Average processing time of 25 months for citizenship applications means stronger communication from Government needed

23 April 2021

Ivana Bacik

Speaking upon receipt of parliamentary question responses which indicate a significant increase in wait-times for citizenship applications in 2020 and 2021, Labour Seanad Group Leader and Party Spokesperson for Integration, Senator Ivana Bacik has called on the Government to engage with those waiting long-term to offer reassurance and clarity on the status of their application.

Senator Bacik said,

“The Labour Party has learned by way of parliamentary question that the average processing time for citizenship applications in Ireland has increased from 5.8 months in 2016 to 25 months in 2021. The number of people currently waiting on a decision for a period in excess of 12 months stands at 16,117. These figures are striking, and behind each number is a person or a family whose lives are made more precarious because they have had to wait. The Department of Justice anticipates that 6,500 people will have been given the opportunity to complete their Irish citizenship by the end of June. While this is welcome, I implore the Minister to engage with all applicants who have been waiting for a decision for longer than 6 months, to inform them of the status of their application.

“My office has received contact from a number of citizenship applicants who report having waited for significant periods, with no further information or reassurance provided since they first submitted their documentation. This is a deeply disconcerting experience and one which has real effects on their lives. Many people have had to put their lives on hold due to the uncertainty of not knowing if or when they will hear back on their application. This uncertainty can have major ramifications for a person’s access further and higher education, access to the job market and access to healthcare overseas for medical treatments that are not provided in Ireland.

“Many of those who are affected work on the front lines of the pandemic. Among this group are healthcare workers who have risked their lives and the lives of their families to keep our healthcare system functional during the biggest public health crisis in Ireland in living history. Non-EU workers make up a huge proportion of this workforce. I have heard from many people who say that, due to their lack of Irish citizenship, they are not being considered for career progression or vital training opportunities. As a result, having protected people in this country through the most challenging of periods, they are now having to consider leaving permanently. This is no way for Ireland to show gratitude for their bravery.

“I understand that the nature of the pandemic means that processing applications has become an administrative challenge for the Government. However, the simple act of contacting applicants who are waiting longer than 6 months to explain this situation  and to give them a reasonable timeline for when they can expect to hear a decision would enable them to plan for the future with greater certainty.

“I am calling on the Government to engage with organisations working with migrants, as well as with long-term applicants themselves, to provide clarity on what is being done to clear the backlog. The past twelve months have been stressful enough for everybody, without the added anxiety of worrying about a delay in your citizenship status and all the related issues that accompany it.”

PQs:

______________________________________
For Written Answer on : 21/04/2021
Question Number(s): 1479,1480,1481 Question Reference(s): 20190/21, 20191/21, 20192/21
Department: Justice

Asked by: Sean Sherlock T.D.
______________________________________________


QUESTION



* To ask the Minister for Justice the average waiting time for citizenship applications in each of the years 2016 to 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form.

- Sean Sherlock T.D.


For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 21 April, 2021.

* To ask the Minister for Justice the number of applications for Irish citizenship that were received in each of the years 2016 to 2020 and to date in 2021, in tabular form.

- Sean Sherlock T.D.


For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 21 April, 2021.

* To ask the Minister for Justice the number of Irish citizenship applicants who are currently waiting longer than 12 months for a decision on their application.

- Sean Sherlock T.D.


For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 21 April, 2021.

REPLY


The processing of citizenship applications has had a number of challenges over the past two years. A legal challenge was taken in the High Court by an applicant who was refused a certificate of naturalisation due to his absences from the State during the last year continuous prior to the date of his application. The outcome of this ruling – which was subsequently successfully appealed to the Court of Appeal – resulted in significant delays to the processing of citizenship applications in 2019. This has been compounded by COVID-19 restrictions from March 2020, which has resulted in further significant challenges to the delivery of normal services.

Additionally, for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process. Processing timescales can be impacted by incomplete applications having to be returned; further documentation being required from the applicant; where the payment of the required certificate fee is awaited; or if the applicant has not been engaging with the Immigration Service of my department.

In some instances, the input of several public agencies, both within and outside the jurisdiction is needed and the request and receipt of information from these sources can result in delays in processing some applications. Issues can also arise at the final stage of the naturalisation process, for example, where additional information comes to light which is required to be considered before a final decision is taken.  

