Citizenship applicants to sign affidavit of loyalty under temporary COVID-19 measures announced by Minister McEntee
- Pandemic requires the temporary suspension of in person citizenship ceremonies
- Applicants will instead sign an affidavit declaring loyalty to the State and be issued with their certificate of naturalisation
- eTax-clearance and eVetting to be introduced for citizenship applicants as part of Minister McEntee’s digital reform agenda to modernise the Justice Sector
22 October, 2020
The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, has today announced that citizenship ceremonies will be temporarily replaced during COVID-19 with a requirement for citizenship applicants to sign an affidavit declaring loyalty to the State.
Upon the return of a fully completed declaration, the Department of Justice will issue a certificate of naturalisation.
With the temporary suspension of citizenship ceremonies, the Department of Justice is examining alternative methods of celebrating the new citizens who will receive their certificates of naturalisation during COVID-19.
Making the announcement, Minister McEntee said:
‘Since their establishment in 2011, citizenship ceremonies have been joyous occasions at which we mark the granting of Irish citizenships in a dignified manner.
‘Unfortunately, the pandemic means that we are currently unable to hold the in person ceremonies with hundreds of people which have become a welcome addition to our public and civic life.
‘Yet thousands of applications for naturalisation are still on hand, with many applicants ready to become citizens. Our new, temporary approach means we can process these applications during the pandemic.
‘I am introducing these measures following a review of a pilot virtual citizenship ceremony which took place in July.
‘While the virtual ceremony was a success, it is unfortunately not feasible to support the current demand with virtual ceremonies. We want to ensure that eligible applicants receive their certificates as soon as possible.
‘My Department is examining alternative methods of celebrating the new citizenships granted during the pandemic and I look forward to when we can resume in person ceremonies.’
Minister of State, James Browne TD, also said:
‘Becoming an Irish citizen is a moment to cherish and a cause for celebration, both for new citizens themselves and also for their families and friends. Although how we mark this special event will temporarily change in light of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, its significance in the eyes of the State remains undiminished.’
Minister McEntee also announced the introduction of eTax-clearance and eVetting for citizenship applicants. This is in line with the move towards an online citizenship application process by mid-2021. The introduction of eVetting will speed up the application process and free up valuable Garda resources that are currently being used as part of a manual vetting process.
Minister McEntee added,
‘Moving to eVetting and eTax clearance during the application process is part of our increased digitisation programme across the Immigration Service.
‘This has clear benefits for our customers and for the way we work as an organisation.’
‘Driving the digital reform agenda to modernise the Justice Sector is one of my main priorities as Minister for Justice.
The changes will come into effect after the Minister signs a statutory instrument to the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956. The Minister has approved the priority drafting of the statutory instrument.
Notes for editors
- The review of the pilot virtual citizenship ceremony in July found that temporarily replacing ceremonies with signed affidavits will result in significant resource savings compared to the resources required for virtual ceremonies. To progress virtual ceremonies on the scale required would require diverting excessive resources away from case processing.
- There are currently in excess of 21,000 citizenship applications on hand including approximately 3,000 that are ceremony ready. Waiting until large in-person citizenship ceremonies could take place again is not an option as many applicants would have their opportunity to be made Irish citizens postponed for an indefinite period of time through no fault of their own.