Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Questions (356)

Seán Fleming

Question:

356. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of naturalisation applications on hand; the number of applications by the country of each applicant; the number of applications received in respect of each country from the oldest application to 2018 and to date in 2019, by country; the length of time applications have remained in the system without a resolution; his plans to follow-up on old applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45160/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

Decisions on the grant or otherwise of certificates of naturalisation are made at my discretion as Minister for Justice and Equality strictly in accordance with the legislative provisions and criteria contained in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended.

While every effort is made to process applications in a timely manner, it is the case that some applications can take considerably longer to process than others. This is due to a number of reasons, primarily the necessity for security checks to establish the good character of the applicant, time taken for appropriate checks to ensure applicants satisfy the relevant legislative criteria and deficiencies in supporting documentation supplied by applicants at the time of application.

It is recognised that an application for a certificate of naturalisation is a complex process requiring a considerable amount of supporting documentation. This is necessitated by the need to protect the integrity of the immigration system and also to ensure that I as Minister have all available information available to me to facilitate making a fully informed decision.

There are just over 20,000 applications for certificates of naturalisation on hand in respect of both adults and minors. These applications are at various stages of processing. The range encompassed by the naturalisation process includes applications recently received by Citizenship Division and those which have been fully concluded and await an invitation to a citizenship ceremony. It should be noted that once a decision has been communicated to an applicant, there may be a delay of some months before the applicant is issued an invite to the next available citizenship ceremony, which every adult applicant must attend and where the oath of fealty to the State is taken.

While the information is not currently available in the format requested by the Deputy I can inform him that applications have been received from 190 nationalities. The top 20 nationalities, which are listed in the table below, make up almost three quarters of all applications.

The greatest number of applications have been received by UK and Polish nationals (over 10% of all applications each) followed by Pakistan and Romania.

Percentage of total applications by Country

United Kingdom

11%

Poland

11%

Pakistan

8%

Romania

8%

Nigeria

7%

India

6%

Brazil

3%

Latvia

2%

Philippines

2%

China (Including Hong Kong)

2%

United States Of America

2%

South Africa

2%

Syrian Arab Republic

2%

Somalia

1%

Ukraine

1%

Bangladesh

1%

The Democratic Republic Of The Congo,

1%

Hungary

1%

Lithuania

1%

Afghanistan

1%

With regard to the number of applications received in respect of each country from the oldest application to 2018 and to date in 2019, by country, I must inform the Deputy that my Department does not maintain the information in that format.

Of the applications on hand, 31% were received in the last 6 months, 31% are on hand for between 6 and 12 months, 25% are on hand for between 12 and 24 months , while 12% are more than 2 years old. 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 average processing time from the date an application was received to the date a decision was made was 6.7 months in 2016, 7.2 months in 2017 and 6.5 months in 2018. However, I can assure the Deputy that all applications are followed through to a decision.

For applications decided in 2019, the average time from application to decision has been 10 months. It is important to state that the average 6 months processing timeline, as it pertains to applications processed during 2019 has been negatively impacted as a result of the recent High Court Judgment, of which we await an outcome from the Court of Appeal. The exact impact cannot be quantified at this remove, pending a successful resolution of same.

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. These procedures are continually evolving such as reflecting the need to respond to changing international circumstances and also to ongoing service improvements due to the introduction of new technology and work practices.

Each citizenship application is unique and is assessed on its merits according to the administrative and legislative conditions in place at the time of application. The Immigration Service of my Department 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 Immigration Service website at www.inis.gov.ie.