On Burgh Quay, the Queue Is Gone, but the Wait Is Longer

Juan Carlos Sanchez had the money when he arrived, but as he waits and waits, it is draining away.

A student from Mexico studying English at a city-centre language school, he knew he’d have to register with the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) when he got here.

He knew he’d have to prove he had the means to support himself, by showing he had access to at least €3,000. And he had the money when he arrived.

But the earliest appointment he could get to register with INIS at Burgh Quay was on 17 January, due to savage delays in the new online appointment system.

Sanchez is not allowed to work until he registers, so he can only wait, and watch his money evaporate.

“That is crazy because I’ve already paid for my six-month course, so now I don’t know if I should cancel my course and go back to Mexico early,” he said.

New System, New Problems

Until recently, those who needed to register at Burgh Quay had to show up before dawn, and wait for hours in a line that could stretch around the block, so that they could get a ticket to wait for hours more inside before being seen.

Those who didn’t show up early enough to wait outside wouldn’t get a ticket when the office opened with a low enough number to get served that day, and would have to come back another day and try again.

This autumn, though, the government brought in a new system. No more waiting for hours in the dark and cold – just go to an INIS website, book an appointment, show up at your chosen time, and take care of your business.

It sounds better, but this new system brings its own challenges.

Appointments can only be booked for dates within the next 10 weeks, and several of those trying to book report receiving a message saying there are simply no appointments available within that time period.

Cancellations make more appointments available from time to time, so the desperate must try again and again, hoping to snag one as it comes up, like music fans trying to get concert tickets before they’re sold out.

“I spent five days trying online to apply for the appointment. I tried at all different times, like 5am, 3am, 10am,” said Sanchez. He says he kept getting a message that simply said “there are no appointments available”.

A friend who arrived in Ireland with him had the same experience, he says. They eventually both managed to get appointments for January, almost ten weeks after they arrived.

But now there’s the problem of what the wait will do to Sanchez’s bank account.

Better or Worse?

The Department of Justice does not accept that there are major issues with the new system.

Spokesperson Ian Kelleher says it is an improvement on the old system, and that 25,000 appointments have been made since it was introduced.

But Maria Alvaro, who, like Sanchez, is from Mexico, has experienced both systems. She says the old system of queueing up was better.

She has been trying to get an appointment for the past week. She says she can’t accept one in January, because by then her current registration will have run out.

“It’s better to stand outside in the cold for the night,” she says. “At least you knew you could do it.”

It’s unclear what will happen to those who are unable to renew their registrations in time, because of the delays in the system.

We asked Kelleher, but he didn’t answer the question directly. He said if people need an emergency appointment, they should email [email protected], but he didn’t explain what constitutes an emergency.

Kelleher says this is the busiest time of year for the 502 staff who work in INIS, and that Burgh Quay is open extra hours on Saturdays and late nights Monday to Thursday, in an effort to reduce the backlog.

Sanchez also says he’d rather queue up in the cold than not to be able to look for work over the busy Christmas period, while his language school is closed.

“I can’t work, I can’t study, I can’t travel, it’s a disaster,” he says.

Getting the Word Out

Many who must register or renew their registration at Burgh Quay may not have heard about the new system.

They may not be aware that they can no longer just go down early in the morning and take care of their issues right there and then, that now they need to book an appointment, which will be many weeks away, if they can get one.

The line on the quays is gone, but now there’s a much longer one, an invisible, electronic one.

The Department of Justice, of which the INIS is a part, has tried to spread the word, Kelleher said. It has contacted the big language schools, NGOs, and Citizens Information.

But he says people already living here or entering the country for the first time have a responsibility to inform themselves of changes to the system.

“In line with all immigration systems worldwide, it is the responsibility of the individual to ensure that they are fully informed of the requirements in relation to their immigration permission,” Kelleher said.

Spending, not Earning

Sanchez says he was told by the agent in Mexico who sold him his course that he would be able to get his “visa” shortly after he arrived in Ireland.

(The permission to remain in Ireland, which is required by people from many countries including Mexico is not called a visa, although it operates in a similar way.)

“They didn’t tell me that I would have to wait two months to get my visa. If I had known that, I would have worked in Mexico until January. I left a job to come here,” he says.

