266. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the waiting times for processing entry visas in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service; and the way in which this compares to 12 months ago. [39444/18]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Decisions regarding the grant or refusal of visas are made in a number of INIS Visa Offices overseas, the INIS Visa Office in Dublin, and at Embassies of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which process certain visa applications under delegated sanction from my Department.
The processing times for visa decisions are published on the Visa pages of each Visa Office and Embassy website. The following table sets out the processing dates as of 1 October, 2018 and, for comparison, on 3 October, 2017 up to which applications received in the Dublin Visa Office had been processed.

Purpose of visa applications Processing Date as at 1 October 2018 Processing Date as at 3 October 2017
Visit 26 September 8 August
Business 10 September 14 September
Conference/Event 10 September 21 August
Join Family (under national legislation) 10 April 13 March
Join Family (EU Free Movement) See note below
Study 5 September 8 August
Employment 10 September 18 September
Other* 10 September 21 August

*Includes training; exam; performance/tournament; and sundry applications.
It should be noted that target times for visa processing are established as a business target reflecting the detailed and often complex assessment required to be carried out in relation to applications and do not constitute a legal obligation.
I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the visa service is currently experiencing an increase in the number of visa applications across most categories of persons wishing to come to Ireland for a variety of purposes and in line with increased economic activity generally. Notwithstanding, processing times are on a par and in many cases have been significantly improved upon compared to those at the corresponding date last year.
The processing time at each office and location worldwide is determined by a number of factors, such as the volumes and complexity of applications, whether investigation is required or not, individual circumstances, peak application periods - now just coming off the busiest time of the year for visa applications generally - seasonal factors, and the resources available. While every effort is made to process applications as quickly as possible, processing times inevitably vary as a result.
In relation to applications under the Free Movement Directive (2004/38/EC), there had been an exponential increase from the second quarter of 2015 in the number of such applications. That gave rise to a caseload of around 10,500 applications which had to be assessed very carefully to ensure that any fraudulent applications or potential abuses of the Directive were detected and dealt with appropriately. Considerable progress has being made in that regard with the majority of these applications now processed.
The central concern, as with all visa services worldwide, in deciding on visa applications is to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the country's vital national interests by maintaining an effective immigration regime while at the same time facilitating travel for those who meet the criteria. Each visa application is therefore decided on its own merits taking all factors into account.