When the new Government came into office on 9th March there was a backlog of approximately 22,000 citizenship applications awaiting decision, approximately 17,000 of which had been awaiting decision for in excess of 6 months with an average waiting time of 26 months. As of this date there remain 14,000 applications awaiting decision in excess of 6 months. 5,578 citizenship applications have been dealt with in the past 2 and a half months which exceeds the full year total for 2010 which was 5,038.
Minister Shatter said “On taking up office in March, I immediately initiated steps within my Department to deal with the huge backlog of citizenship applications that had built up under the previous Governments administration. It is entirely inappropriate, and completely out of step with other jurisdictions, that people wishing to become Irish citizens should be expected to wait an average of 25 months for a decision on their application. Under the new system, save in exceptional circumstances, persons applying for citizenship will be given a decision on their application within six months”
“I was astonished to discover that approx 55% of all citizenship applications received by the Immigration and Naturalisation Service had to be returned to applicants due to their being incorrectly completed. It was evident, prior to my appointment as Minister, that citizenship application forms were unnecessarily complex and obtuse and I took immediate steps to remedy this. By the end of this week (Friday, 17th June) new application forms will be available online at www.inis.gov.ie. These new arrangements should dramatically reduce the numbers incorrectly completed and substantially contribute to more efficient and streamlined processing times.”
“I also had substantial concerns that we lacked appropriate arrangements in place to give proper recognition to the importance of a person being granted Irish citizenship. Under existing arrangements a local district court clerk arranged for a person granted citizenship to take an oath before a District Court Judge and the new citizen subsequently received their Certificate of Naturalisation by post. There was no sense of occasion or recognition of what a major and important event it is to become an Irish citizen.
“To remedy this situation, I have arranged for the introduction of a Citizenship Ceremony. A pilot ceremony is scheduled to take place in Dublin Castle on 24th June where Justice Bryan McMahon, retired judge of the High Court, has agreed to assume the role of presiding officer. Future Citizenship Ceremonies will take place both in Dublin and outside of Dublin.”
Further steps being taken to improve the processing time for citizenship applications include:
• Streamlined and accelerated checking procedures for certain categories of applicants such as spouses of Irish citizens and applicants recently granted long term residency who as part of that process underwent checks similar to those in place for naturalisation
• Plans to recruit an appropriate number of interns under the new Internship Programme announced in the Government’s Jobs Initiative to assist in areas dealing with naturalisation applications such as the Citizenship Section of the Department of Justice and Equality and the Garda Vetting Office.