436. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of applications processed to date under the special student scheme accepted and rejected, respectively. [18420/19]

437. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the recent abolition of the re-entry visa requirement results in extra staff allocation towards processing of special student scheme applications. [18421/19]

438. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there is a deadline to complete the processing of all special student scheme applications. [18422/19]

439. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason the processing of the special student scheme was not simplified by issuing temporary visas to applicants that applied on the portal online instead of delaying (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18423/19]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 436 to 439, inclusive, together.
I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the Special Scheme for Students closed to new applications on 20th January, 2019. The scheme applies to students who were registered between 1st January 2005 and 31st December 2010 when new immigration arrangements for students came into operation. Part of these arrangements provided for students registered before 2010 to finish their course of study including provision for access to the labour market in line with relevant criteria.
The Deputy will appreciate that it is necessary to process applications under the Scheme in compliance with legal requirements and in accordance with the Scheme criteria. In light of this, applicants and their family members are not provided with an immigration permission with a right to access the labour market pending consideration of their overall immigration history in the State and individual circumstances. To do otherwise would undermine the scheme which is designed to address a situation where applicants have fallen out of permission. Such applicants must first demonstrate their eligibility for the scheme and subsequently have their applications approved before a permission can be granted to them. It should be noted however, that, once a person’s application under this Scheme has been acknowledged, the immigration authorities will, for the period it takes to process the application for this scheme and issue a decision, take no steps to remove an applicant from the State purely on the basis that the person’s immigration permission has expired.
INIS received approximately 3,100 applications comprising former students and their family members under the scheme. To date, INIS made a decision in 1,166 cases. A total of 1,052 were granted and 114 applications refused.
I am further informed that it is open to persons to request a review of a decision to refuse. To date, INIS received a total of 45 applications for a review. INIS made a decision in 15 of those cases. In 14 cases the review officer upheld the original decision to refuse.
While every effort is made to process applications as soon as possible, processing times will vary having regard to the overall volume of applications and the complexity of individual cases. INIS has taken a number of measures to address this cohort of complex cases including the introduction of an on-line application facility for the scheme to make it as streamlined as possible for applicants.
I can assure the Deputy that the resources available for these activities, which includes the provision of overtime, and the accompanying operational and organisational structures, are kept under ongoing review to ensure that applications are processed as efficiently as possible.