High Court rules on Continuous Residence

Last week the High Court ruled that naturalisation applicants are not allowed to leave Ireland at all in the 12 months leading up to their application.

Why did this happen?

An Australian citizen applied for Irish citizenship in 2017 and had their application rejected because they were absent from Ireland for 100 days (97 days of holiday and 3 days or business travel) in the year prior to application. They then decided to challenge the rejection in the High Court, and lost.

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 states that the applicant must have “had a period of one year’s continuous residence in the State immediately before the date of the application“.

Until now the Department of Justice has allowed people to be absent for a discretionary period of up to 6 weeks, and still be considered in ‘continuous residence’. However the judge in the High Court has rules that there is no provision in the law for this discretionary period, and has also interpreted ‘continuous residence’ as ‘continuous presence’ – meaning that applicants cannot leave Ireland for even an hour during the year prior to application.

What’s going to happen now?

This could potentially impact all naturalisation applicants in Ireland. Many will have travelled outside the state during the year prior to application, and thus – according to this ruling – their application is now invalid.

The Minister of Justice has promised that “This issue is being dealt with as an urgent priority and I will take any necessary action to resolve it.” However the Dáil is currently in summer recess until the 17th September, and if legislation is required to ‘fix’ this issue, then it won’t happen for a least a few months.

My best guess is that:

  • INIS will most likely continue to process citizenship applications, but nobody will be notified their application has been successful until this mess is sorted out.
  • The citizenship ceremony scheduled for 30th September will probably not happen, as there’s not enough time to enact new legislation before then.
  • The number of people applying for citizenship will drop off until the uncertainty is resolved. This may be of some benefit to applicants already going though the process, as INIS will have fewer applications to deal with.
  • A small amendment to the legislation to clarify the 6 week discretionary period will be passed some time in the autumn; at which time applications will then start to be approved again.

What about those who didn’t leave Ireland during the 12 months?

I doubt that INIS have the resources or the means to establish when applicants have crossed the border – and even if they did, there’d be no record of people crossing the border into Northern Ireland.

The current naturalisation form specifically asks the question:

5.6 Have you been absent from the State for more than 6 weeks per annum in any of the past 5 years?

FORM 8 – IRISH NATIONALITY AND CITIZENSHIP ACT 1956 , Version 5.7

However there’s nothing on the form that asks about absences of up to 6 weeks. And without that declaration from candidates, there’s no way for INIS to know either way.

What should citizenship applicants do?

Some people are advocating contacting TDs to try and escalate the issue, but I’m sceptical about whether this will deliver any benefit. I think that people just have to hold on for the next few months, and wait for the Department of Justice to find a solution.

I’d instead advise people to hold on and see what happens over the next few months. Legal situations are never resolved quickly, so don’t expect updates about this on a regular basis.

For myself, I’ve been waiting 16 months for my application to be processed, and I guess I’m going to carry on waiting another indeterminate amount of time!

Second stage of processing

I got a letter from the Department of Justice and Equality today, saying that my application for naturalisation has processed to the second stage of processing.

The letter says:

Your application has now been initially assessed and has proceeded to the second stage of processing.

Your application is being processed with a view to establishing whether you meet the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to the Minister for decision as expeditiously as possible as soon as our enquiries are complete and all required documentation has been compiled.

It’s taken nearly 15 months to get to this stage of my application, and I’m not entirely sure what this ‘second stage’ is. Some people say it’s the part of the process when they go to An Garda Siochana to get a background check. If that’s true, then there’s probably a long way still to go before I’ll get my citizenship.

On the Immigration Boards website there are people who seem to move to the second stage after only a few weeks – some at the same time as their passport is returned.

Renewing my British passport overseas

It’s 14 months since I began the process of applying for my Irish citizenship, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon, what with the increase in other British people going for Irish citizenship. And so while I can’t get my Irish passport, I need to renew my British one.

If memory serves, the last time I had to renew my passport I had to apply through the British Embassy here in Dublin, which meant my passport was issued by the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office).

This time around I’m able to use the online renewal service, and I’ve got to say, I’m actually quite impressed about how well it works!

Renewal Process

After answering a few screening questions to check if I was suitable for online renewal, I was then offered advice about my passport photo.

The photo can be one of the following:

  • A photo taken in a photo booth that gives a special code that can be shared with the passport authorities to retrieve the digital image
  • A photo taken by another passport photo establishment such as a pharmacy where they can give me the electronic image to upload
  • A photo you take myself – or rather by someone else – as long as it conforms to the photo rules

The fact that I was able to take my own photo was great as it saved me a few quid. I got my wife to take a photo of me against the kitchen wall using my mobile phone and it was perfectly fine.

I then answered a set of questions about me and my previous passport, upload the photo, and that was it. The whole thing took less than 5 minutes!

As soon as my application was in they sent me an email with a postal address (mine was in Belfast) to post the old passport.

Frequent Updates

I love the fact that the process sends out frequent updates on what’s happening, by email, SMS, or both.

I got a notification when they received my old passport in the post, another when my application was approved, another when it was printed, and another when it was dispatched.

And from the time they received my passport in Belfast to when it was dispatched was just 2 days. So the only long waits for me were the postage of passports back and forth.

Mine was delivered by DHL, and they seem to have the restriction that they only deliver to the home address stated in the application, and there does need to be someone in to sign for it – but that seems like good security.

Arrived

I wasn’t at home to receive the passports in person (they send back the old passport and new one in different packages), but I was able to get them redirected to a DHL office that’s only a 15 minute walk from my office.

So here’s my old and new passports together. You can see I got one of the amended design which omit the words “European Union” from the top.

2,400 New Irish Citizens

The latest Naturalisation ceremony took place today in Killarney, Co Kerry, with around 2,400 people gaining their Irish citizenship.

Included in that number are 309 UK citizens. Sadly I’m not one of them. I’ve been waiting for more than 13 months for my Irish citizenship, and there’s no sign that it’s going to be approved any time soon.

I’ve given up asking for updates on my application to INIS, as I always get the same canned reply which tells me nothing except it’s in progress.

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.

Are you OK with cookies? What is this?

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close