Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Questions (474)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

474. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if his attenttion has been drawn to the fact that the visa office is currently experiencing an upsurge in applications for Join Irish Citizen in the past six months and are dealing with the applications in chronological order; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that for many families this delay is causing difficulties and uncertainty; if he has provided additional staff to deal with this upsurge; the number of applications currently waiting to be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12721/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

There has been no particular surge in visa applications for the purpose of joining an Irish citizen in recent months. So called "Join Irish Citizen" applications are taken to include Join Spouse (Irish National), Join Partner (Irish National) & Join Parent (Irish National). Application numbers in this cohort have remained relatively consistent over time, with only minor variations from month to month.

There is no significant backlog in the processing of applications. On average fewer than 100 applications are awaiting a decision at any given time and decisions on applications received in my Department in early February are currently being finalised. However, as each application is individually considered on its own merits, the actual processing time for dealing with such applications can vary depending on the particular circumstances of each case and the level of investigation required. The long term or permanent nature of the intended stay in Ireland means that they require more in-depth consideration than straightforward short-stay visa applications. In many cases, extra documentation or clarification must be sought from the persons involved and those cases cannot be finalised until the relevant documentation or clarification has been received. Staff in my Department are fully aware of the importance of these applications to the families involved, and commencing processing of applications in the order in which they arrive is considered the fairest approach.

On a broader note, policy in relation to visas for purposes of family reunification (not solely Join Irish Citizen applications) is currently being revised. As a result, consideration of visa applications from dependent relatives in the ascending line, e.g. parents, to join family members in Ireland is temporarily suspended pending publication of the policy. Applications may continue to be made, but applicants should note that these will be considered in the framework of the revised policy when published. A notification to this effect has been posted on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, www.inis.gov.ie.