International students pursuing studies in Ireland are being required to purchase Irish health insurance in order to obtain a student visa.

The University Observer understands that a number of international students were unaware of this stipulation when applying for a visa.

UCD Students’ Union Education Vice-President James Williamson said that this is a result of new regualtions introduced a few years ago but which were not properly implemented.

“To the best of my knowledge all of the changes were communicated to all students in their home country and here as well” Williamson stated. “It was just depending on what office you went to that it wasn’t implemented properly.”

Williamson further added that a new directive has now been released in order to ensure that the new regulations are implemented in Immigration Bureaus nationwide. However he acknowledged that as a consequence of the release of this new directive there are a “small minority of students who are caught in the middle.”

Student adviser for International students, medicine, and biomedical, Carl Lusby, said that students who require an Entry Visa are normally required to present evidence of private health insurance for the Irish Embassy.

“However while the legislation on private health insurance was in place, the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) didn’t always ask for evidence of it, so many of the students didn’t purchase it,” explained Ms Lusby.

She states that the students in question were Malaysian who don’t require an Entry Visa although she admits that “the whole matter of heath insurance has been a bit of a ‘grey area’ so it’s not surprising that some of the students may feel it has only just been brought in.”

Concerns had been raised as regards the implications that the issue surrounding visas would have for student fees. Williamson clarified the issue stating that students’ tuition and registration fees would not be affected.

However those students who are affected by the implementation of the new regulations will have to cover the cost of additional health insurance. Williamson said that students in this category will “need additional health cover from Ireland to make sure that their visa application is successful.”

Williamson informed The University Observer that the UCD Students’ Union intends to work closely with the USI in order to ensure that such a situation does not arise again. The representative bodies will endeavour to ensure that all information regarding directives and regulations for  prospective and incoming International Students is communicated to them prior to their arrival in Ireland.

Williamson indicated that those students who are experiencing such difficulties in obtaining their student visas should contact any of the Students’ Union representatives. He stated that he would be “liaising with the International Office for updates on that because they’re well aware of the situation and what’s going on.”

Ms Lusby said that while she has explained the situation to Malaysian students in the past, she needs to ensure that all of them understand the regulations. “I will have to emphasise that the regulations are likely to be enforced more rigorously in the future.”

She stated that since the students requiring Entry Visas already knew about it, it has never hindered them.