Ameya Vaghela works part-time at a Dublin petrol station and says he feels lucky to have the gig.
“I just couldn’t ask for more money from my parents,” he says. But he’d like to move into something better paid, something he’s qualified for.
In July, Vaghela wrapped up a Master’s degree in Digital Marketing at University College Dublin (UCD).
His parents paid a little over €19,000 to UCD for the one-year course, says Vaghela.
Yet unlike his Irish and other EU citizen peers, Vaghela – who is from Mumbai – couldn’t start his search for graduate jobs in his field straight after submitting his final-year project.
He’s waiting for his 1G stamp, the permit which allows non-EU master’s students to work full-time in Ireland for 24 months after they graduate.
He blames UCD, saying the length of time it takes the university to release results means students can’t prove they’ve passed the course. Which they need to do for their 1G application.
“We submitted our final year project at the end of July, but we only got our results in mid-October,” he says.
Others though point to slow processing and a backlog of immigration applications at the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) office, as the main challenge to overcome.
A spokesperson for UCD says the university began issuing immigration letters as soon as provisional results were made available on 14 October.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said that applications are processed “as quickly as possible”.
A Thwarted Job Search
“I had to wait months for my results to apply for Stamp 1G,” says Romita Puruswani, who also completed her Master’s degree in Digital Marketing at UCD.
“Now I don’t have a job, and I can’t even go home because my passport is in the [INIS] office,” she says.
UCD was approachable and accommodating during recruitment, says Puruswani, speaking from her bedroom in a shared apartment in Dún Laoghaire.
“I had to pay my fees in installments and for that, they were very responsive,” she says.
But Puruswani was hoping to get her results earlier to apply for 1G in August. “They were like, well, we can’t help you.”
Vaghela says some of his friends with job offers have deadlines to show employers a valid Irish Immigration Permit (IRP) card with a 1G stamp. They’ll lose the job otherwise, he says.
“UCD markets itself as number one for employability, and that was why I decided to study there,” says Vaghela.
Puruswani worked in marketing back in India and hoped to boost career prospects in Ireland.
But without a 1G stamp, employers would not be interested in her CV, she says. “And there is always going to be a gap from August to December if not more, in my CV.”
Since finishing her course, she has spent most of her time at home waiting for her results, and now her immigration permission, she says. “My mental health has really suffered.”
A spokesperson for UCD says that UCD Global – the university’s international office – sent out emails urging international graduates to apply quickly to renew their permits after the university issued results on 14 October.
Would they consider releasing the results of outgoing non-European students earlier next year? The spokesperson did not reply to that query.
A spokesperson for TU Dublin said they are conscious of the delays with visa renewal for international students and the stress and anxiety of that.
“But we are not aware of many students that were affected by delays in recent times,” they said.
They aim to be as supportive as possible when it comes to students’ immigration problems, they said.
“The majority of TU Dublin students will have already received their results by now with graduations taking place later this month.”
A spokesperson for Trinity College Dublin (TCD) said some submission deadlines were extended delaying results. “But this wasn’t universally the case.”
Full-time programmes usually wrap up around October depending on how they are set up, they said.
Aaron Koay, a Malaysian pharmacy student at TCD this past year, says his department helped students quickly register as pharmacists by issuing their parchments quickly.
TCD’s School of Pharmacy let students get their parchments shortly after an in-absentia graduation ceremony on 23 October, nine days after results were released.
Koay says students were surveyed about the decision. It was welcomed by his entire class, says Koay.
“It’s crucial for us to join forces on the Covid-19 frontline as soon as possible without any unnecessary delay,” he says.
A spokesperson for Dublin City University (DCU) also says that their schedule and process haven’t been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
They’re happy to provide accurate documentation for students seeking employment before the university releases final results on 19 November, they said.
“DCU is not aware of any student denied employment due to the absence of a 1G visa,” says the spokesperson.
Lift the Cap
Conor Anderson, president of UCD’s student union, says the issue was brought to his attention back in September. “It was a pretty big crisis.”
Some schools extended the deadline for final-year projects by two weeks due to the pandemic, says Anderson.
“So the results were also delayed and this put international students in this really awful and frustrating situation,” he says.
Anderson, however, largely blames Irish immigration policies. He says the problem had a simple solution, one that the Department of Justice failed to implement.
He wrote a letter to Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and asked her to lift the 20-hour cap on working hours for outgoing students, he says. But he didn’t hear back.
The current arrangement for 1G applicants makes little sense, says Anderson.
“They are not students, but they are on Stamp 2 which is the rationale for staying in the state, but they can’t work full-time because of the way the system works,” he says.
UCD Global has issued letters to employers explaining the situation upon request, says Anderson.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice says they don’t have plans to remove the working-hours limit for those applying for a 1G Stamp.
“However, applications for change of permissions are being processed as quickly as possible,” says the spokesperson.
Anderson says that course coordinators and lecturers are also often unaware of the urgency for non-European graduates of releasing results.
“Maybe, there should be some training to impress the difficulties of navigating the Irish immigration system upon lecturers,” he says. “But mostly I think the solution is modernising the immigration system.”