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DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ANNOUNCES FURTHER EXTENSION OF IMMIGRATION PERMISSIONS

The Department of Justice has announced an additional two-month extension of immigration permissions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This temporary extension applies to the following categories:

  • Persons with immigration permissions due to expire between 20th May 2020 and 20th July 2020, including those that were already extended under the previous notice issued on 20th March 2020;
  • Persons awaiting their first registration, having been granted permission to land at a port of entry on condition they register at Burgh Quay or their local registration office within 3 months, but who have not yet done so;
  • Persons resident in Ireland on the basis of Short Stay visas.

The notice confirms that the permissions will be automatically renewed for a two-month period, on the same basis as the existing permission and subject to the same conditions.

The notice also clarifies that international English Language Students can continue to work if they wish but that they must also re-enrol in an online course of study to adhere to the conditions of their permission.

The registration office in Burgh Quay in Dublin will remain closed and will only reopen when it is safe to do so. The normal requirements to register residence permission will not arise until the registration offices can reopen or alternative arrangements are put in place.

Non-nationals can present evidence of their last residence permission, in the form of a formal decision letter and/or the IRP card, together with a copy of the Notice, as evidence of their ongoing permission to remain in the State.

The notice can be accessed here.

If you or a family member are affected by this notice, please contact our office to discuss.

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.

IMMIGRATION APPLICATIONS CAN BE SUBMITTED ELECTRONICALLY UNTIL 20TH MAY 2020

We are happy to see that INIS has issued a new notice on the 15th April 2020 confirming that EU Treaty Rights and Domestic applications can be submitted by email until the 20th May 2020 as a temporary measure.
The notice confirms as follows:
As part of combined efforts to adhere to the Government’s strategy to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to ensure customer safety, we have taken the decision, as a temporary measure between now and the 20th May 2020, to allow EU Treaty Rights and Domestic applications to be submitted by email together with scanned copies of supporting documentation. EU Treaty Rights will require the original application to be submitted by post in due course

The full notice can be read at the below link:
http://www.inis.gov.ie/
Our office continues to act for many clients who have pending immigration applications, and we are continuing to liaise with INIS on behalf of our clients as normal.
It is good news to see that any clients who wish to commence new immigration application can now do so electronically, without the requirement to submit original documents at this time.
Please contact our office with any queries regarding commencing new applications.

Berkeley Solicitors

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.

FURTHER DECISION ISSUED IN WHICH MINISTER RETROSPECTIVELY AMENDS STAMP 2 A PERMISSION TO STAMP 3 FOR SPOUSE OF PHD STUDENT

Berkeley Solicitors has received a second decision within two months in which the Department of Justice and Equality has agreed to retrospectively amend Stamp 2A permission, incorrectly assigned to our client, to Stamp 3 immigration permission spanning over a period of two years.

In November 2019, we posted a blog on this issue which can be read in full here.

Our client is the spouse of a PhD student in Ireland and prior to being issued with Stamp 2 A, our client held Stamp 3 permission for a number of years.

Our client was never provided with an explanation for the change in permission nor was she provided with any information regarding the impact or consequences of this change of status.

Given that it is the practice for the Minister to issue Stamp 3 permission to Spouses of PhD Students, the significant decision to retrospectively amend our client’s permission is particularly encouraging.

We highlight that this decision provides our client with further years of reckonable residence, which she was deprived of through the wrongful issuance of Stamp 2 A. Our client is now able to proceed with an application for naturalisation.

We are delighted to see requests for the retrospective amendment of a person’s registration or permission being facilitated and it has become clear to us that this it is entirely possible for the Minister to issue such decisions where appropriate.

If you or a family member are affected by the issuance of inappropriate immigration permission please do not hesitate to contact our office.

RETROSPECTIVE AMENDMENT OF STAMP 2 A RESIDENCE PERMISSION TO STAMP 3 FOR SPOUSE OF PHD STUDENT, REPRESENTED BY BERKELEY SOLICITORS

Berkeley Solicitors has recently received a significant decision in which the Department of Justice and Equality has agreed to retrospectively amend Stamp 2A permission, incorrectly assigned to our client, to Stamp 3 immigration permission for a number of years.

Our client is the spouse of a PhD student here in Ireland. Our client was dependent on her husband and applied for a visa to Ireland.

She was initially issued Stamp 3 permission; however, she was then issued with stamp 2 A permission at all subsequent registrations.

Stamp 2 A is described as follows on the INIS website:

“Stamp 2 A indicates permission for full time study in Ireland for a course that is not on the official Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP), for a specified period. Stamp 2 A is not reckonable as residence when applying for citizenship by naturalisation.

You may be given Stamp 2A in the following circumstances:

  • Semester abroad (ie at an Irish university/college)
  • Study at a private secondary school in Ireland”

The issuing of stamp 2 A to our client was contrary to the Minister’s policy to issue stamp 3 permission to the spouses of PHD students. Stamp 2 A was at no time appropriate to her circumstance. She had never been a student in the State, and has always resided here as the dependent of her husband.

The wrongful issuing of stamp 2 A permission deprived our client of a number of years of reckonable residence, which she was entitled to by way of the Minister’s policy.

When the couple had a baby, they intended to make an application for an Irish passport. However, in order to obtain Irish citizenship for a child born in Ireland after 1st January 2005, the child’s foreign national parent must be legally resident in Ireland (this includes Northern Ireland) for 3 out of 4 years immediately before the child was born in Ireland.

As Stamp 2 is not reckonable as residence towards citizenship by birth, our clients’ baby was being deprived Irish citizenship because of the Minister’s error to issue stamp 2 A to our client.

