Students and workers queue overnight in search of visas
Foreign students and workers are facing a winter of shivering overnight queues in Dublin to have visas renewed.
Students financially crippled by the closures of seven English language schools this year are being doubly punished as they have been told they have to pay fees to new schools if they want their visas renewed.
People seeking visa renewals at the Garda National Immigration Bureau in Dublin were queuing around the block at Burgh Quay in Dublin last week.
At least 500 souls had lined up in the huge queue from early on Thursday morning. It had snaked all the way around the block back to its starting point before the office opened at 7.30am. When they were let in to the office, they were allocated ticket numbers which determine what time they can return to the office to make their applications.
Adrian Graterol, who has a law degree and is from Maracaibo in Venezuela, was one of those who lost money when the English language college he was attending in Dublin closed in April this year.
He told the Sunday Independent: "I paid €1,000 when I came here in January. The college closed down in April and I lost the money. I was told when I went for a visa that I have to enrol in another college and I have done that. I paid €1,250. Plus I have to pay €300 for a six-month visa."
Adrian said he queued for his visa from 6am and when he reached the immigration desk he was told to return at 6pm. "I really want to learn English. I want to do a degree here, but it is very difficult. It is expensive to live here but I would like to stay and become a professional."
Like many of those queuing last week Adrian is working on minimum wage in a restaurant kitchen. The Irish chef he works with lent him money, which he has since repaid, to pay for his additional fees.
One business student from Mexico, Rafel Sanchez, had queued since 4am. The woman ahead of him in the queue was given a ticket which meant her case would be heard within an hour. However, Rafel was given a ticket which placed him well back in the list.
"It is not fair - if you come here as early as possible they give you a number. The person before me was given number 16. I got 115. They told me to come back at noon," he said.
Clarence Johnson from Seattle, who is studying for an MA in business studies at the Smurfit Business School in Dublin, was forced to queue for a second time due to a mix-up on his renewal form.
"I am here because they got the wrong date on my student visa. I only got a one-month extension. It is not a full renewal. It was €150. The letter from GNIB (Garda National Immigration Bureau) said it would be free. I hope I don't have to pay the full amount again. I came here at 7am and it (the queue) was almost right round the block. I went and got a coffee and it was another 100 yards longer."
A young Indian man studying for a BA in hospitality at Waterford DIT arrived at around 3.30am to apply for a re-entry visa. There were already about 50 people ahead of him.
"It is a waste of time and very stressful," he said. "The bus is €16 and you have to take a taxi in Waterford to get it as there is no public transport at that time. With travelling time and waiting it is taking 24 hours."
While there are immigration officers in the main provincial garda stations, those seeking certain types of visas, including multi-entry visas which are referred to as "Stamp 4", "Stamp 1A" and "Stamp 2A" have to travel to Dublin. People had travelled from all over Ireland to join the queue, including a group who had travelled together from Kerry.
One Eastern European woman near the top of the queue the week before said she had travelled from Donegal on two successive nights. On the first occasion she had arrived at 6am but had been too late to have her renewal processed.
She returned to Donegal then travelled back to Dublin the same evening to be outside the Burgh Quay office at 1am the following morning.