Tuesday, 10 February 2004

Questions (323, 324, 325)

Damien English

Question:

399 Mr. English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the stage the citizenship application for a person (details supplied) in County Meath is at; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3581/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

A declaration of acceptance of post-nuptial citizenship from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in my Department in February 2003. The declaration and accompanying papers were examined by officials in the citizenship section of my Department in early September 2003. Following contact with the declarant on two occasions about some necessary amendments, the declaration was accepted as valid on 26 November 2003.

Unfortunately, the letter confirming acceptance of the declaration contained a number of clerical errors and, following contact from the individual concerned, a corrected letter was issued on 26 January last. As soon as the person concerned completes the procedures requested in the letter, a certificate of citizenship will issue to him.

Damien English

Question:

400 Mr. English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether five hours per week is sufficient time for the citizenship information lines at his Department to be open to the public; the number of calls dealt with per week during that five hour period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3582/04]

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Damien English

Question:

401 Mr. English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of staff who operate the citizenship information lines at his Department during the five hours per week these lines are open to the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3583/04]

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The helpline for the citizenship section of my Department operates from 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. During this period, two telephones are in operation. A total of 8,572 calls, approximately 165 per week, were dealt with in 2003 and 842 calls were dealt with in January 2004.

The citizenship section, in common with other areas of the immigration and citizenship division of my Department, has seen a huge increase in recent years in the volume of business it deals with. In 1999, a total of 739 applications for naturalisation and 1,242 declarations of post-nuptial citizenship were received. In 2003, the corresponding figures were 3,580 and 2,369. In 1999, 416 certificates of naturalisation and 1,022 certificates of post-nuptial citizenship were issued. The corresponding figures in 2003 were 1,664 and 2,227 respectively. At the same time, the processing time for applications for naturalisation and declarations of post-nuptial citizenship has been reduced from 2.5 years and 12 months at the start of 2001 to 15-18 months and eight months respectively at present.

Given the volume of applications being received, it is intended to continue to focus resources on decision making and maintaining the processing times at their current levels. Since November 2002, comprehensive information leaflets on citizenship matters are available on my Department's website atwww.justice.ie. Application forms for naturalisation and post-nuptial citizenship can also be downloaded from the website.