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Question

776. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for Justice the status of a citizenship application by a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53401/21]

Answer

Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): This application is currently being processed with a view to establishing whether the applicant meets the statutory conditions for the granting of naturalisation and will be submitted to me for decision as expeditiously as possible. The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks can take a considerable period of time.
My Department has continued to accept and process citizenship applications throughout the pandemic and during all levels of public health restrictions. However, the combined impact of the 2019 High Court judgment in the Jones case and the necessary health restrictions arising from the pandemic, has resulted in the processing time for standard applications increasing.
My Department is taking a number of steps to speed up the processing of applications.
In January, my Department opened a temporary system to enable these applicants to complete their naturalisation process by signing a statutory declaration of loyalty. Almost 6,200 certificates have been issued so far and a further 1,000 people will receive their certificates in the coming weeks. My Department has prioritised the oldest applications on hand and a significant number of these applicants have received their certificates since the start of the year.
A number of digitisation measures have been introduced to increase efficiency in the process, including eTax clearance, eVetting and online payments. The end result of the digitisation process will be to free up more staff to focus on processing applications in a timely and efficient manner, to improve service to our customers and reduce waiting times. This year, we are on track to deliver approximately 11,000 decisions, significantly exceeding the levels achieved in the last two years. Additional staff have also been assigned to the citizenship team. Based on these measures, my Department's objective is to achieve an improved timeframe of 6-9 months for decisions on a majority of applications during 2022.