Students living here with a Stamp 2 immigration permission are allowed to work part-time, but they cannot start until they are registered with INIS and get the stamp.

“The permission to work is a concession, and students are required to be in a position to support themselves outside of the work concession while resident in the State,” says Kelleher

It seems, though, that some leniency may be shown in regards to the proof of funds required.

“In relation to the €3,000 funds … this would be dealt with on a case by case, but … the registration office would take a pragmatic view of an individual’s circumstances including in relation to securing an appointment,” he said.

If you are Sanchez, that offers little certainty.

“We are worried, my friend and me,” he said, sitting on a couch in the city-centre language school he attends. “Everyone is saying different things, and I don’t know what to believe.”


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Laoise Neylon: Laoise Neylon is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at [email protected]

Reader responses

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steve white
at 23 November 2016 at 19:52

what is with this headline can you not just tell people that this article is the immigration registration system I know what the reference to Burgh Quay is because I’ve been following the story, but its seems totally self defeating to be so obscure about a national story.

at 24 November 2016 at 00:51

As someone who also just arrived from another country, I would advise my fellow immigrants to enter this Telegram channel info: telegram(dot)me/gnibdub, that shows new available slots for making an appointment in real time. Today, there were some open for the 3rd of December. Good luck!

at 24 November 2016 at 09:17

I’d kindly disagree with the student above, having standing on this queue for 8 years, I spent in total 2,400 euro to waste 8 days of my life. Unfortunately most of those years I was a student so no entitlements for me to become an Irish citizen. If you are coming to Ireland the minimum you can do is to get an early appointment to make sure you are not left out, now telling me that awaiting in the cold is better is absurd.

at 27 November 2016 at 11:47

I just went to the system to try to get an appointment for the end of January and there were no dates available in the calendar and letting them choose the closest date didn’t help either. My current GNIB is expiring in February so I will keep trying until there but at the moment I prefer the old inhuman queuing in the cold early morning system, at least in this way I knew that I would be served on the same day as long I showed up around 6am in the office. They want us to make an appointment early, but early as 10 weeks only and they are already fully booked in this time period, it’s senseless.

This system didn’t solve any problem, the only thing it did was hiding the problem from the general public because there are no queues anymore so less pressure for them.

This situation is happening for years now, it is obvious they need a bigger/another office and more people to deal with it, but why going for the obvious solution, right???

I have a work permit so it’s not so bad for me but I can feel the pain for those students because I know those agencies don’t know anything and the students only discover how bad things are in this matter once they are in Dublin. Even the schools sometimes are lost and give misinformation.

at 30 November 2016 at 12:50

The new system is a mess. There simply isn’t enough appointment capacity to handle all the renewals.

I attempted to make an appointment ten weeks in advance (the earliest one can), entered the date my card expired, and was told that there were no appointments available until two weeks after my card expired. I emailed to make an emergency appointment as I’d like to apply for citizenship and can’t if I haven’t had an in-date GNIB card 100% of the year, and I was told to just keep trying. No new appointments opened up, despite trying daily. I ended up renewing my card 2 weeks late, and will need to wait another year to apply for citizenship.

They know when my card is expiring, why not just make an appointment time for me? Give me the date and time a year in advance. I’ll be there. If I absolutely can’t make it, give me some slow and difficult system for rescheduling.

I’m living here perfectly legally (and have been for many years) and legally need to renew my card. If the ‘solution’ to the queues at Burgh Quay doesn’t allow me to do that, then it’s not a solution.

at 11 August 2017 at 13:53

They still have this same shit. I don’t know why the department of justice is not expanding the GNIB offices in Dublin Specially. I am trying to get an appointment but there is no any appointment available. There is no any support or complaint office where you can complain. Their email is auto responding all the time. I am trying to get the appointment from last week but no any joy. There is no governing body who can look after these things. If you call Department of justice they will refer you GNIB office. After that they will always ask you to send email online for an inquiry and when you are sending the online inquiry then it will always sends back only one email at all times.

at 6 July 2018 at 16:44

The new system do not solve the problem. The stuff is still shitty as same as before. They must need to introduce 2-3 GNIB offices for Dublin. Because waiting queue is so long. The new system doesn’t provide any solution for the problem.

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