As outlined in responses to previous parliamentary questions, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department became aware in September 2018 of customers experiencing difficulties booking registration appointments. Some of these difficulties had arisen because third party agents had been able to secure multiple appointments through the use of automatic software.
A set of software fixes was introduced in mid-September 2018 to prevent this abuse of the system. As far as can be determined, this software update has been successful in preventing the block booking of appointments by third party agents. The system is being regularly monitored in this regard.
I am advised that INIS is currently developing a replacement online appointments system which will be operational later this year, and which is being designed to continue to prevent the block-booking of appointments.
INIS is also aware that some third party agents continue to book individual appointments with information supplied to them by customers. INIS strongly advises our customers not to provide sensitive personal data to these unregulated agents.
I understand from INIS that there is high demand for registrations, and INIS has been given additional resources to meet this demand. INIS issued 25,431 registrations in the first quarter of 2019, an increase of 37% on the first quarter in 2018.
As part of the INIS Service Improvement Plan 2018-2020, a number of other options are also being considered with a view to improving customer service and efficiency as well as meeting the growing demand for registration in Ireland.