1,200 Irish citizenship applications processed through new online system
Some 24,000 applications still being processed as backlog continues
Some 1,200 people have become Irish citizens in the past 10 weeks. File photograph: Frank Miller
Some 1,200 people have become Irish citizens in the past 10 weeks through a temporary online naturalisation process introduced in January to clear the backlog of applications.
The Department of Justice announced on Friday it had contacted 4,000 people in the final stages of naturalisation since January to offer them the chance to complete this process by signing a statutory declaration of loyalty rather than attending a citizenship ceremony. Most of these had been awaiting a decision on their citizenship application for 2½ years, according to the department.
While the Government has met its commitment of contacting 4,000 people, Friday’s figures show just 30 per cent (1,200) of these have actually completed the process of becoming Irish citizens. The top five nationalities to be issued their certificates since January were people who came from the United Kingdom, Poland, India, Romania and Nigeria.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said on Friday another 1,159 people had returned the signed statutory declarations and would receive their certificates of naturalisation “in the coming weeks”.
Despite the introduction of the online processing system to deal with a backlog in applications, the number of people waiting for their citizenship to be processed remains very high. Some 24,000 are currently waiting for the process to be completed, up from 23,187 in October 2020.
The decision to suspend in-person Irish citizenship ceremonies because of Covid-19 restrictions, combined with legal disruptions during 2019, has resulted in an ongoing backlog of applications.
The department said it aims to process “standard applications” within 12 months but that “for a broad range of reasons, some cases will take longer than others to process”.
Non-EU frontline healthcare workers in Irish hospitals and care homes have repeatedly called in recent months for their applications to be fast-tracked in recognition of their work during the pandemic. Ms McEntee said on Friday that the 1,200 people to become Irish citizens in recent weeks included frontline workers but did not specify how many of those naturalised worked in health services.
She also said a further 2,500 people, who have also been waiting two years, would be given the chance to sign a statutory application by the end of June, bringing to 6,500 the total number of people contacted to complete the process.
She said a “virtual celebration” would take place at the end of April to give Ireland’s newest citizens an opportunity to “properly celebrate in the company of other new citizens”. In-person ceremonies have been provisionally scheduled to resume in December 2021, subject to health and safety measures.
A new e-vetting system has also launched this week to replace the manual Garda vetting process as part of measures to improve processing times for all applicants, said the Minister. Applicants will now complete the vetting process online and submit the result directly to the citizenship team to “enable timely processing of their application”, she said.