgement of the Supreme Court in favour of the appellants, and was delivered on the 19th June 2020.

The judgement is very significant as it affects not just the individual families taking the appeal, but approximately fifty other applicant families who have cases pending in the High Court holding list awaiting the outcome of this Supreme Court appeal.

The case arose from a challenge to the decision of the Minister for Justice to refuse family reunification to our client’s family members under The Refugee Act of 1996 (as amended). The sole reason for the Minister’s decision was the fact that our client had become an Irish citizen by naturalisation prior to her family reunification application, and the Minister held she was not therefore entitled to the family reunification rights as a refugee.

During the course of the proceedings, the Minister accepted that the Department of Justice had previously interpreted Section 18 of the 1996 Refugee Act to permit naturalised refugees to apply for family reunification for their family members, and this favourable scheme was in operation between 2010 and October 2017. The Minister also accepted that in October 2017, following new legal advices, the Minister commenced a new procedure to preclude naturalised refugees from applying for family reunification. This change in policy resulted in many naturalised refugees being refused family reunification during the period of 2017 and 2018, prior to the commencement of the family reunification provisions of the International Protection Act 2015.

The Minister argued that in order for a person to have rights to family reunification under Section 18 of the 1996 Act, not only must they hold a declaration confirming their refugee status, but they must also be a refugee in line with the definition of a refugee in Section 2 of the Act. As this definition requires a person to be outside their “country of nationality” to be a refugee, the Minister’s argument was that a refugee who becomes naturalised is no longer deemed to be a refugee as they are not outside their country of nationality, when that country becomes Ireland.

The Supreme Court disregarded this argument, holding that there was nothing to suggest in the Act that the appellants’ “country of nationality” had altered from Somalia and Uzbekistan to Ireland, as their well-founded fear of persecution remained  in those countries and not Ireland.

The Supreme Court carried out a detailed statutory interpretation exercise in respect of the 1996 Refugee Act, and highlighted the absurdities that would follow if a refugee with a declaration of refugee status would also have to be “deemed” to be a refugee in order to avail of the important rights of family reunification.

The court stated:

“The consequence of the interpretation urged by the Minister would be to create substantial legislative uncertainty when the purpose of the 1996 Act was to achieve clarity. The case advanced would run counter to the legislative aim of the Oireachtas, which was, by a carefully devised procedure defined in the Act, to identify one definitive “mark” of recognition to persons who were entitled to refugee status in this State, which, in turn, would grant them benefits and entitlements.”

In conclusion, the Supreme Court held as follows:

“This judgement concludes that the fact that the appellants became citizens did not deprive them of the right to apply for family reunification under s.18 of the 1996 Act.”

This is a very welcome decision from the Supreme Court, because it gives certainty to the definition of a refugee and the interpretation of the family reunification provisions in the 1996 Refugee Act.

In effect it means that all the decisions issued by the Minister during the period of 2017 and 2018 to refuse applications for family reunification under the 1996 Act because the sponsors were refugees who had naturalised as Irish citizens, were unlawful.

It also means that the decisions granting family reunification to naturalised refugees during the 2010 to 2017 period are lawful, bringing legal certainty to the status of countless families now settled in Ireland.

We would expect that Minister will now agree to withdraw these previous unlawful decisions refusing family reunification, and reconsider and re determine the applications in line with the Supreme Court’s judgement.

We welcome the clarity that this judgement brings and look forward to working with our clients to have the unlawful family reunification decisions withdrawn and re determined.

The full judgement can be read here.

We are happy to advise further to anyone believes they are affected by this judgement.

Berkeley Solicitors

UK GOVERNMENT PUBLISHES DRAFT IMMIGRATION BILL GUARANTEEING RIGHT OF IRISH CITIZENS TO LIVE AND WORK IN THE UK POST BREXIT

Last month, the UK Government published the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, which provides the legislative basis for ending EU free movement arrangements in the UK once the Brexit transition period has expired.

The Bill aims to retain the Common Travel Area rights of Irish citizens to live and work in the UK without restrictions. Section 2 of the Bill provides that “an Irish citizen does not require leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom”. Exceptions to this include the possibility to deport Irish citizens for serious criminal offences.

The British Immigration Minister Kevin Foster has stated that the Bill “provides certainty and clarity for Irish citizens on their rights to enter and live in the UK, reflecting the reciprocal arrangements for British citizens in Ireland.”

In practice, the Bill will ensure that there is no change to free movement between Ireland and the UK for Irish citizens. This follows repeated assurances from both the Irish and UK governments that the Common Travel Area, which has been in place since 1922, will remain valid post-Brexit.

However, in its current form, the Bill does not provide Irish citizens with any right to have family members reside with them, unlike EU free movement law.

Other EU citizens may require visas to enter and reside in the UK from as early as 2021. The UK Home Office has announced its intention to introduce a points-based immigration system for both EU and non-EU citizens.

At present, these proposals are at a very early stage and are subject to change as the Bill moves through the legislative process. Members of Parliament are scheduled to consider the Bill for a second reading on Tuesday 21 April 2020.

