Citizenship ceremonies postponed following High Court ruling
Minister says ceremonies will be held after Bill about unbroken residence becomes law
The final stage of naturalisation requires attendance at a citizenship ceremony. Photograph: Frank Miller
More than 16,000 people’s hopes of becoming an Irish citizen have been put on hold following a decision by the Department of Justice to postpone two citizenship ceremonies.
The High Court ruled in early summer that an applicant for naturalisation must have “unbroken” residence in the State for an entire year before the date of their application.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said he will urgently introduce a new law that will grant citizenship applicants the right to be absent from the country for a set period of time.
In the meantime, however, two planned citizenship ceremonies for this month and the ceremony planned for later in the year have been postponed until the legal issues raised by the High Court ruling are resolved.
In a note on the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) website, Mr Flanagan said that as soon as his Bill becomes law, his officials will “make all necessary arrangements for the next citizenship ceremony”.
“Invitations will issue at least four weeks in advance of the ceremony to ensure everyone has adequate notice,” he said, adding that “everything possible” is being done urgently.
Replying to TDs, the Minister said: “I know that colleagues of all parties are concerned with the difficulty that has arisen and I am hopeful that the Oireachtas will give the Bill early and positive consideration.”
The final stage of naturalisation requires attendance at a citizenship ceremony. There, up to 3,000 candidates declare fidelity to the Irish nation, loyalty to the State and an undertaking to obey its laws.
More than 78 per cent of the 16,009 applications outstanding were made either this year or last year, figures released by the Department of Justice to Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers show: 7,331 applied last year; and 5,220 this year.
“The number of cases on hand will always include a cohort where a decision has been made and the applicant has been notified of same, but they have not yet attended the citizenship ceremony,” said Mr Flanagan.
“The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases can take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks may take a considerable period.”
Some applicants may seek a delay themselves, particularly if they have to return to their home country for a prolonged period as they prepare to make a final move to the State.
It is currently taking about six months for a standard application to be processed from the date it is received to the date a decision is made, said the Minister.