441. Deputy Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice the status of the temporary replacement of citizenship ceremonies in which applicants will be able to sign an affidavit declaring loyalty to the State; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2922/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): I was pleased to announce earlier this week that a temporary system is now in place that will enable citizenship applicants to complete their naturalisation process by signing a statutory declaration of loyalty. This signed
statutory declaration replaces the requirement for citizenship applicants to attend citizenship ceremonies, which have been temporarily suspended during COVID-19.
Under the temporary new system, qualifying applicants will be asked to complete a statutory declaration that will be sent to them by email from the Citizenship Division of the Immigration Service of my Department and bring it to one of the listed designated officials. The designated official must witness the applicant sign the statutory declaration.
The applicant must then send the signed statutory declaration, the appropriate fee and any other requested documentation to Citizenship Division. Final processing will then take place and a certificate of naturalisation, will be sent to the applicant.
The new system is in place from 18 January 2021, and my Department will communicate with applicants regarding the requirements, on a phased basis over the next few months until in-person citizenship ceremonies are able to recommence.
It is expected that the 4,000 applicants currently waiting on naturalisation will have been provided with an opportunity to gain citizenship by the end of March. A significant number of healthcare and other frontline workers who have made extraordinary contributions during the pandemic will also benefit from these new arrangements over the coming weeks and months.
It remains my intention that large scale ceremonies will recommence once circumstances allow. Since their establishment in 2011, citizenship ceremonies have been joyous occasions which mark the granting of Irish citizenships in a dignified manner and they have become a welcome addition to our public and civic life. In-person ceremonies have been provisionally scheduled to resume in December 2021, subject to the safety of all involved being assured.