London: Up to 850 highly-qualified nurses from India and other countries hoping to work in Ireland are stuck in a visa application ‘logjam’ due to delays in processing their applications, according to a media report.
With the waiting times for visas going up, nurses have missed their exam slots, making them wait for the next exam, pay the fee again and seek a new three-month visa, The Irish Times reported, quoting the owner of a health recruitment agency.
“Since the new year, candidates are being refused their temporary visa to sit the exam for bizarre and random reasons such as the type of software used to submit their documentation or the middle name not being included in one document,” the recruiter told The Times requesting anonymity.
In order to work in Ireland, the nurses have to first qualify the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) exam for which they have to come on a temporary visa costing 250 euros (Rs 22,000), in addition to 3,000 euros (Rs 2.6 lakh) examination fee.
An Indian nurse with 20 years’ work experience told The Irish Times she has been waiting 76 working days for a decision on her visa application. Currently employed in the Middle East, she was due to appear for the RSCI exam in late May but was unable to travel to Ireland due to the lack of a visa, and one of the documents she had photocopied was deemed illegible.
“I wanted to work in Europe and chose Ireland because friends said it was peaceful and the salaries were good. But I have been waiting a long time. I have resigned from my job, which ends in July. I will have to go to India then if this is not sorted out,” she said.
She further said that many of her colleagues are now turning to countries like the UK and New Zealand for they process applications swiftly.
“These nurses will have had to give several months notice in their current positions and will have quit their jobs in expectation of sitting their exams and beginning their new careers in Ireland. They have upended their lives and gambled their life savings on a bureaucratic process that is not fit for purpose,” the nurse told The Irish Times.
The RCSI said it refunds exam fees in most circumstances, including when a candidate is unable to travel.
At present, the average processing time for applications is approximately 35 working days, according to the Department of Justice website, which advises applicants to expect processing to take at least 20 working days.
As of April 30, 2023, visa application volume increased 40 per cent compared to 2022, and 75 per cent compared to 2019, according to Embassy of Ireland in New Delhi.
The recruiter said he had two nurses waiting 42 working days for a visa decision, while two others have been waiting 74 working days, and had to postpone their exams.
“We have eight other candidates waiting on decisions that would be due now and these nurses are due for exams in July,” he said.
The Department of Justice spokesperson told The Times that they are working to reduce immigration processing times via modernisation of systems. “More resources were added to manage the scheme recently as well as additional streamlining measures which should also reduce processing times for applications.”