The Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) has requested that students do not attend its offices at Burgh Quay in Dublin City Centre citing an inability to process the number of applications it is currently dealing with. International students from outside the EU are required to register as resident in Ireland with the service if the duration of their stay will exceed 90 days, a timeframe which covers less than the duration of a single semester.

Affected students were informed by email from UCD International on September 29th that they would be turned away by the GNIB as “all evening registration appointments with the GNIB taking place after September 30th have been cancelled until further notice.” This was followed by further emails on October 2nd, 6th, and 7th. The October 2nd communication informed students that a meeting had been arranged between UCD international and the GNIB for the same day as well as requesting that those affected make no further effort to contact the international office as the issue was out of their control.

A number of continuing students have had their permission to reside expire as permits are issued for one year only and must be renewed on an annual basis. These students were informed that they “will not be expelled from the country” as the issue is due to a fault in the GNIB’s applications system.

The backlog will affect students of all Dublin universities, with a statement issued by the GNIB on September 28th attributing the bottleneck to the “Approx[imately] 30,000 non EEA students who arrive in the State to take up educational opportunities [that] are required under law to register within 90 days of coming here. The vast majority of these arrive in the autumn and are in addition to the normal workload which is dealt with throughout the year without any difficulties.” Similar circulars were issued to students of Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and Dublin City University (DCU) on the same day as UCD students were initially informed.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, students currently studying in a number of faculties including arts and science explained that the difficulties in registering are nothing new. “Last year, we spent 13 hours queuing outside the GNIB offices. This year, we intended to arrive at 3am to queue for an appointment because a classmate arrived at 5am last week to find that there were already 200 people ahead of him. But now we’ve just been told not to show up at all.” One of the students added that she felt the annual renewal process was a waste of both time and resources as many of those students queuing remain in Ireland for the duration of their courses, a minimum of three years.

Permits are issued at a cost of €300, with no reduction for students who are required to demonstrate that they have been accepted to a course at a certified higher education institution, that they have paid the full cost of their fees for the year, and that they have sufficient funds to support themselves through the duration of their studies; a minimum of €7000 for each year. These are in addition to a number of other prerequisites. International students’ fees are not subsidised as is the case with Irish and EU based students, and begin at a cost of €14,850.

While affected students have been informed that they will not be penalised for staying over the duration of their residency permits. Though they are unable to leave the state as they may not be permitted re-entry. This has placed the travel plans of international students in jeopardy. Some of had intended to travel in order to experience more of Europe, however a number expressed deep concern as they had arranged to attend interviews for master’s courses, internships and placements in other countries which they may now be unable to attend.

Registration is a necessity in order to obtain a Personal Public Service Number (PPSN), which students require in order to gain employment and access services offered by the state. This places those students who are not residing in Ireland but are unregistered in a difficult position, as the option of working up to 20 hours per week to assist in supporting them through their studies is now unavailable to them.

Staff have also been impacted by the slowdown, though they are being processed in the regular fashion, which entails queueing from the early hours of the morning.

Speaking to the College Tribune earlier in the semester, Professor Ben Tonra of the School of Politics and International Relations (SPIRe) expressed his frustration at the circumstances. The School experienced difficulty at the beginning of the semester as it had a number of students studying on funded programmes who were unable to begin their studies on time due to their inability to obtain a visa. Professor Tonra spoke of a “deafening silence” from the Department of Justice which is detracting from the ability of the university “to be taken seriously as a provider of education as an export business.”

Seán O’Reilly, Editor