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Question

219. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for Justice the steps her Department has taken to address the block booking of appointments on the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service website by third parties for the purpose of selling them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28402/21]

Answer

Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): My Department is aware that there have been issues in the past around the securing of registration appointments and a set of software fixes were introduced in late 2018, designed to prevent such abuses of the system. The new measures have been successful to date in preventing the block booking of appointments by third party agents.
However, some third party agents continue to provide appointment booking services in return for payment on the basis that the person provides them with their personal details in advance. My Department strongly advises against this practice of providing sensitive and personal data to unregulated and unknown third parties.
The Burgh Quay Registration Office for customers in the Dublin area reopened on 10 May when COVID restrictions eased and there is currently a high demand for appointments. My Department is prioritising customers who had their appointments cancelled when the Office closed in December and there will be greater availability of appointments for other first time registrations once this group has been cleared. Customers should continue to apply directly for appointments as they become available without charge.
While waiting to register in the Dublin area, customers are covered by the extension of immigration permissions to 20 September 2021. This means that all those legally in the State in March 2020 when the pandemic began can remain in the State until 20 September.
My Department has continued to work steadily throughout the pandemic to deliver improvements to our immigration services. Improvements made so far include the introduction of an online process for the renewal of registrations (with over 75,000 renewals processed since July); pre-clearance schemes to allow customers to apply for residence permissions prior to travelling; the introduction of online forms and payments; renewed focus on eliminating processing delays in key areas; and working towards the delivery of a new more user-friendly website. A tender has also recently been awarded for a new Immigration Service appointment and scheduling system which will streamline and further improve the registration process. The new system is expected to be in place in the coming months.