The full text of the Bill can be found here.

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.

 

 

UPDATE ON CITIZENSHIP APPLICATIONS FOLLOWING THE JONES RULING

Further to our recent blog on the High Court’s findings in the case of Jones v The Minister for Justice and Equality, which can be read in full here, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of the Department of Justice have published a notice addressing the judgment and the concerns it has raised.

The Court had found in Jones that the law governing eligibility for naturalization as an Irish citizen requires ‘continuous residence’ in the year prior to application and that ‘continuous residence’ is defined as per the generally accepted understanding and dictionary definition of ‘continuous’, with the implication, therefore, that even one day’s absence from Ireland in the year prior to application will break the continuous residence requirement and render a person ineligible to apply for naturalization.

This judgment has understandably caused deep concern and worry for many and in response the INIS has now issued a statement providing the following:

“We are aware that the judgment in this case has given cause for concern and may have been upsetting for many people who are in the citizenship process. We want to assure you that we are taking all appropriate steps to remedy the situation as quickly as possible. The best interests of applicants and future applicants are foremost in our considerations.”

For those planning on submitting an application or who already have an application pending, the Department goes on to confirm that it is continuing to receive and process applications as usual and it emphasises that that they are not advising current applicants or future applicants to cancel any current or future travel plans in light of the judgment.

The Department advises that anyone who is planning on applying for naturalization continue preparing their application, collecting the necessary documentation and submit this together with a complete application form, stating that once they have formulated a solution to address the implications of the ruling they will be in touch with applicants should any further information be required.

The Department confirm that preparations are still going ahead as planned for the upcoming Citizenship Ceremony in September.

Importantly, the Department also state that they “do not believe that this ruling has consequences for anyone who has already obtained citizenship under the Act”. This will hopefully come as a reassurance to many who are concerned that their citizenship may be in question following this judgment.

Finally, the Department confirms that they are working to find a solution to address the ruling as a matter of urgent priority and that they will post on their website as updates occur.

We will be posting about any further developments from the Department as they arise and should you have concerns about your case in the meantime please do not hesitate to contact us.

The INIS statement can be read in full 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.

IMPORTANT UPDATE ON BREXIT AND THE RIGHTS OF NON-EU/EEA FAMILY MEMBERS OF BRITISH CITIZENS

In the face of the uncertainty and worry facing many in light of the ongoing Brexit deliberations, the Department of Justice has, on the 29th of March 2019, published a communication aimed at non-EU/EEA nationals who are residing in the State as the family member of a British citizen, in order to provide an update on the approach they intend to take in the event that the UK leaves the EU in a so called ‘no-deal’ scenario.

The communication defines no-deal as referring to circumstances where there is no further extension of the negotiating period and the UK does not ratify the Withdrawal Agreement before the 12th April 2019, in which case it states there will be no transition period and EU law will cease to apply to and in the UK as of 11pm (midnight CET) on that day.

Alternatively, if a deal is reached, according to the Department’s communication, the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement on Citizens Rights will apply and EU law will only cease to apply in and to the UK following the transition period of 21 months, up until the 1st of January 2021.

The information note addresses two groups of persons in contemplation of a no-deal Brexit; those with an EU treaty rights application submitted and pending and those holding a valid Stamp 4 EUFam residence card on the 12th of April 2019.

With respect to those who have an application that is still being processed, the information note provides no further information other than to state that such persons are not required to take any action at this time.

For those who are currently holding a valid Stamp 4 EUFam residence card, the information note seeks to reassure that you do not need to worry about losing your right to residence in the State in the case of a no-deal scenario.

It states that, although in a no-deal scenario EU law, in particular the provisions of the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2015, will no longer apply to you, the Irish government is currently putting in place arrangements to allow a transfer under domestic immigration provisions, which will provide for your continued residence in the State.

It is further stated that the aim of the arrangements being put in place is that you will retain, as far as possible, similar rights to those you have held as the holder of a Stamp 4 EU Fam residence card, including with regard to access to the labour market.

The Department states that they are currently in the process of putting in place a communication strategy that, in the case of a no-deal scenario, will include directly contacting individuals who will be affected by the above.

Further, addressing the matter of UK nationals coming to the State after the 12th of April 2019, if no deal has been made and there is no extension of the negotiating time, the Department provides no information other than to state that they will be issuing further updates on their website in this regard.

The note is also silent in relation to family members of British/UK citizens who have applications for entry visas to the State pending with Irish Embassies/ Visa Offices abroad and the INIS visa office, Dublin. It is unclear as to what the status of such applications will be in the event of a no deal scenario.

If you think you or your family members may be affected by Brexit it is advisable to regularly check the Department’s website, which they state will be updated as developments continue. Berkeley Solicitors will also update the Immigration Blog as further information becomes available.

The full text of the information note can be found here. (http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/information-note-on-non-eea-family-member-of-uk-citizens-seeking-eu-treaty-rights )