The average processing time for applications and the number of applications on hand are set out in the tables below.

 Year

Applications Received

Average processing time (months) for decisions reached in Calendar Year

2016

13,018

5.8

2017

11,777

7.4

2018

12,867

10.4

2019

12,281

11.6

2020

10,138

13.5

2021

1,689

25

 

Number of Months application on Hand

Number of Applications

0 - 6 months

4983

6 - 12 months

3616

12 months +

16,117

 
I am conscious that a significant backlog has built up regarding the granting of citizenships due to the inability to hold in person ceremonies during Covid-19. On 18 January 2021, I was pleased to announce a temporary system that enables citizenship applicants to complete their naturalisation process by signing a statutory declaration of loyalty.

My Department achieved the target of communicating with 4,000 people by the end of March 2021. Around 1,200 people have received their Irish citizenship in the 10 weeks since I opened the temporary statutory declaration process. A further 1,159 people have returned their signed statutory declarations and the Immigration Service will be sending them their certificates of naturalisation in the coming weeks.

It has also been decided to extend the statutory declaration process to a further 2,500 people and by the end of June, it is expected that 6,500 people will have been given the opportunity to complete their Irish citizenship.

It remains my intention that large scale ceremonies will recommence once circumstances allow. In-person ceremonies have been provisionally scheduled to resume in December 2021, subject to the safety of all involved being assured.

Plans for the digitalisation of the naturalisation process are well advanced, in line with my recent announcement to significantly modernise the Justice Sector through increased digital and ICT investment.

The end result of the digitisation process will be to free up additional resources to focus on enhanced customer service delivery, ensuring the integrity of the process is protected and processing applications in a timely and efficient manner.  

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 21/04/2021
Question Number(s): 1482,1442 Question Reference(s): 20193/21, 19681/21
Department: Justice
Asked by: Sean Sherlock T.D., Pa Daly T.D.
______________________________________________


QUESTION

* To ask the Minister for Justice the number of migrants in Dublin who have been enabled to register their immigration status in each month since January 2020, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

- Sean Sherlock T.D.


For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 21 April, 2021.

REPLY
Due to the public health restrictions currently in place under Level 5 of the Government's Framework for Restrictive Measures in Response to Covid-19, the Registration Office in Burgh Quay has been closed since 23 December 2020, until further notice.

To ensure that people do not fall out of permission during the Covid-19 pandemic, seven automatic extensions of immigration permissions have been provided, the most recent to 20 September 2021. The renewal of permission is on the same basis as the existing permission and the same conditions attach.

The requirement to register an immigration permission in person, for those living in Dublin, will not arise until the Registration Office reopens in line with the Government’s Roadmap.  First time registrations require the taking of biometric information (fingerprints) so it is not possible to do these registrations online.

All registration renewals in the Dublin area are now being processed online only and the system has been available for all applicants since 20 July 2020 at https://inisonline.jahs.ie.The tables below set out the number of registrations completed in the Dublin Area in 2020 and up to 19 April in 2021.

Registrations completed between January and December 2020

 Month

 Number of Registrations

 January

 8048

 February

 9575

 March

 6305

 April

 17

 May

 1

 June

 138

 July

 3149

 August

 5147

 September

 10360

 October

 14152

 November

 14585

 December

 5218

* 2020 figures are a combination of first time registrations, and online renewals which commenced for all non EEA nationals, residing in the Dublin area on the 20 July 2020.

Registrations completed between January and 19 April 2021 

 Month

 Number of Registrations

 January

 4445

 February

 9092

 March

 7179

 up to 19 April

 2348

* 2021 figures relate to online renewals only.

Registrations outside of the Dublin area are processed by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) through the Garda Station network. Information on the contact details for all the registration offices outside Dublin is available at: https://www.garda.ie/en/about-us/our-departments/office-of-corporate-communications/news-media/reopening-of-registration-offices.html.  I am advised by GNIB that it is not possible in the time available to provide the details requested by the Deputy on registrations completed by GNIB and that efforts to gather this data will require the expenditure of a disproportionate and inordinate amount of the Garda resources and time.