Issues with online visa system threatens FDI, says IBEC

Technology Ireland and CPL warn of issues with system used for work visa renewals

A failure to fix ongoing problems with the State’s online visa system for foreign nationals could threaten investment into the Republic, business group Ibec has warned.

Ibec-affiliated Technology Ireland, which represents some of the biggest technology companies in the State, says it has been inundated with requests from members for assistance. The employee relations division within Ibec has also been working to help companies overcome problems with the appointment booking system, which was introduced in 2016 to end the long overnight queues that had become a fixture outside the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) office on Burgh Quay in Dublin.

The Irish Times revealed in September 2018 that internet bots were being used by opportunists to block-book appointments on the system which were then sold on for up to €50 each through social media and mobile apps to those looking to renew or change their visa status.

A set of software fixes was introduced in mid-September 2018 to prevent abuse of the system and the Department of Justice also announced plans a year ago to replace it. This has yet to happen, however, and abuses are continuing, with some companies reluctantly, out of desperation, paying third parties to secure bookings.


In addition, some staff have had to take unpaid leave due to delays securing appointments, while others have been sent back to their home countries as employers are anxious about them overstaying while renewals remain to be confirmed.

"The current delays and issues regarding securing appointments with INIS is a major issue for many Technology Ireland members, both indigenous and foreign direct investment [FDI] companies. This is having a significant impact on attracting and retaining key talent and is a very serious threat to Ireland's ability to attract investment," said director Una Fitzpatrick.

“Our ability to process work permits/visas on time is critical to our competitive advantage and plays an important role in supporting the economy, ensuring talent is brought into Ireland in a timely manner. The ability to smoothly attract international talent is a competitive differentiator for Ireland,” she added.

Dublin-listed recruitment company CPL also warned of the impact on visa delays, particularly for smaller organisations.

While larger multinationals may be more accustomed to the visa process, smaller groups are confused and frustrated by delays in the Irish system, said Rob Daly, chief customer officer with the recruiter.

Inconsistency also acts as a deterrent for companies who might be considering hiring foreign nationals, he said, adding that many organisations view visa issues as a potential “minefield”.

The Immigration Service at the Department of Justice said it was issuing on average 450 appointments per day, with about 104,000 registrations completed last year.

“The department would again strongly advise applicants not to provide their sensitive personal data to third-party agents who continue to book individual appointments with information supplied to them by customers,” a spokesman said.

“To ensure that as many appointments as possible are made available each day, the department intends to expand the service introduced to enable re-registrations of online applications and by post for third-level students to other groups,” he added.

The department also said it would shortly tender for a new online appointments system which should be operational later this year.