Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Questions (253)

John Deasy

Question:

253. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps being taken to ensure that applicants seeking to renew their visas through the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service are not exploited by having to pay fees to Internet sites to secure appointments; if his attention has been drawn to the problems with the INIS online system caused by the block booking of slots by hackers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41736/19]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As outlined in responses to previous parliamentary questions, the Immigration Service of my Department became aware, in September 2018, that customers were 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. The Immigration Service is aware that some third party agents continue to book individual appointments with information supplied to them by customers. My Department strongly advises customers not to provide sensitive personal data to these unregulated agents.     

I am also advised that the Immigration Service is currently developing a replacement online appointments system which is being designed to prevent the block-booking of appointments. This new system will also assist in streamlining and improving the current online booking process. 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.