Section 15A of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, sets out the criteria a non-national spouse of an Irish citizen must meet in order to be eligible to be granted a certificate of naturalisation. Paragraph 1(f) requires that the non-national spouse have a period of one year’s “continuous residence” in Ireland immediately prior to the date of application.

In the case of Jones v Minister for Justice and Equality [2019] IEHC 519, Mr. Jones (being an Australian nation spouse of an Irish citizen) challenged the Minister’s refusal to grant him a certificate of naturalisation. The Minister, exercising his discretion, based his refusal on the prolonged absences from Ireland Mr. Jones had in the year immediately prior to his application. The Minister had often previously used this discretion to discount brief periods spent outside Ireland when considering whether to grant a certificate of naturalisation.

Barrett J. in his judgment of 11th July 2019, held that:

  1. The Minister did not in fact have such a discretion to exercise, and
  2. “Continuous residence”, for the purposes of Section 15A(1)(f), had to be given its ordinary English language meaning.

The consequence of this is that even a single day’s absence from Ireland by the non-national spouse in the year immediately prior to making an application would make them ineligible to be granted a certificate of naturalisation.

The following is the position as of 1st August 2019: 

  • Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of the Department of Justice and Equality (DJE), issued a statement advising potential applicants to continue to lodge their applications with comprehensive supporting documentation. Should INIS require anything further from applicants they will contact them.
  • On 25th July 2019, Charles Flanagan, Minister for Justice and Equality, has obtained Cabinet approval for a proposed Bill which would seek to remedy the issues raised by the Jones judgment. Given the summer vacation period, it would seem that the earliest such a Bill could be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas would be some time in mid-September 2019.
  • DJE has appealed the judgment, and it is understood that the matter has been expedited and has been listed for 8th October 2019.

If you have concerns regarding your application for naturalisation, you can make an appointment with Shannons Solicitors to discuss this and any other immigration related queries you may have.