Insights

Judgement on continuous residence requirement for Irish citizenship by naturalisation 

What is the change?

Mr. Justice Barrett has ruled that people applying for citizenship must have continuous residence (i.e. spend every day) in Ireland for the 12 months before the date on which they lodge their application.

What does the change mean?

The ruling means that anyone who leaves Ireland, even for a day, during the 12-month period before submitting an application may not be eligible for citizenship.

  •  Implementation time frame: Ongoing. The ruling was issued July 11.  
  • Process affected: Citizenship by naturalisation.  
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals applying for Irish citizenship by naturalisation. This does not impact right to work.  
  • Next steps: The case is now under appeal with a hearing date of the 8th of October. The Department of Justice and Equality are reviewing the decision in consultation with the Attorney General, and it is hoped that lawmakers will take legislative action to ease the requirement.

Background:

Foreign nationals who wish to obtain citizenship by naturalisation must legally reside in Ireland for five of the previous nine years before submitting an application, or three of the last five years for those married to an Irish citizen. Additionally, applicants are required to have “continuous residence” in Ireland for the full 12-month period before the date on which they submit an application. The previous policy allowed absences from Ireland of up to six weeks per year and even more in cases of unforeseen and extenuating circumstances.

In a ruling last week, however, Mr. Justice Barrett said that spending any time outside of Ireland in the 12-month period rendered an applicant ineligible for citizenship. Mr. Justice Barrett interpreted the law strictly, relying on the dictionary definition of “continuous” as “unbroken, uninterrupted, connected throughout in space or time” in reaching his decision. Mr. Justice Barrett allowed that his conclusion “may seem unfair” but stated that “the cure for any (if any) such unfairness, as is resulting, is not to be found in the law-courts; it lies in the gift of the legislature.”

Analysis & Comments:

The judgement affects all foreign nationals in Ireland applying for citizenship by Naturalisation. As a result, one of the three following outcomes is likely to occur: (1) a request will be made to amend legislation, allowing for reasonable absences; (2) the decision may be appealed; or (3) the ruling will remain in place.

The Minister of Justice and Equality has issued a statement (here) confirming the Department are reviewing the decision in consultation with the Attorney General’s Office. Additionally, INIS (Irish Naturalisation and Immigration service) has posted a notice stating that it will seek resolution of the issue as an urgent priority, and in the meantime will continue to process citizenship applications and is not advising applicants to cancel any travel plans. Those planning to apply for citizenship should continue to collect and submit all documentation to support their application, and once this issue is resolved, INIS will request any additional information, if required. The ruling is not expected to affect those who have already acquired citizenship through naturalisation.

Deloitte are seeking clarification on reasonable absences in the 12 months prior to applying for citizenship by naturalisation and are also seeking clarity on the status of current applications. Additionally, Deloitte are engaging with the American Chamber of Commerce and the IDA as to next steps and timeline, and will issue an update when the Irish authorities release further information.

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