Citizenship applications, the Jones judgment and the "continuous residence" requirement
On Friday 11th July, the High Court ruled on the Jones v Minister for Justice and Equality case. The Court found that the “continuous residence” requirement in Section 15(1) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 required that an applicant for naturalisation must not have even one days absence from Ireland in the year prior to their naturalisation application.
Prior to this, as a matter of policy the Minister used his discretion to allow for periods of absences of up to six weeks in the year prior to the application and potentially even longer, especially in our experience where an applicant could show that they were required to travel for work purposes. The Court found that the Minister had no discretion in this matter and that the literal interpretation of continuous residence is that the residence must be “unbroken, uninterrupted, connected throughout in space or time”. The Court found that this interpretation may seem unfair but that it was open to the government to remedy this through legislation.
How has the Minister responded?
The Minister for Justice and Equality has released a short statement saying:
"I know that the ruling from the High Court has caused concern and may have been unsettling for people in the Citizenship process. I want to reassure people that my officials are carefully studying the ruling in consultation with the Attorney General’s Office. This issue is being dealt with as an urgent priority and I will take any necessary action to resolve it.”
The Irish Times published an article available here on 27 September in which the Minister confirmed that legislation to grant citizenship applicants the right to be absent from the country for a set period of time will be urgently introduced. However. the two planned citizenship ceremonies for this month and the ceremony planned for later in the year have been postponed until the legal issues raised by the High Court ruling are resolved.
The Court of Appeal is set to hear the appeal from the High Court ruling on 08 October 2019.
On Monday 29th July the Minister for Justice and Equality released the following statement which is available on the INIS website
"The Department is continuing to work on finding solutions to the situation as quickly as possible. The best interests of applicants and future applicants are foremost in our considerations.
On Thursday 25 July 2019, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan obtained Cabinet approval for a proposed Bill, which seeks to resolve the issue that has arisen in the recent High Court judgment.
The Minister’s intention is to work with the Office of the Attorney General and instruct the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to have a bill drafted on an urgent basis and before the Houses of the Oireachtas for consideration in mid-September as soon as the recess ends.
It is intended that the Citizenship Ceremony scheduled to take place at the end of September will still go ahead and planning is taking place on that basis.
In respect of the judgment itself, yesterday (25 July 2019), a date was set for an appeal to be heard by the Court of Appeal. Our advice for people who are planning to apply for citizenship is to continue to collect all the necessary proofs that support your application and to submit a comprehensive application form. Once a solution is in place, if any additional information is required, you will be contacted as part of the processing of your application.
We do not believe that this ruling has consequences for anyone who has already obtained citizenship under the Act."
On Friday 19th July the Minister for Justice and Equality issued a new statement which is available on their website:
"We are aware that the judgment in this case has given cause for concern and may have been upsetting for many people who are in the citizenship process. We want to assure you that we are taking all appropriate steps to remedy the situation as quickly as possible. The best interests of applicants and future applicants are foremost in our considerations.
In the meantime, Citizenship Division is continuing to receive and process applications. Planning for the next Citizenship Ceremony in September is also underway. We are not advising citizenship applicants or future applicants to cancel any current or upcoming travel plans.
Our advice for people who are planning to apply for citizenship is to continue to collect all the necessary proofs that support your application and to submit a comprehensive application form. Once a solution is in place, if any additional information is required, you will be contacted as part of the processing of your application.
We do not believe that this ruling has consequences for anyone who has already obtained citizenship under the Act.
We ask for your patience while we put in place a solution as an urgent priority. Further updates will be posted on this website when available. If you would like to speak to us about your case, you can contact us as follows http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/contact-citizenship."