248. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if external agencies are employed in different countries to process visa applications from persons who are not Irish citizens and who seek to enter Ireland; if so, the countries in which such external agencies are used in this way; and the steps he has taken to ensure the protection of personal data supplied by visa applicants to such external agencies. [25159/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that, in addition to the Dublin Visa Office, certain visa applications are decided by Irish Embassies either by specialist visa officers or under delegated sanction.
Both INIS and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) have arrangements in place with third parties in relation to frontline and administrative services which includes the receipt of visa applications and supporting documents and the subsequent transmission of same to the relevant embassy for processing. This provides a customer focused service using a network of regional offices to negate the need for applicants to travel to Irish embassies. For example, there are 13 and 15 regional offices available in India and China respectively, significantly reducing travel times required in these countries.
However, I can confirm that these third parties have no role in the processing of a visa and all decisions on Irish visa applications are made by Irish officials, either from my Department or from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The third parties are engaged under a contract which provides for the processing and safekeeping of personal information and which adheres to data protection legislation. In this way there will be the same level of confidence in the safekeeping of information provided by an applicant to a third party as there would be were the same information provided to an Irish civil servant.
The countries in which third parties are used include:
- P.R. China & Hong Kong
- United Arab Emirates
- Russian Federation.