226. Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne asked the Minister for Justice the position regarding the backlog of appeal applications to the visa office; if she will provide details of appeal applications from 2020 by month that are currently being processed; if efforts are being made to clear the current backlog; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9075/21]


Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): The Immigration Service of my Department has, since 29 January 2021, temporarily ceased accepting new visa applications, with the exception of critical/priority applications, which would include healthcare and supply chain workers.
In relation to applications which were on hand prior to the 29 January, these continue to be processed. However, where a decision is made to grant a visa, unless the application fits within the current Emergency/Priority criteria, the visa will not issue until such time as restrictions have been lifted.
Due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation there have been delays to the timeframe for the processing of cases as the necessary restrictions imposed for social distancing and non-essential travel requirements imposes restrictions on the numbers of staff allowed to attend the office any given time. Emergency cases are examined on an individual basis and the Immigration Service takes a tailored approach to them.
The number of appeals received for general visa types have decreased generally since March 2020, in terms of what would normally be received year on year. Processing times for long stay visa appeals, such as Join Family, invariably take longer and are generally determined by the volume of applications received, the particular merits of individual applications, their complexity, whether the need to investigate or enquire further, and the time taken to receive applicant responses.
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 backlog of Join Family appeal cases. This includes the assignment of additional staff to help process these applications, utilising capacity in overseas visa offices to assist the Dublin Office and, more generally, the streamlining of visa processing where possible.
Resumption of normal operations and timeframes remains under constant review subject to the Government’s pandemic measures and once commenced, decisions will be issued in chronological order. As with all our immigration processes, the matter is receiving ongoing attention and as soon as a practical plan is in place for the re-commencement of normal service delivery notifications will be placed on the Department's website.
The table below sets out the details of appeals for the Dublin Visa Office:

2020 Monthly totals
January 152
February 89
March 130
April 31
May 39
June 21
July 24
August 20
September 32
October 50
November 52
December 48
Totals 688
Outcomes 440 Decided
248 In process/pending

The Immigration Service also staffs seven Visa Offices overseas in London, Moscow, Ankara, New Delhi, Beijing, Abu Dhabi and Abuja. The total number of appeals currently in process/pending in those offices which were received in 2020 or to date in 2021 is 124.