476. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of short-stay C visa applicants awaiting a decision; the expected waiting period from the submission of an application to the decision date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1518/19]
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 table underneath sets out the dates of reception for short-stay ‘C visa’ applications currently being processed in the Dublin Visa Office, and the number of those applications currently on hand.
|Purpose of Visa Applications||Processing date in the Dublin Visa Office||Number of applications on hand (as of 14 January)|
|Visit||04 January 2019||95|
|Business||04 January 2019||5|
|Study||21 November 2018||5|
|Join Family (EU Free Movement)||See note below|
|Other*||04 January 2019||20|
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 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 two 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.
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 been made in that regard with the majority of these applications now processed.
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.