Thursday, 17 December 2020

Questions (476, 477)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

476. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice if her attention has been drawn to a serious problem with the online booking system to secure appointments at the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service in Dublin, which persons have reported to this Deputy, whereby it is nearly impossible to make an appointment; and the progress that has been made to replace the booking system. [44308/20]

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Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

477. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice if the problem and resultant scam highlighted more than a year ago regarding the online booking system used by the INIS in which it is being used by opportunists to block-book appointments that are then, it has been suggested, sold through social media and phone apps have been addressed; and if not, if the issue still persists. [44309/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 476 and 477 together.

My Department is aware that there have been issues in the past around the securing of registration appointments and a set of software fixes were introduced in late 2018, designed to prevent such abuses of the system. The new measures have been successful to date in preventing the block booking of appointments by third party agents. However, we are aware of some third party agents providing appointment booking services in return for payment on the basis that the person provides them with their personal details in advance. The Immigration Service of my Department have strongly advised against this practice of providing sensitive and personal data to unregulated and unknown third parties.

During the summer, a tender was launched for a new Immigration Service appointment and scheduling system. The tender is currently at the evaluation stage and will shortly move towards award and implementation. This new system will streamline and further improve the registration process.

The Burgh Quay Registration Office for customers in the Dublin area reopened on 2 December 2020, when the Level 5 restrictions came to an end. However, to protect the safety of staff and customers and to comply with social distancing and public health guidelines, it has been necessary to reduce capacity.

The Public Office is now accepting applications for first time registrations on an appointment only basis. Priority for appointment allocation was given initially to those who had their application for first time registration cancelled when the Office closed with the introduction of the Level 5 measures.

A survey was carried out in October of people who were registering for the first time in Burgh Quay. The results indicated that 70% of people received an appointment within one week.

A new online system for the renewal of registrations in the Dublin area was also developed and launched as part of my Department’s COVID-19 response to enable applicants safely engage with the Registration Office.

All registration renewals in the Dublin area are now being processed online and the system is available for all applicants at https://inisonline.jahs.ie . All applicants have to do is complete a form online, upload the supporting documents and pay the fee. Since the launch of this system on 20 July 2020, my Department has received over 47,000 applications from people who would otherwise have had to attend in Burgh Quay in person. Over 43,000 of these have been completed. Recently the requirement to include a passport as part of an application has been removed which makes the whole process quicker and more efficient.

First time registrations require the taking of biometric information (fingerprints) so it is not possible to do these registrations online. It will be ensured that capacity is in place to deal with the demand over the coming months.