Becoming an Irish citizen through the process of naturalisation is a legal procedure whereby a non Irish citizen can become an Irish citizen. The process involves submitting an application to the Department of Justice and Equality. The Minister for Justice and Equality makes the final decision as to whether an individual is a suitable person to be granted a Certificate of Naturalisation. If approved an Applicant will be granted a Certificate of Naturalisation at a special ceremony after swearing an oath of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State.
The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 (as amended) governs the citizenship laws and procedures. Section 14 of the Act (as amended) provides as follows:
“Irish citizenship may be conferred on a non-national by means of a certificate of naturalisation granted by the Minister.”
The conditions for the issue of a certificate of naturalisation are set out in s. 15(1) of the 1956 Act (as amended), as follows:
“Upon receipt of an application for a certificate of naturalisation, the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant the application, if satisfied that the applicant—
(a)(i) is of full age, or
(ii) is a minor born in the State;
(b)is of good character;
(c)has had a period of one year’s continuous residence in the State immediately before the date of the application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, has had a total residence in the State amounting to four years – therefore five years of lawful reckonable residency out of the last nine years (1825 days + 1 additional day with a leap year).
(d)intends in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation; and
(e)has, before a judge of the District Court in open court, in a citizenship ceremony or in such manner as the Minister, for special reasons, allows—
(i)made a declaration, in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State, and
(ii)undertaken to faithfully observe the laws of the State and to respect its democratic values.”
Exceptions to the general reckonable residency requirements occur in cases where a person is the spouse or legally registered civil partner of an Irish citizen, is a recognised Refugee under the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugee’s, a Stateless person under the 1954 UN Convention Relating to Stateless persons, has been resident abroad in the public service or related by blood, affinity, or adoption to an Irish citizen. Generally in such cases the Minister for Justice and Equality will waive the residency requirements from five years to three years. If applying based on marriage or civil partnership to an Irish national, lawful residency means residing on the island of Ireland ( North of Ireland or Republic of Ireland) .
Sinnott Solicitors deal with applications for Irish citizenship on a daily basis. It has come to our attention in the last number of weeks that in cases where an Applicant has been absent from the state for a period of greater than six weeks per annum, the Minister for Justice and Equality appears to be discounting periods of absences which exceed six weeks from a person’s reckonable residency in order to refuse their applications. In our experience many Applicants frequently travel to their home countries for extended periods for example to visit family, attend funerals, assist in caring for ill relatives or just general holidays, often remaining outside of the state for longer than six weeks. In addition in the modern era where work related travel is an important requirement in many jobs, Applicants are often absent from the state for periods greater than six weeks per annum, not by choice, but in order to carry out their employment duties as per the terms of their employment. These are examples of situations where Sinnott Solicitors have seen applications for a certificate of naturalisation being refused in recent weeks due to this apart new policy of the Minister for Justice and Equality. We believe that the new purported policy of the Minister for Justice in subtracting absences in excess of six weeks per annum from a person’s reckonable residency thereby refusing their application is wholly incorrect. We submit that any such refusals are inappropriate and unlawful.