The Immigration Service Delivery of the Department of Justice and Equality have released an updated FAQ document to address further queries related to Immigration and International Protection applications, permissions and processing. 

The document expands on the previous FAQ document and whilst it provides welcome clarification on certain matters it has failed to address significant issues.

 

The main new points on the FAQ document along with our analysis are as follows:

 

EU Treaty Rights

Applications for residence cards, permanent residence cards, retention of residence cards, reviews etc can all be submitted by email until the 20th of May. Accompanying supporting documentation should also be scanned and emailed.

The hard copy of the application will need to be submitted by post to the EUTRS division in due course when possible.

Applicants whose temporary stamp 4 permission to remain expired prior to the 20th of March, and who are currently awaiting a decision on their application should email eutreatyrights@justice.ie seeking an update. It is important to note that applications for residence cards should be processed by law within a period of six months from the date of receipt of the application. This is clearly set out in statute and case law and the EUTRS division are obliged to comply with these time limits. If the EUTRS division are continuing to function, then there should be no reason why such time limits are not complied with.

Temporary permission letters will continue to issue however at a reduced capacity. 

Certain emergency cases my be prioritised including healthcare professionals. Applicants in such cases should email the EUTRS division to notify them of the position.

 

Visas to Ireland

New applications

On the 20th of March the visa office announced that the acceptance of new applications was being suspended temporarily, save for the following limited circumstances:

  • Emergency visa (e.g. Healthcare professionals, health researchers, and elderly care professionals);
  • Immediate family members of Irish citizens (who are returning to their ordinary place of residence in Ireland);
  • Persons legally resident in the State;
  • Persons entitled to avail of the provision of the EU Free Movement Directive;
  • Transport personnel engaged in haulage of goods and other transport staff to the extent necessary;
  • Diplomats, staff of international organisations, military personnel and humanitarian aid workers in the exercise of their functions.

There has been a lot of confusion since this announcement of applications can actually be submitted in circumstances where VFS offices and embassies have closed their doors. This office has been advised in a number of cases which should fall within the above exceptional categories, that applicants should wait until normal operations resume to submit their applications. This is a complete contradiction of the visa office notice.

Unfortunately, the updated FAQ document provides little clarity on this issue and states:

If your application falls into one of these categories, you can apply on-line in the usual way. Once you’ve completed the on-line application, you should follow the instructions given on the summary page as to where you should submit your application. You may be advised to contact your local embassy or the office here in Dublin for further advice.”

The ISD/visa office need to provide clarity to applicants who are trying to submit visa applications on how the applications can be submitted. A reasonable suggestion would be for the Dublin visa office to accept the applications for processing until such time as normal operations resume. We will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates when available.

 

Visa appeals 

Visa appeals continue to be accepted for processing. It is not clear whether appeals can be submitted via email and again clarification is needed from the visa office, particularly in circumstances where many individuals are living under strict lock down at present and are unable to submit postal applications. 

Where an applicant is successful on appeal, the visa office will notify the applicant of the decision and arrangements will be made for the visa to be endorsed on their passport when restrictions are eased.

 

Issued visas where unable to travel

Where a person has been granted a visa to travel to Ireland and they are unable to travel prior to the expiry date on the visa, they will be required to submit a new visa application in circumstances where the visa office will not grant an extension to the previous visa. 

Sinnott Solicitors submit that this is an absolutely unacceptable position, particularly in circumstances where some individuals will already have waited 12 months or more for an application to be processed and if they are not in a position to travel prior to the expiry date on the current visa, will have to start the entire process again. The only concession being put forward at present is that the fee may be waived should an applicant submit a new visa application. Many individuals are exempt from visa fees and this token gesture is thus irrelevant. 


Re-entry visas

Re-entry visas are not being accepted and no automatic extension is being granted in line with the automatic extensions applicable to other immigration permissions. 

 

Registration

The GNIB and local immigration offices around the country remain closed until the 20th of May – however this may of course be subject to an extension.

The FAQ document states as follows:

When the Registration Office reopens, priority will be given to those seeking to register for the first time. Those for first time registration who had appointments cancelled will have their appointments rescheduled automatically. Other appointments will be made available exclusively for other first-time applicants. ISD is considering alternative arrangements for renewal of registrations. Priority will be given initially to those whose IRP card has expired. Further updates will be provided on our website when available.

Whilst we note that priority is being given to first time registrations Sinnott Solicitors submit that this is not an acceptable position. The ISD needs to immediately announce alternative arrangements for existing residents who need to attend the GNIB and other immigration offices for registration. We have many clients who had battled for months to secure an appointment with the GNIB whose appointments have since been cancelled and who at this point have been without valid IRP cards for months. We suggest that the ISD should immediately introduce on online renewal system for existing residents to facilitate a streamlined and efficient registration process given the backlog of appointments which have accumulated prior to and since the closure of the registration offices. 

 

Immigrant Investor Programme

Applications continue to be accepted. The normal application windows have been suspended and applications can be submitted at any time until the 30th of June 2020.  It is expected that the next application window of the 31st of August to 4th of September will proceed as normal however updates on this will be posted once announced.

Approval letters (including renewals) will remain valid until such time as individuals are in a position to register the permission at their local registration office. Where pre-approval letters have issued but individuals are unable to complete the investment within the 90 day period, they should contact the investor unit on investmentandstartup@justice.ie to request an updated pre-approval letter.

 

Start-Up Entrepreneur Programme

New applications and renewals for the Start-Up Entrepreneur Programme continue to be processed as normal. 

 

Citizenship

Citizenship applications

Confusion has arisen in the last week as to whether new citizenship applications continue to be accepted following an announcement by the ISD on the 3rd of April advising applicants not to submit original passports or other original documentation. It appears to this office that applications can be submitted without original passports at present, however clarity is needed from the Citizenship Division as it has not been addressed in the FAQ document. Similarly given the difficulties of obtaining bank drafts , referee signatures and attending solicitor offices to sign the statutory declaration,  further interim arrangements should be introduced to facilitate the submission of applications with certain documentation to be submitted at a later date where necessary.

 

COVID-19 pandemic payment

The ISD have confirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic payment will not exclude a person from making an application for Citizenship, or from their application being approved. This is an extremely welcomed announcement in circumstances where we have been contacted by numerous clients terrified of applying for the pandemic payment, notwithstanding the fact that they may badly need it, in circumstances where it could affect their citizenship application. The clarification on this point is most welcomed. 

 

Citizenship ceremony

The next citizenship ceremony is scheduled for July 2020 however individuals are advised not to make any plans at present in circumstances where the extension of COVID-19 restrictions is unknown. In light of restrictions on mass gatherings which are likely to be extended, it is difficult to foresee how a large-scale ceremony could take place in July. We submit that the ISD should be considering alternative arrangements such as a remote swearing ceremony if necessary, to facilitate the ongoing movement of the citizenship application process. Again, many individuals have been waiting years for applications to be processed and in the interests of fairness alternative arrangements should be put in place should the July ceremony not be possible.

 

Conclusion

Whilst the new FAQ document does address numerous issues and is most welcomed on behalf of the ISD whom we acknowledge are operating under extraordinary circumstances at present, further clarification is required on a significant number of matters as highlighted above. 

Sinnott Solicitors will continue to monitor the situation and seek clarity from the ISD on these matters. 

 The full text of the FAQ document is available at the following link – http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Immigration-Service-Delivery-Covid-19-FAQ[3].pdf/Files/Immigration-Service-Delivery-Covid-19-FAQ[3].pdf

Should you have any queries on your own immigration status or situation do not hesitate to contact our Immigration Department today on 0035314062862, or info@sinnott.ie.