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15th November 2019

A controversial High Court decision last May caused huge uncertainty concerning citizenship applications and also prompted calls for legislative change.   Mr Justice Max Barrett made the finding in the case of Mr Jones an Austrailan national who worked in the university sector in Ireland having lived in the country since October 2011.  He was refused citizenship on the basis that he had left the state for 100 days – 97 on holiday and three for work reasons – in the 12 months prior to submitting his application for citizenship.  Mr Justice Barrett upheld the Minister’s refusal but also said the Minister’s discretionary practice of allowing applicants six weeks out of the country, for holiday or other reasons, and more time in exceptional circumstances, is not permitted by section 15.1.c.

Yesterday, the Court of Appeal overturned the decision ruling that it was ‘unworkable’ and ‘unduly rigid’ in determining that applicants for Irish citizenship must have ‘unbroken’ residence here in the year before they apply.

Ms Justice Whelan noted that the strict interpretation by the High Court Judge of the term ‘continuous’ would introduce a “significant obstacle of compliance with one of the conditions for eligibility to apply for naturalisation which most applicants would find impossible to meet.”

It was also confirmed that the Minister is permitted to continue to operate a policy whereby the applicant cannot be absent from the State for more than 6 weeks in the 12 months prior to the submission of their application unless there are ‘wholly exceptional circumstances.’

Granite Immigration Law welcomes the decision which is of significant public importance and we hope that the anxiety and confusion caused to many applicants for Irish citizenship has been alleviated.  Having said that, further clarification and reform is needed in this area  particularly in relation to what would constitute ‘exceptional circumstances.’

The Minister should now act promptly to reschedule cancelled citizenship ceremonies so that thousands of new Irish citizens can finally obtain their certificates.

For more information on matters relating to Irish citizenship, or if you would like to make an application and need support, contact our Immigration Specialist:

Sarah Henry

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