Visa renewals: Clogged-up system cause of ‘stress and frustration’ for immigrants

‘I understand this is a pandemic situation but this is mental trauma for us’

Non-EU foreign nationals living in Ireland are spending months trying to secure an appointment to renew or register their visas despite assertions by the Department of Justice that the system is running smoothly and without serious delays.

Thousands of immigrants also continue handing over sensitive personal data to unregulated third parties and paying a fee to get an appointment because they say the official Government site is clogged up.

Dirli Rocha arrived in Dublin in October after successfully applying for a work visa. Rocha, who previously lived in Ireland as a student but returned to Brazil for a few years, is on a three-month tourist visa which runs out this month and has been trying to book an appointment to register her status with the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (Inis) at Dublin's Burgh Quay since her arrival.

“In the beginning I didn’t agree with the unofficial booking system because they’re charging people money but in the end I paid one guy €20 to book me an appointment and he couldn’t even find anything.”


Rocha’s father and sister are logging in every hour back in Brazil to try to book an appointment while Rocha herself also checks the website repeatedly throughout the day.

“It’s so annoying, I finally got the work visa which is something I’ve been trying to get for years. I have all the documents, this should be easy. And I can’t look for work until I have it.”

Luisa* also spent months trying to navigate the Government immigration website which she says froze every time she tried to register. When she finally submitted her application in August she emailed the helpdesk requesting confirmation they had received the completed form. She received a reply more than three months later, on December 9th.

“That email was so empty and general, it feels like we mean nothing to them and they’re doing us a favour which is definitely not the case,” says Luisa. “It has been really hard on me, I could cry easily talking about it. I wasn’t able to visit my family in Brazil for Christmas in 2019, because I wasn’t able to get an immigration appointment. This causes stress, anxiety and frustration. I keep thinking what if something happens to my family in Brazil and I can’t get home. It’s so disrespectful.”

Mohan*, his wife and children were due to travel to India and visit family over Christmas but had to cancel plans because Mohan's wife could not renew her visa. The website rejected his wife's registration as her passport number has changed and the couple were unable to secure an in-person appointment slot online.

“For the past three months I’ve been checking regularly every day. I’ve tried calling the helpdesk but no one responds. I’ve installed an app to get notifications when appointments become available but there is nothing. I even visited the office on Burgh Quay but the security guard would not allow me inside to speak to an officer.

“Because of the pandemic we postponed travel for the past two years and were looking forward to seeing family. I understand this is a pandemic situation but this is mental trauma for us.”

Online renewal system

Last year, the Government launched an online visa renewal system for all non-EU foreign nationals living in Dublin to reduce queues and long delays at the Inis office on Burgh Quay. Immigrants living outside the capital must still appear in person at their local Garda station to renew their status, while first-time registrations nationwide must also be done in person.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said in December that foreign nationals with immigration permission due to expire between January 15th and May 31st 2022 could extend this permission until the end of May. She also said Dublin-based customers who had a new passport could now upload their biodata page online rather than attending the office in person.

Asked to comment on the delays in the system, a Department of Justice spokesman acknowledged there was a “high demand” for services but said staff in the registration office had been working extra hours to meet this demand.

He said Dublin-based customers seeking to renew their immigration permission should register online and do not need to visit the Burgh Quay office. Those seeking to register for the first time should apply directly for appointments at Burgh Quay through the Government’s Inis registration system, he said.

In December 2020, the waiting period for online renewals dropped to two-three weeks. However, processing times now take six-eight weeks, said the spokesman.

*Interviewees requested that pseudonyms be used to protect their identity

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast