Lack of visa meetings for international students

Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque

International students are having difficulty getting online visa appointments with the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB).

After filling out their personal details on the GNIB website to get a visa, students were told that there were no appointments available.

Global Business student Ann Hanna is from Canada, and she said that the website would “sporadically” post that there were meetings available. But when you registered, it would tell you the exact opposite.

Due to the fact she was unable to get an appointment, she had an expired visa for over a month. In the end, she had to go the GNIB’s offices to register for a meeting.

“They [the GNIB] weren’t helpful when I talked to them about the trouble in getting an appointment online,” she said.

“I think they need to update their online interface and their processing software.”

The GNIB is in charge of deportations, border control and investigations relating to illegal immigration.

There are currently no dates free for a meeting before 2019. Without a visa, international students are unable to work, and thus unable to make money.

There also appears to be no system for deciding who gets a visa meeting first. Hanna said the appointment times were completely random.

“I got an appointment a few days after my friends and my appointment time ended up being a month before theirs. I think that is unfair.”

This sentiment was shared by a doctoral researcher at the UCD School of Sociology, Carl J Bindenagel. In a letter to The Irish Times, he said that “the process is like musical chairs, but without any chairs.”

That’s not the only problem with the system though. Hanna said that at the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) office, they wouldn’t recognise her health insurance which was covering her abroad.

She said that similar students in her position had no issue, but the officer she was with told her she had to buy Irish health insurance.

“He didn’t even want my policy number to double check that I purchased insurance and was covered. He only checked my confirmation email,” she said.

“I had to purchase the insurance right in the office in front of him.”

INIS also used to have an online appointment system, but this was replaced in September with a postal-only booking service. However, this new service requires applicants to forfeit their passport for five to six weeks before they arrive in Ireland.

Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque

Image Credit: Alison Clair