554. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of applications for citizenship received in each of the past five years; and the average time from date of receipt to date of decision by year. [13761/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): 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 6 months for a fully completed 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.
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.
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.
The final stage 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 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.
The total number of applications received are as follows: (2018 figures are provisional).
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.