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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.

CURRENT DELAYS IN PROCESSING APPLICATIONS FOR NATURALISATION AS AN IRISH CITIZEN

Many of our clients are currently experiencing considerable delays in the processing and determination of their application for naturalisation based on five years reckonable residency or three years reckonable residency based on the spouse or civil partner of an Irish citizen.

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service proposes to render decisions for naturalisation applications within six months.

Despite the INIS website stating that “in general, it takes 6 months for a straightforward application to be processed from  the date it is received to the date a decision is made”, in the experience of Berkeley Solicitors, many people continue to experience delays well beyond the proposed time frames.

We are aware of an increasing number of applicants who have been waiting more than two years on the determination of their application. We are also aware of a number of applicants waiting up to four years on their determination.

These long and continued delays in the processing of naturalisation applications has been understandably very frustrating for our clients. Many of our clients are not provided with an explanation for these inordinate delays.

We note this issue has previously been reviewed in Dana Salman v Minister for Justice and Equality. This case involved a hearing in order to establish liability of costs in respect of Judicial Review proceedings challenging the Minister’s delay, of three years and nine months, in issuing a decision on an application for naturalisation.

As no reason for the delay had been given by the Minister and no system was in place to ensure to fair processing of such applications, on 16th December 2011, Mr Justice Kearns of the Supreme Court awarded costs to the Applicant.

Further, we would highlight that in June 2011, then Minister for Justice and Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter stated that, upon entering office, he had taken steps to deal with the extensive backlog of citizenship applications and under the new system, those applying for citizenship would receive “a decision on their application within six months”.

Unfortunately, for a large number of clients, this time-frame has not been adhered to.

There are very substantial delays now occurring in the processing of applications for naturalisation and we have noticed an increased number of clients contacting our office in recent weeks, with queries as to what the options available to them are.

Due to these ongoing delays, our office has issued High Court Judicial Review proceedings on behalf of our some clients, to challenge these unlawful delays before the High Court, which are causing severe stress and anxiety to those lawfully resident in Ireland and who meet the requirements under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956.

Our office is experienced in the submission of applications for naturalisation as an Irish citizen and do our best to assist our clients through this lengthy application process. If you or your family are impacted by these issues or similar issues, please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss this in more detail.

CLIENT OF BERKELEY SOLICITORS RECENTLY HAD THEIR STAMP 0 PERMISSION ACCEPTED AS RECKONABLE RESIDENCE FOR NATURALISATION

Berkeley Solicitors recently received a very successful and significant decision in which our client was granted naturalisation having been on Stamp 0 for a period of over five years preceding the application.

This is an exceptional decision given the Department’s suggestions that stamp 0 residence permission is a low-level immigration status which is not intended to be reckonable for Citizenship and is granted for a limited and specific stay in Ireland.

The INIS website clarifies that:

“Stamp 0 indicates permission to stay in Ireland for a temporary period, subject to conditions.

Summary of conditions:

You must be of independent means, ie fully financially self-sufficient. Alternatively, your sponsor in Ireland must be of independent means and can support you fully.

You cannot receive any benefits or use publicly funded services, eg be treated at a public hospital. You must have private medical insurance.

You must not work or engage in any business, trade or profession unless specified in a letter of permission from INIS.”

There are three main types of persons eligible for Stamp 0:

  1. Elderly dependent relatives
  2. Persons of independent means (financial threshold is considered in an around 50,000 with access to a lump sum of money in the event of unforeseen major expenses).
  3. Visiting academics working here for less than nine months.

Our client met all the conditions of Stamp 0 permission. Stamp 0 permission means that a person cannot work in the State, engage in self-employment, access State benefits or rely on State resources. Therefore, an individual on Stamp 0 must be wholly and totally self-sufficient or dependent. The individual is also required to reside continuously in the State.

Reckonable residence is the duration of a person’s residence when assessing an application for naturalisation.

This is the first case we are aware of where Stamp 0 has been accepted as reckonable residence for the purpose of naturalising.

Although acquiring citizenship is a privilege and not a right and is subject to the Minister’s absolute discretion, the Minister must act within the confines of the statutory definition of reckonable residence as defined at Section 16 A of the the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended.

This is a very hopeful outcome for individuals who are resident on stamp 0 permission, and they have made Ireland their permanent home but have concerns regarding their reckonable residence in the State for the purposes of naturalization.

We at Berkeley Solicitors welcome this very encouraging development surrounding reckonable residence and are happy to advise any clients wishing to pursue their naturalization application.