Almost 16,000 people were refused visas to travel to Ireland last year, with almost half of all the applications received from citizens of Nigeria and Yemen declined.
New figures from the Department of Justice show that 153,197 people applied for a visa to come to Ireland in 2019, with 89.6% of those granted.
However, refusal rates vary enormously according to the country of origin, with people from some countries almost certain to be given a visa and other nationalities facing an uphill struggle.
The Department of Justice said the visa process has a crucial role in supporting economic activity in the State, but has to be balanced against maintaining “an effective immigration regime”.
Around 14% of the applications related to business, while 7.5% were planning to attend a conference or similar event.
Just under 5% were taking up a role in employment or as a researcher while 47% — 72,364 people — were just coming for a visit.
The figures show particular difficulties for citizens of some African countries in being allowed to come here.
Last year, there were 7,597 visa applications from Nigeria but just 4,126 of those — or 54.3% — were granted.
Similarly, only 58% of almost 2,000 applications from Sudan were approved.
Some countries in Asia and the Middle East also had high refusal rates, with only 576 of 905 visa requests from Syrian citizens agreed to last year.
Similarly, less than half of the 129 applications received in 2019 from war-torn Yemen resulted in a visa being approved.
The largest number of applications — just over 37,000 — came from India. The grant rate for people from that country was 96%, the Department of Justice said.
The next highest number (22,990) were from China, and 96.5% were successful.
The third highest number of applications came from Russia and, of the 18,551 visa requests processed from that country, 96.6% were granted.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice said the visa process was key in supporting tourism, promoting Ireland as a destination for international education, facilitating those coming for business or work, and allowing family members to visit.
He said: “As with all visa services worldwide, the central concern in deciding on visa applications is to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the country’s vital national interests by maintaining an effective immigration regime while at the same time not placing unnecessary or unreasonable obstacles in the way of intending visitors.”