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Citizenship Applications.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 5 July 2007

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Questions (219, 220, 221, 222, 223)

Pat Breen

Question:

219 Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 298 of 31 January 2007, when a decision will be made on an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19476/07]

View answer

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

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question Number 298 of Wednesday 31 January 2007. The position remains as stated.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

220 Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person who has been in Ireland for more than five years but who has not yet been granted either refugee status, leave to remain or subsidiary protection can apply for naturalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19502/07]

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Since the Deputy has not provided details of a particular case, I can only set out the position generally.

Section 15 (d) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 provides that an applicant for a certificate of naturalisation must have a period of one year's continuous residence in the State immediately before the date of application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the State amounting to four years.

Section 16 (a) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 2001 qualified that residency requirement so that when calculating residence in respect of an applicant who is required to have permission to reside in the State, no period will be reckoned where the applicant does not have such permission. In addition, any time spent seeking to be recognised as a refugee or for the purpose of study must also be discounted.

Section 16 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that I may, in my absolute discretion, waive some or all of the statutory conditions in certain circumstances i.e. where an applicant is of Irish descent or of Irish associations; where an applicant is a person who is a refugee within the meaning of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees; or where an applicant is a Stateless person within the meaning of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Stateless persons.

Applicants other than those listed above should satisfy the statutory residency requirement at the time of lodging an application for naturalisation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

221 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications for naturalisation presently in his Department; the delays involved in dealing with such applications; and if he will put in place a more efficient and effective procedure for dealing with same. [19534/07]

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I am advised by the Citizenship Section of my Department that the number of applications for naturalisation which have yet to be processed to a conclusion is approximately 15,000. Such applications are generally dealt with in chronological order as this method is deemed to be fairest to all applicants. The processing time is, on average, thirty months and this is primarily due to the significant increase in the volume of applications received in the last number of years. The table below shows the total number of applications received in the years 2000 to date. These figures illustrate a significant upward trend and with over 3,000 applications received to date in 2007, this upward trend looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.

Year

Applications for naturalisation received

2000

1,004

2001

1,431

2002

3,574

2003

3,580

2004

4,074

2005

4,523

2006

7,030

2007 (as at 3 July, 2007)

3,400

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is an honour and applications must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that it is not undervalued and is given only to persons who satisfy the necessary qualifying criteria.

The procedures employed to assess an applicant for naturalisation are as set out in summary form below.

Upon receipt, each application is examined to determine if the statutory application is completed fully. Incomplete application forms are returned to the applicant for amendment. Valid applications are then examined to determine if the applicant meets the statutory residency criteria set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act. Passports and other documentation are examined in detail and enquiries with the Garda National Immigration Bureau may also be necessary. Since this procedure was introduced on 1 April 2005, over 3,500 applicants who applied since that date have been found to be ineligible. All such applicants are informed of any shortfall in their residency and will be able to reapply when they have the required residency.

The next stage of the process involves assessing an applicant's financial status in respect of their ability to support themselves in the State. Enquiries with the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social and Family Affairs may be necessary in this regard. At the same time enquiries are also made with the Garda Síochána to clarify if the applicant can be deemed to be of good character. There may also be circumstances in individual cases which require a greater level of investigation than other cases. Once all enquiries are completed, the file is referred to me for a decision. The Deputy will appreciate that these processes can take a lengthy time to complete.

The above procedures have been developed and refined over a number of years and I am satisfied that they are necessary to maintain the integrity of the naturalisation process. Consequently, having regard to the resources available, which are kept under constant review, there is a limit to the reduction in the processing time that can be achieved. However, I share the Deputy's concerns regarding the efficiency of the existing system and accordingly, I have instructed my officials to undertake a review of the various processes in order that these might be streamlined further where possible.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

222 Deputy Jim O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that applications for naturalisation are being rejected on the basis that applicants can not produce the proof of reckonable residency in the State required by his Department and in particular for the one year immediately prior to the application; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that in many instances the reason the required proof can not be produced is due to delays on the part of the State in the issue of work permits leading on to delays in the stamping of visas on the passports of applicants; his views on whether it is unacceptable that applicants should be penalised as a consequence; if he will put in place a system which takes into account the reality of bureaucratic delays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19536/07]

View answer

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation provided certain statutory conditions are fulfilled. Section 15 of that Act requires that the applicant must have had a period of one years continuous residence in the State immediately before the date of the application and, during the eight years immediately preceding that period, have had a total residence in the State amounting to four years.

The Deputy suggests that delays in the issue of work permits may result in an applicant being unable to fulfil the residency requirements for naturalisation. However, the above Act provides that in determining residency for the purposes of naturalisation no period shall be reckoned where the applicant did not have the permission of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to remain in the State. This particular statutory provision does not provide for the reasons for not having such permission to be taken into account.

Denis Naughten

Question:

223 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 231 of 13 February 2007, the status of a citizenship application by a person in County Mayo; when the application will be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19550/07]

View answer

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to in the Deputy's Question was received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 9 November 2006.

On examination of the application it was determined that the person concerned did not meet the statutory residency requirements as set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. A letter informing the applicant was issued on 8 March 2007.

It is open to the individual concerned to lodge a new application if and when he is in a position to meet the statutory residency requirements in June at that time.

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