Tag Archive for: Irish citizenship

REFUSAL OF NATURALISATION APPLICATION ON GOOD CHARACTER GROUNDS OVERTURNED BY HIGH COURT

REFUSAL OF NATURALISATION APPLICATION ON GOOD CHARACTER GROUNDS OVERTURNED BY HIGH COURT

Mr Justice Garrett Simons of the High Court has recently delivered a judgement in the case of A.J.A v Minister for Justice [2022] IEHC 162 JR.

The case concerned a refusal of an application for naturalisation.

The application was refused on the grounds that the Applicant did not meet the good character criterion under Section 15(1)(b) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956. The Applicant was found to have submitted a potentially false Somali passport with her application.

The Applicant subsequently issued judicial review proceedings in the High Court to challenge the decision to refuse her application for a certificate of naturalisation. This was the second set of judicial review proceedings issued by the Applicant in respect of her application for naturalisation. The Applicant had issued judicial review proceedings in 2021 challenging the delay in processing her application. These proceedings were struck out of the High Court in January 2022, following the issuance of a decision on the Applicant’s application in December 2021.

The primary issue that was considered in the second set of judicial review proceedings was whether fair procedures had been observed in the Minister’s decision-making process.

The Applicant submitted her application for naturalisation on the 29th May 2017. On the 6th November 2017, the Applicant’s solicitors submitted a letter to the Minister that highlighted the Applicant’s concern as to the genuineness of the passport that she had submitted with her application. On the 10th May 2018, the Applicant’s solicitors sent a further letter to outline attempts made by the Applicant to have a new Somali passport issued. The Respondent then sent a letter in response, confirming that a thorough investigation was required as to the genuineness of the Applicant’s passport.  It was the Applicant herself who proactively contacted the Minister in relation to this issue and confirmed that she had always acted in good faith in respect of her application for a passport and in respect of her application for naturalisation.

The Applicant was ultimately successful in the High Court on the grounds that the Minister’s decision did not consider the Applicant’s explanation nor the exculpatory factors at issue.

Mr Justice Garrett Simons found that submission of the Minister did not meet the prescribed standard of fair procedures as it failed to acknowledge the explanations offered by the Applicant in respect of her passport. Ms Justice Garrett Simons found that, “The omission from the submission/recommendation of an accurate record of the explanation and exculpatory factors is fatal to the validity of the decision made.” The Court further found that the Minister’s decision did not meet the legal test for the adequacy of reasons.

The Court acknowledged that the submission of a false passport is an extremely serious issue and could of course legitimately give rise to a decision to refuse an application for Irish citizenship by way of naturalisation. The Court found that it was the manner in which the decision was made that was problematic, it was not clear whether the Applicant’s explanation that due to the circumstances in Somalia and the lack of Government, she could not confirm if her passport was valid or not,  had been provided to the Minister when the decision to refuse was made. The Court held that “The failure of the respondent in the present case to take the basic step of identifying the precise documents which had been submitted to the ultimate decision-maker is regrettable”.

The Minister of Justice’s decision to refuse the Applicant’s naturalisation application was quashed. The Court held:

 

  1. The submission/recommendation in the present case failed to meet the prescribed standard of fair procedures. The principal deficiency is that the submission/recommendation fails to record, even in the most cursory form, the explanations offered by the Applicant, through her solicitors, for the submission of the false passport. There is no reference to the practical difficulties asserted by the Applicant in obtaining a passport from Somalia given what is said to be the absence of a functioning central government there. Nor is there any reference to the efforts made by the Applicant to travel to the Somali Embassy in Belgium for the purpose of obtaining a passport. Although these events occurred after the submission of the false passport, they are, 13 arguably, indicative of the practical difficulties which a Somalia national, who has been long-term resident in the Irish State, faces in obtaining a passport from that country

The full judgement can be found here.

This blog article has been prepared on the basis of current immigration law and policy, which is subject to change. Please keep an eye on our blog and Facebook page where articles relating to updates and changes in immigration law and policy are regularly posted.

UPCOMING CITIZENSHIP CEREMONIES

UPCOMING CITIZENSHIP CEREMONIES

The Department of Justice has announced that the next citizenship ceremonies will take place on Monday the 5th of December and Tuesday the 6th of December 2022. The ceremonies are being hosted at the Killarney Convention Centre in Killarney, Co. Kerry.

Invitations will issue in due course to eligible candidates. Candidates are required to produce identity documents, for example a valid passport, on the day of the ceremony for verification purposes. At the ceremony candidates take an oath of fidelity to the nation, receive their certificate of naturalisation and become Irish citizens.

Berkeley Solicitors wishes to congratulate our clients who have recently received their Irish Citizenship, and all who will be attending these ceremonies.

MINISTER HELEN MCENTEE ANSWERS PARLIAMENTARY QUESTION REGARDING PROCESSING TIMES FOR NATURALISATION APPLICATIONS IN THE STATE

Minister Helen McEntee recently answered a parliamentary question in relation to the processing times for naturalization applications in the State.

Deputy Bernard J Durkan asked the Minister to confirm the number of naturalization applications that had been received by the Department of Justice during the period of 1st January 2022 to 31st March 2022, how many of those had been granted, and the expected processing time for those that had yet to be determined.

The Minister acknowledged the importance that naturalization applications hold for applicants, and highlighted that the Department of Justice continued to accept applications throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Minister McEntee confirmed that 3,706 naturalization applications were received by the Department of Justice between 1st January 2022 and the 31st March 2022, three of which have been approved. She continued to clarify that a further 24 applications from this cohort are “in the final stage of processing”.

