Pathways to Irish Citizenship

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Vibeke Enemark
4. term, Global Refugee Studies, Master (Master Programme)
This paper examines how the Irish state regulates access to Irish citizenship and what implications this has for the mobility of non-EEA nationals and their access to rights and security. EEA-nationals are referred to as stamp holders. To answer this question, the Irish immigration system is analysed as a case study based on multiple data sources which include Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts, policy guidelines from the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation’s websites, and case examples based on client files from Crosscare Migrant Project’s database. The latter is a non-profit organisation based in Dublin that provides information and advocacy support to people immigrating or returning to Ireland, where the author is currently employed. With consent from the manager of Crosscare Migrant Project, the author has been allowed to use content from the database for the purpose of this research. To ensure the anonymity of clients, pseudo names have been given and all identifying details have been removed. The author’s insider perspective and in-depth knowledge of the immigration system through interactions with clients navigating the Irish immigration system, has informed this research. To understand how the Irish State regulates the mobility of stamp holders and their access to become eligible to apply for Irish citizenship, Glick Shiller and Salazar’s concept ‘regimes of mobility’ has been applied. Cecilia Menjívar’s concept ‘liminal legality’ examines the implications these ‘regimes of mobility’ have for stamp holders’ ability to access rights and security. Citizenship is understood and examined empirically with the intention of contributing analytically to the field of citizenship studies. To answer the research question, the analysis is divided into three sections.

The first section establishes a core difference between birth right citizenship and naturalisation, where an applicant for naturalisation is required to meet certain conditions to be granted Irish citizenship, which implies the person must prove a level of deservingness. The level of deservingness is based on the individuals’ ability to contribute to society by not being a burden to the State and prove a sufficient connection to the State through continuous legal residence.
The second section concludes that based on above perceptions of deservingness, the Irish state uses three primary forms of ‘regimes of mobility’, which consist of an increased level of bureaucracy, a discretionary system, and a hierarchical status division between residence permissions, to regulate stamp holders’ access to become eligible for Irish citizenship. These regimes are meant to ensure that stamp holders follow the intended pathways to citizenship to safeguard against undeserving individuals becoming eligible to apply for citizenship. The stamp holder’s estimated value and deservingness determine their degree of inclusion into the society, which is reflected through their level of access to economic rights. The State is not in complete control, as stamp holders can find unintended pathways through the immigration system that will allow them to become eligible to apply for Irish citizenship.

The final section determines the implications of these ‘regimes of mobility’ as an increased risk of stamp holders becoming preventable undocumented, placing them in a state of ‘liminal legality’ which can cause them to become unemployed, homeless, endure physiological distress, and risk deportation if unable to regain a valid residence permission. Another implication is that values of deservingness embedded in the immigration system influence other institutions in society such as the social welfare system, affecting stamp holders’ ability to access economic rights if deemed undeserving. Thus, ‘regimes of mobility’ also affect stamp holders’ social mobility. If a person becomes out of status, they do not have access to any rights or security, where the person can be caught in a state of spatial and social immobility indefinitely. The State’s focus on preventing stamp holders from finding loopholes in the system increases the risk of stamp holders, who were employed and contributing to society, to lose their status, creating a group of vulnerable individuals that could have been prevented.

The research has sought to show that citizenship should not be viewed as a polarized division between included/excluded, citizens/ noncitizens, but as a nuanced and complex relationship, where there are degrees of membership and access to rights that are not fixed or unidirectional.
LanguageEnglish
Publication date29 May 2020
Number of pages69
ID: 333141768