Waiting one year for my citizenship

It’s now exactly 12 months to the day since I applied for Irish citizenship through naturalisation. And I’m still waiting…

The INIS website says that “it takes 6 months for a straightforward application” and I would have thought that mine was fairly non-contentious. I’ve lived in Ireland for nearly 12 years now, am married to an Irish person, and I’ve never been in trouble with the law.

Someone on the Immigration Boards suggested that all applications are being delayed because of Brexit, which I suppose could be true. There are around 100,000 British citizens living in Ireland, and I’m sure a fair number of them might want to secure their future living here – in addition to the approximate 12,000 people a year that apply for nationalisation.

There’s an upcoming citizenship ceremony in Killarney at the end of April, but I’d say that it’s doubtful at this stage that I’ll be included in this one as it’s only 6 weeks away. After that the next ones advertised are in September and December of this year – and so, even if my application finishes processing in the next few month, then I’ll still have a long wait to attend a ceremony.

Reserving hotel rooms

A trip from Dublin to Killarney to attend the citizenship ceremony is a pretty long journey. It’s a 300 km drive taking about 3.5 hours each way (and a similar time on the train), so it’s not the kind of journey that I’d like to do there and back in one day.

So I’m made some provisional reservations for hotels in Killarney for both the September and December ceremony dates on Booking.com, which I can amend or cancel nearer the time once I know if I’ll be included in the ceremony.

Renewing my UK passport

My current British passport is due to expire at the start of 2020. When I first applied for my Irish citizenship in April 2018 I had hoped to have switched over to my new Irish passport long before the UK one ran out. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I’m conscious that some countries need passports to have at least 3-6 months left to run on them before they allow admittance. So it looks like I’ll need to renew my UK passport by about June or July of this year. And then hopefully get my Irish passport some time after that.

British citizens in Ireland after Brexit

It looks increasingly likely that a no-deal Brexit will go ahead on 29th March 2019. So what does that mean for the 100,000 British citizens currently living in Ireland?

In Britain much has been made of the need for EU citizens wanting to stay in the UK after Brexit to register for settled status. But there’s no similar arrangement for British citizens to register to stay in their EU country of choice.

It’s little wonder that loads of British people abroad – like me – have been applying for citizenship of the country where they live.

Common Travel Area

Thankfully the situation is much simpler for UK and Irish citizens living in each other’s countries. The Common Travel Area, which predates any EU agreements, guarantees British and Irish people the right to live, work, study, access social security and public services in each other’s countries.

This story from the Irish Times backs up the claim that plans are in place to protect the rights of British people in Ireland. However not every message is so consistent.

The UK Brexit guidance website for citizens living in Ireland seems to cast some doubt on rights being protected. The section on healthcare says, for instance:

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019, your access to healthcare is likely to change.

Living in Ireland – GOV.UK

That doesn’t exactly inspire me with confidence that all my rights are being protected! I just hope that the website is out of date, and other information out there is more accurate.

It also doesn’t help that the measures to protect the Common Travel Area are being laid out in a ‘memorandum of understanding‘ between the two governments, which doesn’t sound very legally binding to me:

…a memorandum of understanding between the two countries but also a legally binding international treaty on social security.

…but there are obviously timelines required in terms of the legislation that may be linked to that.  

Irish Times – Rights of Irish in Britain and British in Ireland protected from no-deal Brexit

Still waiting for my citizenship

There’s a bunch of Irish Citizenship ceremonies going on in Killarney today, 26th November 2018. If it’s anything like recent times there’ll be thousands of new Irish citizens sworn in.

As for me, it’s now just over 8 months since I submitted my application for naturalisation, and I’m still waiting to hear back from INIS if I’ve been accepted or not.

Obviously I’ve missed this opportunity to attend a ceremony, and based on the usual scheduled the chances are there won’t be another one until April or May next year. And so, even if I do hear I’ve been accepted during that time, I won’t become a citizen until I can attend a ceremony – and by that time I’ll be over a year since application.

Hopefully this will be the last Presidential election I can’t vote in

This Friday, 26th October 2018, Irish citizens will go to the polls to vote for their next president and also on the 37th amendment to the constitution.

As a British citizen living in Ireland for the last 11½ years, I’m not eligible to vote in either. I can vote in the Irish general election, I can vote in European elections, and I can vote in local council elections. But only people who are citizens of Ireland (and who are resident in Ireland) are able to vote for the President and in referendums.

Hopefully, however, it’s going to be the last of the elections that I won’t be able to vote in. It’s about 7 months since I applied for my Irish citizenship, and I’m ever-hopeful that I’ll become naturalised and get my Irish passport (and the right to vote) within the coming months.

Since moving to live in Dublin in April 2007 there has been an average of one referendum per year. The one on Friday, about repealing the offence of blasphemy, will be the 12th referendum.  During this time the people have Ireland have voted on such important issues as the rights of children, same-sex marriage, and abortion. But also, they’ve voted on the European Treaty of Lisbon (twice), reducing the minimum age of the president, and judge’s pay.

There’s talk about other referendums possibly taking place next year to address topics such as an archaic reference in the constitution to “women in the home”, allowing Irish citizens living abroad to vote, and maybe even reducing the voting age to 16.

Hopefully, by then, I’ll also be able to have my voice heard in these matters!

Citizenship, the waiting game

I applied for my Irish citizenship back in March this year, just before St Patrick’s day, and now – over 6 months on – I’m still waiting.

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) website says that a simple application takes around 6 months to process, but from reading people’s stories on the Immigration Boards site it seems that some people are waiting for a year or two to hear back.

I had hoped that my application would be one of the simple ones. I’m a British citizen, married to an Irish citizen, and I’ve resided in Ireland for over 11 years, have never been in trouble with the law, and have worked consistently and paid my taxes over the time.

Updates on progress

The naturalisation process itself seems to be fairly opaque. Once your application is in, you don’t hear from INIS until your citizenship is confirmed – months or years later. And if you enquire about the progress along way, you are given a fairly generic response.

I emailed them 5 days ago to ask about my application, and this morning got this stock answer:

Your application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether it meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation, such as good character and lawful residence, and will be submitted to the Minister for decision as expeditiously as possible.

At the moment to get any update you either need to send an email and wait, or you can phone them during fixed hours per week – Tuesdays and Thursday, 10.00am to 12.30pm – and I’ve read that it’s hard to get through on the phone.

It seems to me that it would be better if they had some kind of web portal, where naturalisation candidates could input their reference number and get a status update on the progress of their application. It would probably save a lot of time for the people currently answering emails and phone calls!

Next citizenship ceremony

The next citizenship ceremony has been announced to take place in Killarney on Monday 26th November 2018. That’s just under 8 weeks from now.

The invites for the ceremony go out about 4-5 weeks beforehand, so I only have a few weeks left to get my naturalisation approved (and also pay the €950 fee) to make it to this ceremony. At the moment it doesn’t look likely.

If I miss this ceremony then I’ll probably have to wait until April or May of next year, as they only have them a few times a year. On some occasions they have multiple ceremonies on the same day to deal with the 3,000 to 4,000 people getting their citizenship.

There’s an average of about 12,000 adults a year going along to these citizenship ceremonies (children getting citizenship don’t need to attend), and it would make more sense to me if they had them more regularly. My suggestion would be have ceremonies at different location around the country once per month, which would still mean welcoming 1,000 people at a time!

Latest news

The latest status of my application can be followed on my Irish Citizenship page.

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