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Reform of Immigration process welcome but further measures required

Fine Gael TD for Kildare North, Anthony Lawlor, has today (Thursday) welcomed the many developments in the immigration process introduced by Minister Alan Shatter since he took over the reins of the Department of Justice. However, a review of the criteria applied to the processing of holiday visas is required to increase transparency.

“Since taking office last year, Minister Shatter has been extremely resourceful in introducing practical reforms to our immigration system. This week’s announcement of the extension of the Irish Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme for a further period of four years and Olympic accreditation documents issued by the London Olympics Organising Committee will be accepted in lieu of an Irish visa are examples of the great progress made in this area.

“However there is one area which I feel the Minister now needs to turn his attention to. In response to a recent Dáil Question (No. 457, 13th March 2012) regarding the criteria used to determine if an applicant or reference for a holiday visa to Ireland has sufficient funds to finance their trip, I was informed that, ‘there is no specific level of income or savings identified as being sufficient for holiday purposes. Because of the unique nature of each case, it is not possible to be prescriptive in this regard’. In the interest of transparency and equality, I feel it is now necessary for a more prescribed application process to be introduced for holiday visas.

“Ireland is now very much a multi-cultural country and it is only fair that visitors can visit their family members in Ireland, many of which have now been nationalised, with some ease. I appreciate that measures must be in place to protect Ireland’s national interest by maintaining an effective immigration system. However, in recent months I have dealt with a number of constituents, all now Irish nationals, who wish to have family members come to Ireland to visit grandchildren and extended families but are being denied this right, predominantly due to finances.

“Currently each visa application is considered on its own merit with the final decision resting solely with the visa officer. It is now time for a more practical approach to be applied to holiday visas so that applicants are informed of the necessary criteria prior to applying.”