72. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will report on the increase in processing time in family re-unification visas due to lack of resources and a higher volume of applications; if she will increase the resources to minimise the hardship on separated families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3983/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): In January, 2014, my predecessor, Deputy Alan Shatter, introduced a Policy Document on Non-EEA Family Reunification. Contained therein is a stated business target that visa applications to join Irish citizens should be dealt with within six months of receipt of application. A target of twelve months applies to other applications for family reunification. However, it must be made clear that these are business targets for the immigration service. Accordingly, they in no way constitute legal obligations or convey any indication that a case not completed within the time-frame will in default of decision be resolved in the applicant’s favour.
These business targets reflect the detailed assessment that is required to be carried out in relation to applications for family reunification and are qualified by availability of resources. These targets are largely being met. Delays in achieving them are primarily related to more complex cases where the provision of additional documentation is requested by my officials, or where detailed assessments of family rights under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights are required.
The stated targets are being largely met despite a 58% increase in the number of visa applications from persons wishing to join an Irish citizen spouse/partner from 2010 to 2014. This can partly be attributed to the significant increase in grants of Irish citizenship since this Government took office.
The management of resources is kept under constant review in my Department. While I am mindful of minimising the hardship on separated families as alluded to by the Deputy, I must balance the needs of this specific area of my Department with the requirements of other areas.