Australia investigates Irish passport 'visa fraud'

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Irish passport office sign, written both in English and in the Irish language
Image caption,
Irish passport office sign, written both in English and in the Irish language

Australia is investigating "migration fraud" involving Irish citizens seeking visas by using passports issued in the Irish language version of their names.

It follows concerns some Irish passport holders, refused or no longer entitled to a work visa, used the Irish version of their name to apply again.

Australian's Department of Immigration and Border Protection met Irish government officials about the issue.

The Irish government said it was not appropriate to disclose what was discussed.

Image source, Department of Foreign Affairs
Image caption,
The Department of Foreign Affairs said the credibility of each application for a passport name change was assessed

In a statement to the Irish Independent newspaper, the Australian department said it was "aware of and is investigating a migration fraud involving Irish applicants using new passport features to access Australian visas".

It added: "Accurately identifying non-citizens underpins the integrity of Australia's migration, visa and citizenship programmes and is the basis for all security and character checks completed before making a decision about whether to grant a visa to come to Australia."

A spokesperson for the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said: "The Passport Service assesses the credibility of each application individually when requested to change a name on a passport.

"The decision must be approved by the head of the Passport Office.

"This policy seeks to protect the integrity and security of our passports against passport or identity fraud, while at the same time balancing the wishes of those genuine citizens, who wish to use the Irish language more frequently in their daily lives."

Almost 90,000 people have emigrated from the Republic of Ireland to Australia since the start of the global economic downturn in 2008, according to Ireland's Central Statistics Office.

The number appeared to peak in 2012, when an estimated 18,200 emigrated to the other side of the world. By contrast, the figure dropped to 10,000 last year.