Limerick Voice reporter, Sara Pelizzoli, spoke to students, staff, and Postgraduates Student Union representitives about the protests.
University of Limerick international students have obtained work visa appointment slots in a win after protesting their right to work following graduation, which started in August 2023.
Previously, students were given appointments to discuss work visas with Limerick’s immigration office. Appointments to obtain work visas were generally secured within one month of waiting. However, following recent changes, appointments must now be arranged independently, which has seen the waiting time increase to from 14-16 weeks.
Dheeraj Shrikrishna Kulkarni, a student involved in the protest, explained: “UL Global had conducted a session in June 2023 to prepare us for the appointment they were supposed to provide us with in September. Then we received the letter in August, stating that they could provide appointments for people with full-time job offers only.”
Vicky Hannon works for UL Global and deals with immigration and visas for international students. She clarified: “The Limerick’s immigration office couldn’t help UL students anymore because of an internal change of policy: the demand is too high at the moment, and the immigration office has to service the public also.”
Because of this change of rules hundreds of students found themselves in difficulty – which led to the protest action. “It was a devastating situation for us. I took initiative with 15-20 students and decided to complain with UL Global. We asked PSU (Postgraduates Students Union) and our KBS dean for help,” explained Dheeraj Shrikrishna Kulkarni.
PSU aided the students involved and played a significant role in the protest. “In August we received e-mails and phone calls from between 100 and 200 international students asking for help,” said Roger Dsilva, president of the PSU.
PSU and UL Global pushed the immigration office for a month and finally obtained appointments for this academic year.
“I believe that united we stand, divided we fall,” stated Roger, “200-250 students from different backgrounds came together and pushed us to achieve this.”
As Vicky Hannon from UL Global explained, next year students will have to book appointments on their own – and well in advance – to obtain the work visa they need to start their work experience in Ireland.