493. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the cause of the delays in processing applications under the special student scheme; and the steps that can be taken to speed up the process in view of delays leaving many applicants in limbo for years. [13177/19]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I am advised by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department that the Special Scheme for Students was launched on 15 October, 2018 and closed to new applications on 20 January, 2019. INIS received approximately 3,100 applications comprising former students and their family members. To date, INIS has made decisions in respect of 705 cases.
The Deputy will appreciate that it is necessary to process such applications in compliance with legal requirements and in accordance with the Scheme criteria. While every effort is made to process applications as soon as possible, processing times will vary having regard to the overall volume of applications and the complexity of individual cases.
INIS has already taken a number of measures to address this cohort of complex cases including the introduction of an on-line application facility for the Scheme to make it as streamlined as possible for applicants. The resources available for processing these applications, which include the provision of overtime, and the accompanying operational and organisational structures, are kept under ongoing review to ensure that applications are processed as efficiently as possible.