934. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Justice that reforms of the naturalisation process permit applications from persons with pending applications under section 3 or Deportation Orders, persons resident in the State for less than four years, and persons who have been undocumented for less than four years. [42792/21]


Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): 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 line with the eligibility criteria set out under the Act. A determination on whether an applicant satisfies the statutory criteria attendant to naturalisation, can only be made after an application is received.
The Act requires that, any person, prior to making an application for naturalisation, has five years reckonable residence in the State, except for spouses of Irish nationals where the requirement is three years. In both cases, the final 12 months must be continuous residence in the State with up to six weeks absence currently allowed to facilitate foreign travel for business, family or holiday purposes. In June, when announcing the publication of the General Scheme of the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2021, I confirmed that the continuous residence requirement will be amended to allow for total absences of up to 70 days from the State in the year preceding the citizenship application being made. Up to a further 30 days may also be allowed where necessitated by exceptional circumstances.
The Programme for Government contains a commitment to bring forward a regularisation scheme within 18 months of the formation of the Government, to create new pathways for long-term undocumented people and their dependents. Applicants will need to meet specific criteria and these will be formed with a clear consideration of Ireland's European Union and Common Travel Area commitments. The formulation of criteria is guided by research, including the learning from previous regularisation schemes, such as the 2018 Student Scheme. Schemes operated by other EU Member States are also being considered in its development.  
My Department is now working to finalise the details for the Scheme, including eligibility considerations and qualifying criteria, with a view to bringing a proposal to Government shortly to allow for the launch of the Scheme before the end of this year.