All visa holders in Ireland are required to apply for a re-entry visa if they wish to leave the country for a short period of time.
This applies to students as well – if they plan a holiday, or need to travel for study or research purposes, they need to apply for a re-entry visa. Fees start from €60 for a single journey visa to €160 for an emergency visa.
“There should not a long waiting period where you are held hostage for weeks”
Until the start of September this year, appointment for visa renewal could be made online, but now appointments need to be made by registered post.
This means that waiting times will be around five to six weeks, with provision for “genuine emergencies, including those who need to travel at short notice, for example in the case of a family emergency,” according to a statement on the Department of Justice and Equality website.
Commenting on the news, vice president for equality and citizenship at the Union of Students in Ireland, Aisling Cusack, said that the move to change the re-entry for visa applications came “extremely suddenly”.
“There hadn’t been any consultations prior to this change, nor had there been any communication that a change was coming from the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service,” she told The PIE News.
She explained that the change to the appointment system will pose further barriers for students who need to travel abroad, as they are under “huge pressure” to ensure their immigration appointment is set in good time to send their application.
“The timing of this all happening and the lack of communication, as well as the difficulties in getting appointments, means students looking to travel are now under even further pressure than they already were,” she said.
“International students may need to travel for a myriad of reasons, and whether they are considered an emergency or not, there should not such a long waiting period where you are essentially held hostage in one country for weeks beforehand.”
Director of international affairs at University College Dublin Douglas Proctor told The PIE News that this would mostly affect students from China and India studying at the institution.
While making it difficult for those students to travel during Semester 1 and during the winter break over Christmas, the change in regulations could impact on their education as well.
“For those students who are not able to travel for study purposes, we are concerned that this puts them at an educational disadvantage in relation to their peers,” Proctor explained.
“Students looking to travel are now under even further pressure than they already were”
He added that the there are great concerns about the capacity of the current online appointment system to handle a growing volume of applications in Dublin, while the issue is less prominent in other regional centres.
“UCD continues to work closely with the Irish Universities Association and directly with the relevant arms of Government to advocate for a student visa regime which is responsive and fit for purpose,” he confirmed.
A petition to abolish the re-entry visa system has been launched on iPetition, gathering over 1,400 signatures.
Commenting on why they had signed the petition, a student said the problem was “especially difficult” for students.
“We need to go to conferences and other labs very often,” they said, while another signatory pointed out that students already pay higher fees.