Turkish English-speaking students face six-month Irish visa delays

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The Irish government said News from the PIE that the Ankara visa office saw an increase of more than 100% in visa applications between January and April 2022, compared to the same period in 2019 (before the Covid-19 restrictions), the “visas of long-stay studies representing more than 60% of those received in 2022”.

This follows a announcement by the Irish Embassy in Turkey on March 25, which said there were “significant delays” in processing English course visas.

“The current processing time for study visas in English for complete applications submitted to the visa office in Ankara is 14 weeks,” said a spokesperson for the Irish Ministry of Justice, which oversees immigration in the country.

On its website, the Irish government says applicants can normally expect a decision within eight weeks.

But Engin Cosar, chief executive of Turkish agency Academix, said some of the students he worked with had been waiting six months for visa decisions.

“We try to encourage our students to stick to their plans, but some of our students have canceled their programs and requested their passports from the consulate,” Cosar said.

“Some of these students changed their study destination, some of them decided to stay in Turkey.”

The long wait times forced some students to cancel their programs, while others were unable to make alternative plans as they paid in full for ELT courses.

It’s unclear how many students are affected, but agents are increasingly concerned about delays – one agency claimed to have had around 200 cancellations.

Applicants must send in their passport when applying for a visa, which means some applicants haven’t had one in the past six months – Cosar believes this is another reason students cancel.

Ireland is a popular destination for Turkish students as they can work part-time during their studies if they stay in the country for more than three months.

Since the collapse of the Turkish lira in December 2021, the opportunity to work alongside studies has become even more important for students, according to David O’Grady, CEO of Marketing English in Ireland.

Likewise, Covid has created “huge pent-up demand”, O’Grady said, as many students who postponed their classes during the lockdowns are now looking to travel to Ireland.

But the Irish embassy in Ankara, which oversees visa processing for Turkish students, is struggling to keep up with the number of applications it receives.

“In recent months, there has been a deterioration in the quality of applications”

Agents and representatives of language schools have also been informed that the Embassy has recently begun to receive an increasing number of substandard applications containing incorrect or incomplete information.

“Over the past few months there has been a deterioration in the quality of applications,” said O’Grady, who has worked with the Irish embassy to address issues facing the sector.

“Not from the applicants, but from the way the application form is filled out… It created huge problems with a very small visa office in Ankara.”

It is unclear why this is happening or if low quality applications are linked to specific agents or individual students – when applicants complete their visa forms, they do not need to declare whether they have applied to a course through an agent.

“Other [country’s] The consulate would refuse these requests, but Ireland asked the students for missing documents,” said Serap Aslantatar, managing director of Alternative ECS, a Turkish agency. “It also increases the waiting period for all of us.”

Some of the students Aslantatar works with have been waiting since December for a decision on their application.

When applying for a visa, students must also demonstrate that they have immediate access to at least €7,000.

Some applicants sell jewelry in order to provide that proof of funds, which O’Grady says the visa office is “a little nervous,” again slowing down the processing of applications.

“We would like to see visas returned to normal processing times before we start promoting Ireland again”

“Every effort is made to keep visa processing times to a minimum,” said the Irish Department of Justice spokesperson. “A number of measures have been put in place to deal with the increased demand for visas to come to Ireland, including at the visa office in Ankara.

“This includes assigning additional staff to process applications, and more generally streamlining visa processes where possible. The position in this regard is under review.

“The processing time in every office and location around the world is determined by a number of factors such as the volume and complexity of requests, whether or not an investigation is required, individual circumstances, peak request periods , seasonal factors and available resources.

“While every effort is made to process applications as quickly as possible, processing times inevitably vary accordingly.”

MEI estimates that visa processing times will return to normal in about eight weeks.

“Agents are understandably frustrated because they get complaints from clients,” said O’Grady, who said MEI is working with agents and the visa office to “make things run as smoothly as possible.” .

Meanwhile, Aslantatar says his agency has stopped promoting Ireland and hasn’t made any new inquiries since March.

“We would like to see visas returned to normal processing times before we start promoting Ireland again.”

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