Applicants for Irish citizenship waiting four years for decision

 

PEOPLE ARE waiting four years for the Government to decide on their applications to become Irish citizens, with some rejected for frivolous reasons such as receiving parking fines, a new report says.

The study, Living in Limbo – Migrants’ Experiences of Applying for Naturalisation in Ireland, examined the experiences of 315 migrants from more than 60 countries who live in Ireland.

Of the 166 participants in the survey who applied for citizenship, some 125 are still waiting for a decision on their application.

Of the 41 applications that have been determined so far, 26 people received positive decisions and 15 were refused citizenship.

The average time it took to process the citizenship applications was 28.2 months, compared to the officially stated waiting time of 25 months.

However, several of the 22 case studies contained in the report show applicants have to wait almost five years to get a decision on their applications.

Of the 15 people whose applications for citizenship were refused, five were not given any reason for the negative decision. Three applicants were refused because they had received parking fines or traffic violations.

In none of these cases were there any convictions.

Four people were refused for having received social welfare payments and two refugee applicants were refused for not satisfying the ministerial policy preference that refugees should have resided for three years in the Republic after the granting of refugee status.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland and the Immigrant Support Centre in Cork, which are publishing the report today, said the lengthy waiting times and lack of transparency in the process are causing great stress and anxiety.

Catherine Cosgrave, a senior solicitor with the council, said the research revealed a variety of apparent injustices in how applications are dealt with by authorities.

She said people had waited three years for a decision, only to have their applications refused because of a change of rules introduced while they waited.

Others had seen their decisions deferred so the Minister for Justice could determine whether an applicant remained of good character in the meantime, said Ms Cosgrave.

Under Irish law an applicant for citizenship must be over 18 years old, be of “good character” and have resided lawfully in Ireland for at least five of the previous nine years, including at least one year continuously immediately prior to the application.

In addition to residence and good character requirements, the applicant must intend to continue living in Ireland if naturalisation is granted and is required to make a “declaration of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State”.

Provided that these eligibility criteria are fulfilled, the Minister for Justice may grant citizenship at his absolute discretion.

There is no formal system of appeal.

The report says other countries such as the US and Australia have an independent review process for citizenship applications.

Waiting times are also much shorter than in Ireland with average processing times of six months in New Zealand and six to seven months in Britain.

The current fee of €950 to apply for citizenship in Ireland is also the highest of six other countries surveyed in the report.

The report says urgent reform of the system is needed, noting that most migrants wanted to apply for citizenship due to the absence of other secure mechanisms to obtain residency in this country.