MEI Member schools have expressed concerns regarding recent changes in the registration process for immigration permissions affecting international students in Cork and Limerick. Transferring registration responsibility from the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) to the Immigration Service Delivery (ISD) in Dublin will likely have significant negative repercussions for our international student community and associated stakeholders. MEI would like to highlight several critical points illustrating how this change will adversely impact students, educational institutions, and the local economy.

Disruption of Academic Schedules 

Students will now be required to travel to Dublin to complete their registration. This necessity will force them to miss valuable class time, disrupting their academic schedules and potentially impacting their educational performance. The requirement to travel to Dublin during the early weeks of their programme is particularly onerous for new arrivals and detracts from their learning experience. International students, particularly those with lower levels of English, already find the immigration process confusing and daunting, without the added burden of having to go to Dublin.

Increased Financial Burden

The additional travel costs to Dublin, which may include transportation and possibly accommodation expenses, represent an undue financial burden on students. Many international students operate on tight budgets, and these unexpected costs may strain their finances further, causing unnecessary stress and hardship.

Unfair Competitive Advantage

The new system inadvertently offers an unfair competitive advantage to educational institutions outside Cork and Limerick. Non-EU students may prefer to enrol in schools where the registration process remains local, reducing travel time and costs. This disparity will likely skew student recruitment efforts in favour of schools in other regions, diminishing Cork and Limerick’s attractiveness as study destinations.

Perception of Cork and Limerick as Inaccessible

Potential students may develop the misconception that Cork and Limerick lack adequate services, including job opportunities and accommodation, due to the centralized registration process. This perception could lead to a decline in student applications, as Cork and Limerick might be viewed as a less viable option compared to other cities with more accessible services.

Impact on Partner Agents

Partner agents, who play a vital role in promoting Cork and Limerick as study destinations, might now regard the city as less attractive. This change could diminish their enthusiasm in recommending Cork and Limerick to prospective students, further impacting student intake.

Effect on Local Businesses

Local businesses, particularly those relying on workers holding Stamp 2 visas, will face difficulties in finding employees. A decline in student numbers in Cork and Limerick will directly affect the labour market, leading to staffing shortages and potential business disruptions.

Impact on Educational Institutions and Staff 

Schools in Cork and Limerick will likely experience a drop in student numbers. This decline will not only affect the financial stability of educational institutions but also result in reduced working hours for teaching and administrative staff, threatening job security and institutional sustainability.

Loss of Income for Host Families

Local host families, who provide accommodation to international students, will suffer from a drop in supplementary income as student numbers decrease. This loss of income will negatively impact many families who rely on this additional financial support.

Decline in Bookings for Tourist Experience Providers

Local tourist experience providers, who benefit from school-organized social and activity programs, will see a reduction in bookings. This decline will affect the broader tourism sector in Munster, leading to decreased revenue and potential job losses.

In light of these significant concerns, we urge the Department of Justice to reconsider the decision to centralize the registration process in Dublin. Maintaining a local registration facility in Cork and Limerick is essential to support our international students, educational institutions, and the local economy.