295. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Justice the number of citizenship applications that were processed in each of the years 2018 to 2020 and to date in 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38393/21]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): The table below sets out the number of citizenship applications that were processed in each of the years 2018 to 2020 and to the end of June 2021, as requested by the Deputy.
|2021 (to end June)||5,357||141||293||4,923||4,435|
I appreciate how important the granting of naturalisation is to those who apply for it. My Department has continued to accept and process applications throughout the pandemic. However, processing rates have been negatively impacted by the necessary health and safety related restrictions and from a High Court case in 2019, which was subsequently successfully appealed.
As a result, regrettably, there are just over 24,600 applications currently on hand at various stages of processing.
Since opening the statutory declaration system in January, we have invited 6,500 applicants to complete the final steps prior to the granting of a certificate of naturalisation. Over 4,400 people have received their certificates so far.
Additional staff are being assigned to the citizenship team; and a number of digitisation measures have been introduced to increase efficiency in the process, including eTax clearance, eVetting and online payments. These measures will free up staff to focus on processing applications in a timely and efficient manner, improving customer service and reducing waiting times. Based on current staff resources, the decision making timeframe is expected to revert to 6-9 months during 2022.