Our office applied to the Minister to rectify this mistake by retrospectively amending our client’s previous permissions from stamp 2 A to stamp 3, based on the fact that a mistake was made on each occasion that a Stamp 2 A permission was issued to her.

A decision was recently issued to our clients which confirmed that her permission was retrospectively amended to the appropriate stamp 3 permission spanning over a number of years, thereby rendering the couple’s child eligible for Irish citizenship by birth.

We are delighted for our clients to have resolved their immigration difficulties.

We also think this is an extremely important and highly positive precedent for others who may have been issued the wrong residence permissions and confirms that, if appropriate, the Department of Justice and Equality can back date residence permission retrospectively.

If you or a family member are affected by the issuance of inappropriate immigration permission please do not hesitate to contact our office.

THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE JONES CASE FOR ‘RECKONABLE RESIDENCE’ FOR NATURALIZATION APPLICATIONS

Many of our clients have been contacting the office concerned and confused regarding their eligibility for naturalization or the position regarding their pending application for naturalization.

This is as a result of the recent judgement of the High Court, Jones v Minister for Justice record number 2018/921 JR.

The requirements for an applicant to be eligible to apply for naturalization are laid out in statute, the primary act being the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956.

A fundamental requirement to be eligible to apply for naturalization is that you hold the required “reckonable residence”.

For a standard application the required period of reckonable residence is five years, this is reduced to a period of three years for the spouses and civil partners of Irish Citizens and for refugees.

This 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.

This is 2 years in the last four and one year continuous for those eligible for the reduction to 3 years reckonable residence if applying based on being the spouse of an Irish national or a holder of refugee status.

Reckonable residence is also defined in law as residence which is not in breach of immigration law (unlawful residence ), not for the purpose of study and not for the purpose of seeking international protection.

Therefore a person who is legally resident and does not fall into one of the categories above is resident as per the definition of reckonable residence.

A person does not lose their residence or right to reside in Ireland if they leave for holidays, work purposes and for up to six months per year for holders of EU residence cards. They therefore remain resident in Ireland for immigration purposes. The Court has found that the requirement for continuous residence does not equate with residence for immigration purposes, but with physical residence.

There has been a question on the application form for naturalization for a number of years, namely question 5.6, which asks an applicant if they have been absent from the state for more than six weeks in any year in the last five year period.

An applicant is asked to confirm if they have or have not been so absent and if they have, to explain these absences on a separate sheet.

Many clients have sought our advices on this question including clarity as to whether the calculation should be made based on a calendar year or the year immediately prior. We have been asked to clarify if a person leaves and comes back in one day does this count as an absence?

This question also makes little sense to an applicant applying based on marriage to an Irish citizen where their required three years reckonable residence has been in Northern Ireland. The citizenship acts allow spouses of Irish nationals to rely on residence in Northern Ireland to count as their reckonable residence for the purposes of naturalisation. This does not apply to standard applicants.

Therefore the spouse/civil partner of an Irish national who has resided solely in Northern Ireland and has never lived in Ireland is eligible for naturalization in law, but has been totally physically absent from the Republic of Ireland.

A number of years ago applicants began to be informed that their application for naturisation had been deemed ineligible on the basis of question 5.6 and their absences from the state. This became known as the “six week rule”.

There is no note or information on the application form or the attached guidance note to state that absences from the state over 6 weeks per annum will be discounted from an applicants reckonable residence or that same will count as a break of continuous residence if applicable to the year before application.

An applicant for naturalization is also required to fill in an INIS residence calculator and this calculator is provided online. Applicants are never informed to remove from their calculation any absences or that any absences will be subtracted.

The Minister thereafter appeared to operate a flexible policy where absences from some reasons such as work or employment would not be subtracted but others such as for travel, family reasons would be subtracted. The approach appeared to vary from case to case.

By way of comparison, in the United Kingdom the allowable absences are laid out on law , Section 6(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981 allows for 450 days absence in the five year period and 90 days in the year previous. There is also room for discretion on the part of the decision maker. The Home Office also provide detailed guidance for decision makers regarding the meaning of absence, physical residence and technical absence.

It has been difficult to advise clients as to their eligibility for naturalization due to the lack of clarity regarding absences and their effect on the application.

The recent judgement in Jones has changed matters further.

The Court finds in Jones that the law 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. Therefore even one days absence from Ireland in the year prior to application will break the continuous residence requirement and leave a person ineligible to apply for naturalization as an Irish citizen.

The court further found that the Minister has no legal basis for the operation of the six week rule, throwing into question the legal validity of certificates of naturalization already granted to persons who did not meet this strict interpretation of continuous residence.

It is also of note that permission letters held by non EEA nationals often state that a condition of permission is that the holder is continuously reside in the state. The letters go on to state that continuous residence is defined as residence in the State, allowing for absences for travel, holiday and so on. Therefore a person remains continuously resident for the purposes of their immigration permission when traveling for work and holiday purposes, but not for the purposes of naturalization.

Furthermore, persons resident in Ireland under Directive 2004/38/EC and the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) Regulations 2015 rights of residence are not affected by temporary absences of up to six months per year.

It it is yet to be seen how the Minister will approach the judgement of the Court in Jones with respect to pending applications for naturalization.

It will also be of note to see if a statutory amendment to the legislation governing naturalization and reckonable residence requirements is now made.

The position is now very difficult for those who have applied for naturalization or those intending to apply in the near future as their ability to travel or the impact this will have on their application for naturalisation is highly uncertain.

We will be keeping our clients updated as to any further developments in this regard and will post any further updates on this blog.

The full judgement can be found here.