Interestingly, Minister McEntee confirmed that the average processing time for naturalization applications is currently 19 months and highlighted that this had been reduced from a previously stated processing time of 23 months. While the reduction of the processing time is a welcome update, it remains far above the pre-pandemic average processing time of 12 months.

Minister McEntee portrayed an awareness of the need for a further reduction in the length of time people are currently being made to wait to have their citizenship applications determined. She highlighted that the Department of Justice is introducing new measures to try and speed up the process, including the assignment of new staff and a number of digitization measures. It remains to be seen if these measures will indeed aide the continued reduction of processing times of naturalization applications in the State.

If you or your family require advice on your eligibility for naturalisation or in respect of your ongoing naturalisation application, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

The full parliamentary question and answer can be read here.

NATURALISATION APPLICATIONS AND THE “SIX WEEK RULE”

Berkeley Solicitors has recently received confirmation from the Department of Justice that the day a person leaves and returns to the State are not considered a day absent from the State when calculating absences for naturalisation applications.

For standard naturalisation applications a person is required to have five years reckonable residency in the last nine years. The period of five years can be made up as a period of four years within the last eight, with one-year continuous residence in the year prior to application

For those applying as the spouse or civil partner of an Irish citizen, you are required to have a period of three years in the last five years. This can be made up as two years within the last four, with one-year continuous residence in the year prior to the application.

It is the Minister’s current policy that declared refugees can apply for naturalisation after three years’ lawful residence in the State.

All Applicants are required to have one year’s continuous residency in the State in the year immediately preceding their application.

There is a question on the Form 8 naturalisation application, question 5.6, which asks if an Applicant has been absent from the state for more than six weeks in any of the last five years and to declare same if relevant.

It became apparent in recent years that the Minister’s policy was to deem an application ineligible on the basis of their absences from the State which became known as the “six week rule”. This meant that absences of over six weeks in the first four years or two years of reckonable residence would be deducted from a person’s overall reckonable residence and that an application would be deemed ineligible if a person was absent from the State for over six weeks in the year immediately preceding their application.

Following the Court of Appeal judgement findings in Jones v Minister for Justice and Equality, which affirmed the lawfulness of the Minister’s policy regarding the “six-week rule”, many clients have contacted our office seeking clarity regarding their eligibility where they have been absent for more than six weeks in the previous five years.

The court of appeal clarified that the Minister is entitled to operate a policy regarding absences however to date there is no published policy on the six-week rule or its operation.

It is positive to receive confirmation that days of travel are not considered a day absent in the calculation of a person’s residency and has provided much welcomed clarity in this area.

We would submit that a published policy should be accessible to all those who wish to submit applications for naturalisation as there remains no guidance whether absences for work are permissible and there is no clarity on whether the calculation should be based on a calendar year or a rolling year.

If you or a family member have any queries regarding the naturalisation process or your own application for naturalisation, please do not hesitate to contact us

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.

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE ANNOUNCES NEW REGULARISATION SCHEME FOR LONG-TERM UNDOCUMENTED MIGRANTS

On 3rd December 2021, the Minister for Justice announced a new scheme which will enable many undocumented migrants to apply to regularise their residency status.

The scheme will open for online applications in January 2022 and applications will be accepted for six months.

The scheme will include those who do not have a current permission to reside in Ireland, whether they arrived illegally or whether their permission expired or was withdrawn years ago.

In order to be eligible, applicants must have been undocumented for a period of four years, or three years in the case of those with dependent children.

According to a briefing session with Department of Justice officials held on 2nd December  2021, a short period of absence from the State in the undocumented period for those who would otherwise qualify will be disregarded. This will be limited to a max of 60 days absence from the State and the documented period arising from the short-term tourist permission (up to 90 days).

Applicants must meet standards regarding good character, though having convictions for minor offences will not, of itself, result in disqualification.

There will be no requirement for applicants to demonstrate that they would not be a financial burden on the State, as the scheme is aimed at those who may be economically and socially marginalised as a result of their undocumented status.

The scheme will also be open to individuals with expired student permission, those who have been issued with a section 3 notice under the Immigration Act 1999, and those who have received deportation orders.

The scheme is also expected to include international protection applicants who have been in the asylum process for a minimum of 2 years, though full details on this are yet to be announced.

There will be an application fee of €700 for family unit applications, while a fee of €550 will apply to individuals’ applications. Children up to 23 years, living with their parent(s), can be included in a family unit application.

Successful applicants will be granted residence permission which will allow access to the labour market and will provide a pathway to Irish citizenship.

Announcing the scheme, the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee stated:

“I’m delighted that the Government has approved my proposal for this momentous, once-in-a-generation scheme.

Given that those who will benefit from this scheme currently live in the shadows, it is difficult to say how many will be eligible, but we are opening this scheme for six months from January to allow people come forward and regularise their status.

It will bring some much-needed certainty and peace of mind to thousands of people who are already living here and making a valuable contribution to our society and the economy, many of whom may be very vulnerable due to their current immigration circumstances.”

As a result, they may be reluctant to seek medical assistance when ill, assistance from An Garda Síochána when they are the victim of a crime, or a range of other supports designed to assist vulnerable people in their times of need.”

I believe that in opening this scheme, we are demonstrating the same goodwill and generosity of spirit that we ask is shown to the countless Irish people who left this island to build their lives elsewhere.”

The full announcement can be read here.

Studies suggest that there are 17,000 undocumented persons in the State, including up to 3,000 children.

Berkeley Solicitors welcomes the announcement of this scheme, which will allow many undocumented migrants to come forward and apply to regularise their status.

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.

UPCOMING CITIZENSHIP CEREMONIES

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.

 

UPCOMING CITIZENSHIP CEREMONIES

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.