Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Questions (327)

Rose Conway-Walsh


327. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if delays in foreign birth registrations due to Covid-19 will be taken into account for future applications in cases in which the delay to completing the registration of a person could impact the rights of their children to claim citizenship; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7899/21]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

My Department is responsible for citizenship by descent through the Foreign Births Register. At present, there are 27,000 applications in the Foreign Births Registration (FBR) system that are awaiting processing.

The Passport Service has paused the processing of FBR applications as Ireland is at Level 5 of the National Framework for Living with COVID-19. Applications that have been sent to the FBR team are being held securely and will be processed when normal services resume at Level 3 of the Framework.

The impact of Brexit on applications for Foreign Birth Registration has been significant. In 2014, approximately 10,000 applications were received. In 2019, approximately 32,000 were received. Applicants resident in Great Britain account for around half of all applications. Prior to the introduction of the current restrictions, FBR applications were taking 12 to 18 months to process.

Foreign Births Registration, by its nature, can be a detailed and complex process, often involving official documentation related to three generations and issued by several jurisdictions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in two periods in 2020 where processing of Foreign Birth Registrations was paused to assist with other essential work such as providing Consular Assistance to Irish citizens overseas. This resulted in 26 weeks of 2020 where the processing of FBR applications was paused.

In spite of the pausing of the service, 12,413 people were entered on the Foreign Births Register in 2020. Processing for normal FBR applications has not yet resumed in 2021.

With additional resources, the Department is working to reduce these arrears in 2021 and thereby improve the delivery period for this service.

On the question of a delay to completing the registrations potentially impacting on the rights of a person, my Department operates a clear and transparent general policy of processing FBR applications in order of receipt. However, we will consider urgent requests to expedite an application on a case by case basis. During Level 5 restrictions, applicants can make contact with the Passport Service through the WebChat service.