Connecticut, US

Nov 22 2019

One-Day Absence Rule for Citizenship Qualification Overturned

Ireland

At a Glance

  • The Court of Appeal in Ireland has overturned the controversial High Court ruling that held that foreign nationals cannot be granted naturalization if they have left Ireland for one day in the previous 12 months​.
  • As a result of the ruling, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service is expected to start again applying a policy that allows a six-week long absence from Ireland (in the year prior to the application) to still qualify for citizenship, as was the practice before this case was heard in the Irish courts.

The situation

In July, the High Court of Ireland ruled that foreign nationals cannot be granted naturalization if they have left Ireland for one day in the previous 12 months​. The Court of Appeals recently overturned that controversial High Court ruling and the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS)​ is expected to start again applying the policy that allows a six-week long absence from Ireland in the year prior to the application to qualify for citizenship by naturalization.

A closer look

Aside from the maximum six-week absence rule, foreign nationals applying for naturalization as Irish citizens must also demonstrate that they are of good character and have legally resided in Ireland for at least five of the past nine years, reduced to three out of the last five years if they are married to an Irish national. This must include one year of continuous residence in Ireland in the 12 months prior to the date of application. Time spent in Ireland legally as a student or as an asylum seeker does not count toward naturalisation.

Impact

  • New citizenship applications. The INIS is expected to start again applying the previous policy that allows a six-week long absence from Ireland in the year prior to the application to qualify for citizenship by naturalization. However, the Minister for Justice and Equality still retains discretion to grant or refuse the application even if the applicant complies with all requirements.
  • Unaffected applicants. Foreign nationals applying for Irish citizenship based on their parents’ or grandparents’ Irish nationality (Foreign Birth Registration) continue to not be impacted as they do not need to meet the residence requirement.

 

Background

The one-day absence rule was an extremely restrictive interpretation in Ireland and in the region for citizenship qualification and was highly criticized since it was made public. Applicants who live near the border with Northern Ireland found it impossible to meet the requirement.

Looking ahead

Fragomen will continue to monitor and report on further developments, including if and when INIS publishes a clear policy on absences from the State, which to date is not available. Clear and published policies for applicants on what it means to be legally resident in Ireland and the type and length of absences allowed - not only in a naturalization context - would be most welcome.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to [email protected].