Over 3,600 people waiting two years for citizenship application to be processed

Department of Justice confirms that July citizenship ceremonies will not go ahead

 A citizenship ceremony in the Killarney Convention Centre, Co Kerry, last year. Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan

A citizenship ceremony in the Killarney Convention Centre, Co Kerry, last year. Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan

 

Over 3,600 people have been waiting more than two years for their application for Irish citizenship to be processed, according to data released by the Department of Justice.

More than 20 per cent (3,629) of the 17,954 citizenship applications currently being processed have been going through the system for longer than 24 months, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said in response to a parliamentary question from Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan.

The department has also confirmed that citizenship ceremonies scheduled to take place in Killarney, Co Kerry, in July have been postponed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

It said officials were working to find an alternative means of conducting the ceremonies while fully complying with public health guidelines.

The last citizenship ceremonies, held in early March, saw 5,000 people from 135 countries welcomed as Irish citizens.

The department has been working since last December to reduce a backlog of 20,500 people waiting to be sworn in as Irish citizens by a judge. Citizenship ceremonies were put on hold for five months last year after High Court judge Mr Justice Max Barrett ruled that any person applying for Irish citizenship could not spend a day outside Ireland in the year before applying.

In November, the Court of Appeal overturned the ruling that applicants for Irish citizenship needed unbroken residence for an entire year in Ireland.

A total of 3,545 applications for citizenship have been processed so far this year, up from 3,401 during the same time period last year, according to the department.

The highest number of applications for citizenship currently being processed come from Pakistanis, followed by people from the UK, Poland, Nigeria and Romania.

Confusion

Mr O’Callaghan said there was a lot of confusion around how long an application for Irish citizenship should take. Waiting two years for a decision on an application was “an unacceptable delay” which created anxiety.

“This is a particular issue in the context of Brexit as there is a significant number of UK citizens living in Ireland long-term who are hoping to have their applications successfully processed by the end of the year.

“The lack of information for individuals is compounding the problem – people simply do not know how long they will be left waiting, and cannot get any updates on their applications.”

A department spokesman said while most straightforward applications should be processed within six months, other applications could take a “significant length of time to complete”.

He said incorrectly completed applications, failure to provide the required documentation and issues with good character checks could all cause delays in the process.

He said Mr Flanagan “fully appreciates and shares the concerns of all applications regarding a timeline for completion of applications” and looked forward to resuming normal customer service once restrictions were eased.