145. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason applications for citizenship are taking up to 12 months or longer to process in view of the commitments given by his Department that the processing time for such applications would be reduced to six months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7847/18]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy will appreciate 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 level and it is important that appropriate procedures are in place to preserve the integrity of the process. All applications are examined to determine if the applicant meets the statutory conditions for naturalisation set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, such as good character and lawful residence.
It is recognised that all applicants for citizenship would wish to have a decision on their application without delay. While most straightforward cases are generally processed within six months, the nature of the naturalisation process is such that, for a broad range of reasons, some cases may take longer than others to process. In some instances, completing the necessary checks may take a considerable period of time.
Cases where delays in processing can arise can often be due to further documentation being required from the applicant, or payment of the required certificate fee is awaited, or the applicant has not been engaging with the office. In some instances delays can arise at the final stage of the naturalisation process, for example where additional information comes to light which requires to be considered. In other 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.
The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department has a dedicated phone helpline and email helpdesk available for all applicants interested in the progress of their application, details of which are available on the INIS website at www.inis.gov.ie.