Article

The Road to Citizenship

Making Ireland Home

Ban Ki-moon once said that migration represents an opportunity to enhance human development, promote decent work and strengthen collaboration. In the recent Department of Justice Strategy Statement, they stated that “Ireland benefits economically, socially and culturally from the diversity brought to our country by those who choose to travel here to visit, to study, to work and to live.”

Over the past two decades, Ireland has become an increasingly diverse country in which has provided the opportunity for many foreign nationals to make Ireland their permanent home.

The most common and popular path to making Ireland home is through obtaining citizenship. Citizenship is generally defined as being a member of a particular country and having rights because of it. The acquisition of citizenship through naturalisation is the primary pathway to citizenship for migrants who are resident in Ireland and who have no prior ties to Ireland.1

The Department of Justice Strategy Statement re-iterated the importance of citizenship applications

  • Covid-19 has also caused a significant backlog in processing citizenship applications due to the inability to hold citizenship ceremonies, which have become a welcome addition to our public and civic life.
  • Specifically, the Department made a commitment to “clear the backlog of applications through alternative means and restore the citizenship ceremonies as soon as is possible.”
  • In keeping with this, the Department has said it will provide 4,000 people with the opportunity to finish their citizenship process by the end of March 2021.

Benefits of Irish citizenship to newcomers:

  • Access to Irish citizenship gives a full range of rights – stand and vote in general elections
  • Access to EU citizenship – including right to move and reside within EU. Also includes right to vote and standard in elections to European Parliament in Ireland
  • No more need for immigration renewals – these residency renewals are costly for employers/employees.
  • Irish passport holders benefit from both the Common Travel Agreement with the UK
  • Apply for public sector jobs in Ireland
  • Avoid international student fees in access third level education

Benefits to Ireland

  • Experienced, highly skilled individuals are key to developing local industries and to helping Ireland stay competitive in a global market.
  • There are fantastic social benefits to this migration as well. These newest residents bring with them their unique perspectives from their home countries, their native languages and cultural celebrations.
     

Process

Due to the equal rights to participate in democratic and public life, access to citizenship is seen as a privilege-based rather than rights based and is granted at the discretion of the Minister for Justice. It is governed by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 (as amended). Section 15 sets out conditions for naturalisation.

In order to be eligible for Irish citizenship through naturalisation, an individual must:

  • Be of full age (aged 18 or over, or minor if born in State)
  • Meet the relevant legal and reckonable conditions for residence in the State (including the six week rule)
  • Intend to reside in the State
  • Are of good character and will attend a citizenship ceremony to make the declaration of fidelity
  • Note: Spouses, children, and other accompanying family members must apply under their own eligibility, separate to the main applicant

There is no statutory economic requirement for persons applying for naturalisation. Applicants are required to submit evidence of their means of income or whether they have obtained social welfare payments in prior 3 years. Ireland also doesn’t have an English or Irish language requirement for applicants.

Applying for Naturalisation

  • Complete appropriate form and submit with fee and documents by post
  • Once received, the Citizenship Division checks the application form and supporting documents, and should issue an acknowledgement letter to either confirm the application has passed the initial processing stage, or request additional documents. 
  • Once processing, it is broken into stages: identify verified, residence review, good character assessment
  • Letter is sent out and applicant must attend citizenship ceremony for verification and oath of allegiance
     

In the Service Improvement Plan 2018-2020, the Department have committed to moving their forms online. This is anticipated in the next 12 months. Applications for citizenship in 5 EU members States are currently able to submit online or via email.2

Processing times have varied over the years – from 24 months in 2006 to 7 months in 2016. A recent study noted that delays were also reported across EU Member States as a challenge in the processing of naturalisation applications with some countries setting a maximum time limits for processing, which serve as a benchmark for administrative practice and a guarantee for applicants.1

The current processing time for this is 12-15 months, but we’ll hopefully see reductions in this wait time this year.

Comparative review

In a recent study, it was found that eligibility conditions for naturalisation in Ireland are viewed favourably compared to other countries in the EU by international commentators. For example, applicants are not required to renounce citizenship of their country of origin in order to acquire Irish citizenship, nor do they need to ‘prove’ a certain degree of integration, such as proficiency in the national language or civic knowledge of the country. The same study noted that the absolute discretion afforded to the Minister has been criticised by NGOs and commentators for a lack of transparency in decision-making.1

In an assessment of 15 EU countries, Ireland was found to have more demanding documentation requirements than most.3

Studies have found that Ireland has higher fees for naturalisation than many major destination countries.

Once the citizenship certificate is received, the individual can then apply for an Irish passport (separate fee, and process). A standard adult passport for Ireland is valid for 10 years.

Every move to a new country is an exciting and nerve-wracking adventure. The best part of the experience is calling this new place your home, and being welcomed as its newest citizen. We’re here to support on your journey!

Footnotes: 

1Pathways to Citizenship through Naturalisation in Ireland, S Groarke and R Dunbar; ERSI Number 116, December 2020

2EMN, 2020a

3Migration Policy Group and Immigrant Council of Ireland, 2013

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