Tag Archive for: Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956

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.

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.

CLIENT OF BERKELEY SOLICITORS GRANTED CERTIFICATE OF NATIONALITY FOR THEIR MINOR STATELESS CHILD

We at Berkeley Solicitors are delighted for our clients and their minor child who was granted a certificate of nationality pursuant to Section 28 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956.

This is the second client of our office that has been issued with a certificate of nationality under the 1956 Act.

The applicant was a stateless child born to parents who have no nationality and who are recognised by the relevant foreign government as stateless. Our client was born in Ireland but was not entitled to citizenship by birth pursuant to Section 6A of the 1956 Act, as amended as their parents had not acquired three years reckonable residence prior to their birth.

There is currently no official system for the recognition of statelessness in these circumstances nor is a formal procedure in respect of the acquisition of citizenship pursuant to Section 6 (3) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended which states:

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

The granting of this application follows that our client is now recognised as an Irish citizen by birth on the basis that they are not entitled to any other nationality.

This is another significant decision for stateless persons who may have a baby born in Ireland who is not entitled to any citizenship from another country, and it has become clear to us that this it is entirely possible for the Minister to issue certificates of nationality pursuant to Section 6(3) of the 1965 Act where appropriate.

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

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.

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.

STATELESS CHILD BORN IN IRELAND GRANTED A CERTIFICATE OF NATIONALITY

We at Berkeley Solicitors would like to extend our warmest congratulations to our client and their minor child who was recently granted a certificate of nationality pursuant to Section 28 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956.

The case involved a minor child whose parents hold “Aliens” passports, and do not have citizenship of any country.

Our client is therefore a stateless minor child who was born in Ireland but was not entitled to Irish citizenship by birth pursuant to Section 6A of the Irish National and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended because neither of their parents has acquired three years reckonable residence prior to the birth of their child.

Section 6 (3) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended, which states as follows.

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

In order for our client to have her right to Irish citizenship recognised under this provision, we applied to the Minister for a Certificate of Nationality pursuant to Section 28 of the 1956 Act which states as follows:

“(1) Any person who claims to be an Irish citizen, other than a naturalised Irish citizen, may apply to the Minister or, if resident outside Ireland, to any Irish diplomatic officer or consular officer for a certificate of nationality stating that the applicant is, at the date of the certificate, an Irish citizen; and the Minister or officer, if satisfied that-

(a) the applicant is an Irish citizen, and

(b) the issue of the certificate is necessary in all the circumstances of the case,
may issue a certificate of nationality to him accordingly.”

The granting of this application now means that our client is recognised as an Irish citizen by birth on the basis that she is not entitled to citizenship in any other country. Our clients can now apply for an Irish passport for their minor child, which is a wonderful conclusion to their case.

This is a significant decision for other stateless persons who may have a baby born in Ireland who is not entitled to any citizenship from another country. We at Berkeley Solicitors would be happy to advise any clients in similar situations and would encourage you or any family members in such positions to contact our office.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT JUDGEMENT ON GOOD CHARACTER ASSESSMENTS IN NATURALISATION APPLICATIONS

The Court of Appeal have delivered another important judgement relating to the Minister’s assessement of “good character” for the purposes of applications for naturalisation in the case of MNN v Minister for Justice and Equality [2020] IECA 187.

Along with the recent judgement of Talla v Minister for Justice and Equality [2020] IECA 135 this judgement is an important ruling with respect to the Minister’s obligations when conducting assessments of “good character” and could see a shift in the way in which applications for naturalisation are to be considered by the Minister.

The applicant in this case applied for naturalisation in October 2013 and received a refusal of his application based on good character grounds.

The applicant declared in his application that he had two convictions for road traffic matters, which occurred in December 2012, namely failure to display road tax and failure to display insurance disc. The applicant had only become aware of these matters in 2013 as the fixed penalty notices and summons had been sent to his former address with his spouse, which he never received.

In early 2016, the Minister sought further information from the applicant in relation to an incident in which he was described in the report as a “witness”, where Section 12 of the Child Care Act had been invoked following a domestic altercation.

The applicant provided a thorough explanation for this matter and had instructed legal representation in September 2017 to make further representations to the Minister. The court described the applicant as providing a “frank and forthright explanation”.

Some four and half years after applying for naturalisation, the applicant’s application was refused in February 2018. The Court examined in detail the “submission” upon which the decision to refuse was based. The Court noted that it was unclear if the decision maker had access to all the relevant information and context, including the applicant’s detailed representations in relation to the incidents.

The Court highlighted that the Minister’s absolute discretion in determining applications for naturalisation does not “relieve the Minister of the obligation to operate within the rule of law”.

The Court goes on to outline a set of principles to be applied in assessing good character and notes that even though naturalisation is a privilege, applicants do not enjoy “inferior legal protection”. Good character is to be assessed “against reasonable standards of civic responsibility” and the connection between character and criminality can only be established when the Minister has all information including “context and mitigating factors”. The Minister must undertake a comprehensive assessment of the person and “all aspects of character”, and “Whether the appellant is a model citizen plays no part in what the Minister has to determine…”.

The Court set out the test for assessing applicants who may have a criminal offence in their past:

“Criminal convictions are relevant to the assessment of character, but they are not, in themselves, determinative thereof. Thus, it is not sufficient for the Minister to have regard only to the fact that an applicant for naturalisation has criminal convictions. What is required is a consideration of ‘all aspects of an applicant’s character’ in deciding whether he or she meets the relevant requirement for the purpose of s. 15 of the Act. The correct test is worth repeating. It is not whether an applicant has previous criminal convictions- it is wider in scope than that. An applicant may be assessed as a person of good character even if he has criminal convictions, perhaps, all the more, so if the convictions in question relate to strict liability offence. Such offences do not depend of personal moral culpability. As noted by Lang J. in Hiri, a person may still be of good character notwithstanding a criminal conviction and a person may not be of good character despite having a clean criminal record.”

The Court reiterates that the Minister is entitled to take into consideration “allegations” or matters that do not result in criminal proceedings, however they should be taken into assessment with “all relevant information”.

The Minster in this case was found to have considered the “alleged incidents” as more than alleged.

The Court emphasised that where the Minister relies on traffic offences to determine that the appellant is not of good character, he must have an understanding of the nature of the offences. Also, the understanding that leads the Minister to conclude that the applicant is not of good character must be stated in reasons that can be understood by the Applicant.

The Court was not satisfied that the Minister had before him all the relevant information to enable him to form a reasonable view as to whether the appellant was of good character. The Court emphasised that there was nothing on the face of the decision to suggest the entire file, including the applicant’s submissions regarding the incidents, were considered by the decision maker.

The decision was therefore held to be unlawful as it was not evident that the Minister had considered the applicant’s submissions in reaching the conclusion that the applicant was not of good character.

The decision making process in itself, was found by the Court to be in breach of natural and constitutional justice.

This is a very significant judgement from the Court of Appeal, because it raises questions regarding the legality of many decisions of the Minister in refusing naturalisation on good character grounds.

If you have been refused naturalisation on the grounds of good character please contact the office to discuss your case with us.