Earlier this week, Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald published the annual review of Ireland’s immigration related activity for the year 2014. In the report, the Minister included immigration statistics, as well as achievements in the area of immigration from the previous year and the Department’s priorities for 2015.
Minister Fitzgerald, when introducing the report, noted the record-breaking number of new visa, residence and citizenship applications received by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service during 2014. Approximately 172,000 new applications were received by the INIS during 2014 while a total of 179,000 were processed. The Minister also alluded to “further ambitious reforms” to the immigration system, which will be a priority for this year. Some of the reforms mentioned include the introduction of a single procedure for the asylum system and the completion of the civilianisation of border control at Dublin Airport. The British Irish Visa Scheme was also referred to in the report. Minister Fitzgerald announced that the target for 2015 is to complete the worldwide rollout of countries which may benefit from this initiative; India will be the next country in which the scheme will be commenced.
As Minister Fitzgerald stated in the report; the civilianisation of border control at Dublin Airport is a key priority for the year 2015.
The report had also shown an increase in the number of students given permission to study within the State. Compared to statistics from 2013, there was an increase of 3,700 students being granted permission to study in the State in 2014. In her report, Minister Fitzgerald introduced a new, government approved, package of reforms for international education and for the student immigration system. The purpose of these reforms is to “provide certainty and clarity”, to “prioritise education over work” and to further align the student migration system with the strategic objective. The reforms include important amendments to the current student work concession.
The report also addresses the reduction of processing times for various applications. Since the introduction of reforms to the citizenship process, announced in 2011, over 90,000 applications have been decided on and the processing times for standard applications has been reduced from 31 months to less than 6 months.
According to the report, there are approximately 95,000 non-EEA nationals with permission to remain in the State; as compared to the estimated figure of 107,000 at the end of 2013. The majority of these are here for work or study. The top 6 nationalities that are registered are; Brazil (12%), India (11%), China (9%), USA (7%), Nigeria (6%) and Philippines (5%). The report also notes that the approval percentage for entry visas in 2014 was 91%.
In the report, the Minister also confirmed that there will be legislative reform to the asylum system with the aim of reducing structural delays and reducing time spent by applicants in direct provision. This will be another key priority of the government for the year and the Minister expects to receive approval to publish the Protection Bill in the near future. These reforms are extremely long overdue.
Other topics have been analysed in this report, such as the taking of biometrics and the use of e-gates at Dublin Airport. The report can be found on the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service website here.