Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Questions (258)

Fiona O'Loughlin


258. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the length of time applications for citizenship are taking to process; if there are delays in relation to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16267/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is governed by the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. All applications for a certificate of naturalisation are processed and assessed individually in accordance with the provisions of the Act.   

The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements, not only within the State but also at European Union as well as international level.  It is therefore important that appropriate procedures are in place to ensure that the integrity of the regime for granting Irish citizenship through the naturalisation process is held in high regard both at home and internationally.

In general, it takes around 6 months for a standard application to be processed from the date it is received to the date a decision is made. The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases can take longer than others to process.

Processing timescales can be impacted due to incomplete applications having to be returned, further documentation being required from the applicant, or where payment of the required certificate fee is awaited, or the applicant has not been engaging with INIS.  In certain instances delays can arise at the final stage of the naturalisation process, for example, where additional information comes to light which requires to be considered.  In other instances the applicant themselves may request that a hold be put on their application.

This is a complex application process which requires a considerable level of detailed supporting documentation and sometimes the input of several government agencies, both within and without this jurisdiction. The request and receipt of information from these sources can result in delays in processing some applications.

 The INIS Service Improvement Plan 2018-2020 commits the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department to significant investment in technological developments including the roll-out of online forms and payments for citizenship applications.  Such developments are expected to deliver significant improvements to customer experiences and processing timescales. 

The final stage of a naturalisation application requires the applicant to attend at a citizenship ceremony.  Citizenship ceremony days take place periodically throughout the year, at which up to 3,000 candidates for citizenship make their declaration of fidelity to the Irish nation and loyalty to the State, give an undertaking to uphold the laws of the State and to respect its democratic values and receive their certificate of naturalisation. The date a decision is made on an application in relation to when the next available ceremony is due to take place can also impact on the length of time between the submission of the application and the applicant becoming an Irish citizen.

INIS devotes considerable resources to the processing of these applications. It also operates a dedicated phone helpline and email helpdesk available for all applicants interested in the progress of their application, details of which are available on the INIS website at www.inis.gov.ie.