344. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the length of time tourist visas take to process; if it takes longer for particular countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28100/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Decisions regarding the granting or refusal of tourist or visit 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. As of 24 June 2019, the Dublin Visa Office was processing tourist/visit visa applications received in Dublin on 10 June 2019. Processing times for other Visa Offices overseas and for Embassies will vary but are generally between 3 and 6 weeks at this time, with many applications processed inside those timeframes, depending on travel dates.
I am also advised by INIS that the visa service is experiencing an increase in the number of visa applications across most categories, in line with increased economic activity generally. Notwithstanding this, processing times are on a par with, and in many cases, better than the same time last year.
The business target for processing 'short-stay C' visas is within eight weeks (current processing time in Dublin for most categories is within four weeks). However, the processing time at each office and location worldwide is determined by a number of factors such as the volume and complexity of applications, whether investigation is required or not, individual circumstances, peak application periods, 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.
The Deputy can be assured that every effort is made to keep processing times to a minimum, and a number of measures have been put in place to deal with the increased demand for visas to come to Ireland. This has included the assignment of additional staff to deal with applications, and more generally the streamlining of visa processes where possible. The position in this regard is being kept under review.
The central concern in deciding on visa applications, as with all visa services worldwide, 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.