Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the fees payable by each of the 4000 new Irish citizens in respect of the swearing in ceremony at the National Convention Centre, Dublin; the amount of fees paid as part of the application process prior to same; the total amount payable from this process; the way these funds are utilised; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): In June 2011 I introduced formal citizenship ceremonies for the first time since the foundation of the State. The ceremonies allow candidates for citizenship make their declaration of fidelity to the Irish nation and loyalty to the State and receive their certificate of naturalisation in a meaningful and dignified manner which befits the importance and solemnity of the occasion. The ceremonies are being provided at no extra cost to applicants. To date, 51 such ceremonies have been held at which almost 15,000 candidates have become Irish citizens under the new procedures and these ceremonies have been met with universal approval.
The prescribed fees to be paid by applicants on the issue of a certificate of naturalisation were last increased by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship (Fees) Regulations 2008, which came into effect on 1 August 2008. The standard certification fee is €950 while a reduced fee of €200 applies in the case of an application made on behalf of a minor or in certain circumstances when the application is made by a widow, widower or surviving civil partner of an Irish citizen. In the case of refugees and stateless persons no fee is charged.
The increases in certification fees were in line with inflation for the period 1993 to 2008. While the fees are designed to reflect the effort and cost involved in processing the different categories of applicant, the certification fees do not recoup the full cost of processing the applications. Naturalisation fees, as is the case with all such fees, are lodged to the central fund as an appropriation-in-aid.
In November 2011, I signed into law Statutory Instrument 569/11, which introduced an application fee of €175 for new applications for a certificate of naturalisation. It should be noted that the persons who have been granted citizenship at ceremonies to date would not have been required to pay an application fee as their applications were submitted before November 2011. The application fee was introduced to contribute towards the costs of processing those applications that do not attract any certification fee and to help reduce the proportion of invalid and ineligible applications being lodged. The Statutory Instrument also introduced a series of changes to the application forms, in particular to facilitate applicants who are the civil partners of Irish citizens. Prior to the enactment of these regulations no fee was paid on application and only the certification fee was paid when naturalisation was granted.