Decision to revoke residency permit over alleged ‘marriage of convenience’ quashed

Minister for Justice made charge after Georgian man and Lithuanian woman divorced

The High Court has quashed the Minister for Justice’s decision to revoke a Georgian man’s residency permit because of an alleged marriage of convenience.

He married a Lithuanian woman, who he met on a dating app while he was living in Georgia, six months after unlawfully arriving in the State in 2017 and less than a month before he applied for international protection. The woman had been living in Ireland since 2006.

The man applied for a residency permit, on the basis of his marriage to an EU citizen, about a month after the wedding and it was granted in December 2017 for a five-year period.

The marriage became strained around this time and the woman moved home to her mother for a short period before agreeing to attempt to work through their differences in early 2018. By October 2018, it was claimed, she had permanently left their rented home.

The man lost his passport and in February 2019 wrote to the Minister saying he had ordered a new one. This prompted a request for details to show that he was still residing in the State with his spouse.

‘Decided to divorce’

The couple wrote back saying that the woman had recently moved out because they were “having lots of fights and after trying to save the relationship we decided to move on and live as a separated couple...we decided to divorce”.

The Minister, in August 2019, revoked the man’s residency permit stating, among other reasons, that he had engaged in a marriage of convenience in order to obtain it.

A review of the decision was sought but the original decision was affirmed.

The man brought a High Court challenge claiming the revocation decision was based on a personal credibility assessment in which his account and that of his wife were disbelieved.

It was argued that constitutional justice and fairness required that an oral hearing should have been held as part of the process. The Minister opposed the application and said there was no requirement for an oral hearing.

Ms Justice Siobhán Phelan, who noted no request for an oral hearing was made prior to that decision being made, said an oral process was required to ensure fairness in this case.

The process which led to the decision to revoke the permit “was unfair and does not vindicate” the man’s rights to constitutional justice, she held. This was in view of the nature of the personal credibility findings made and by reason of the absence of an oral stage to the process, whether it was in the form of an interview or oral hearing.