164. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of applications for citizenship being processed; the number of active applications being processed for more than one, two, three and five years, respectively; the average waiting time per application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47312/18]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the number of applications for naturalisation currently on hand, by year of application for each of the years 2015 - 2018 inclusive and 2014 and earlier is as follows:

Year of Application 2014 and earlier 2015 2016 2017 2018 to


Applications currently on hand 368 213 768 2,787 7,608 11,744

It should be noted that over 88% of the applications were made this year and last. The numbers of the cases on hands will always include a cohort of cases where a decision has been made and the applicant has been notified of same, but where the applicant has yet to swear their oath of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State and be granted their certificate of naturalisation at a citizenship ceremony arranged for the purpose. In this context in excess of 3,000 of the cases on hand have already received their decision and my Department is currently issuing invitations to these individuals to attend a citizenship ceremony on 26 November next to make their declaration before a judge and to be granted their certificate of naturalisation.
It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. While INIS endeavours that most straightforward cases are processed to a decision within six months, this target has to be seen in the context of the work involved in dealing with volumes of applications, some of which can be very complex in nature, and the need to ensure that each applicant fulfils the statutory conditions for naturalisation. The nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases can take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks may take a considerable period of time. As outlined, even where a decision may be made, the certificate cannot be issued until the applicant attends a citizenship ceremony arranged for the purpose of swearing the oath of allegiance before a judge. In the circumstances it is not possible to give any meaningful average processing time per application.
Processing timescales can often be impacted due to further documentation being required from the applicant, or payment of the required certificate fee being awaited, or the applicant not engaging with the office. In some instances the applicant themselves may request that a hold be put on their application, for example, where they may have returned to their country of origin for a prolonged period, to facilitate them in making arrangements to return to reside in the State, or where they have difficulty in obtaining satisfactory evidence of their identity or nationality. In other instances issues can arise at the final stage of the naturalisation process, for example, where additional information comes to light which requires to be considered before a final decision is taken.
The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which confers certain rights and entitlements, not only within the State but also at European Union as well as international level. It is therefore important that appropriate procedures are in place to ensure that the integrity of the regime for granting Irish citizenship through the naturalisation process is held in high regard both at home and internationally.
INIS devotes a considerable amount of its overall resources to the processing of these cases. It also operates a dedicated phone helpline and email helpdesk available for all applicants to enable queries to be dealt with, including the progress of their application. Details are available on the INIS website at