112. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of applications for citizenship being processed by his Department; the number of active applications being processed for more than one, two, three and five years, respectively; the average waiting time per application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 18221/18 asked on 25 Apr 2018)

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the number of applications for naturalisation currently on hands, by year of application for each of the years 2015 - 2018 inclusive and 2014 and earlier is as follows:

Year of Application   2014 and earlier  2015  2016  2017 2018 to date  Total
Applications currently on hand  340  330  1,700  7,330  2,770  12,470

It should be noted that statistics of the cases on hands will always include a cohort of cases where a decision has been made and the applicant has been notified of same, but where the applicant has yet to swear their oath of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State, as required under the Act, and be granted their certificate of naturalisation at a citizenship ceremony arranged for the purpose.  In this context in excess of 3,000 of the cases on hands have already received their decision and my Department is currently issuing invitations to these individuals to attend a citizenship ceremony on 21 May next to make their declaration before a judge and to be granted their certificate of naturalisation.

It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay.  While the Citizenship Division endeavours that most straightforward cases are processed to a decision within six months, this has to be seen in the context of the work involved in dealing with volumes of applications, some of which can be very complex in nature, and the need to ensure that each applicant fulfils the statutory conditions for naturalisation. The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases can take longer than others to process.  In some instances, completing the necessary checks may take a considerable period of time.  As outlined, even where a decision may be made, the certificate cannot be issued until the applicant attends a citizenship ceremony arranged for the purpose of swearing the oath of allegiance before a judge.  In the circumstances it is not possible to give any meaningful average processing time per application

Processing timescales can often be impacted due to further documentation being required from the applicant, or payment of the required certificate fee is awaited, or the applicant has not been engaging with the office.  In some 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, for example, where they may have returned to their country of origin for a prolonged period, to facilitate them in making arrangements to return to reside in the State, or where they have difficulty in obtaining satisfactory evidence of their identity or nationality.

As the Deputy will appreciate, 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.

INIS devotes a considerable amount of its overall resources to the processing of these cases. 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.