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Some 11,000 applications to be decided this year after Covid slowed system in 2020 
The Department of Justice is “on track” to make 11,000 citizenship decisions this year, despite the administrative difficulties created by the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said. 
The department made only 5,159 decisions last year, down significantly on 2019 (9,332) and 2018 (11,139). However, new temporary processes were introduced in January. 
A number of changes to streamline the application process, and to facilitate immigration movements over the Christmas period, have been announced by Ms McEntee. 
From January 1st, new applicants for citizenship will not be required to submit their original passport with their initial application. Instead they can submit a full colour copy of their entire passport, including the front and back covers, witnessed by a solicitor. 
“I know that this change in practice will be very much welcomed,” Ms McEntee said. “They may need their passport to travel to see family or friends abroad, something many of us have not have been able to do for a long time due to Covid-19.” 
The department is to introduce measures to streamline the system in January, including measures aimed at helping doctors working in the HSE or the voluntary hospitals in relation to proof of residence. 
People who are entitled to receive a new Irish Residence Permit card may use their current expired card to enable them to depart from and return to Ireland over Christmas and until January 15th, 2022, the Minister said. The re-entry visa requirements for children under the age of 16 are also being suspended during this period. 
“This will benefit up to 6,000 children and their families,” she said. 
A residence permit card that was in date at the beginning of the pandemic in March of last year now has its validity period extended to January 15th. 
Anyone travelling during this time will be able to print a copy of the travel confirmation notice provided by the department and display it with their existing card to show proof of residence when returning to Ireland. 
The department is engaging with airline carriers to notify them of this new arrangement and to ensure that the process runs smoothly, the Minister said. 
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