The Immigration Service Delivery published another FAQ document regarding the Impact of COVID-19 on Immigration and International Protection on the 20th of May 2020. The document provides further clarification on areas such as citizenship, defacto partners and spouses of Irish citizens and visas. As a lot of new information is contained in this document, we have set out below each new point as well as our expert analysis on same.

 

D-Visas issued where recipients have been unable to travel

The visa office has reiterated that where a recipient of a Long Stay D visa is unable to travel within the validity of the visa already granted, they will not re-issue the visa with revised travel dates. The ISD will instead consider waiving the visa fee for the new application and advise that a person is not required to go through the same rigorous process as the initial application. 

Analysis – we submit that this is still unsatisfactory given the fact that some individuals have waited a considerable length of time for their Long Stay D visa’s to be approved. Similarly we submit that it is not enough to state that applicants will not be required to go through the same process as they did for their original application – clear guidelines must be published as to what procedure and documentation should be submitted so that there is clear transparent guidance for applicants and visa officers alike.

 

Employment permit recipients who have not applied for or been granted a visa to enter the State 

The visa office confirms that when normal service resumes, applications will be considered by the Visa Office/Embassy on a case by case basis and they will be guided by Government priorities to resume economic activity as well as particular country restrictions.

Analysis – This will be welcomed by employers anxiously waiting on the arrival of employees who have been granted employment permits many of whom are extremely skilled individuals and who will no doubt be key contributors in rebooting the economy and maintaining Ireland’s competitiveness. We submit that extra resources should be deployed to the visa offices to assist with the processing of applications to facilitate the arrival of these workers to Ireland as soon as possible in circumstances where international travel restrictions are slowly easing.

 

Visa Appeals

Visa appeals can be submitted via email if no original documents are being submitted.

Analysis – In circumstances where visa appeals are usually only accepted by post the submission of appeals electronically is of huge assistance to applicants and immigration practitioners. We submit however that even where original documentation is required in support of an application,  that the appeal will be accepted electronically by the visa office with copies of supporting documentation, and that any original documentation required can be submitted at a later date as soon as practicable.

 

Visa application documentation 

The FAQ document states:

“– if an applicant is unable to get the physical documentation to their local Embassy/Visa Office, then ISD may arrange for them to submit by email but ultimately ISD requires the individual’s passport to affix the visa sticker”

Analysis – It is unclear from this statement whether it is referring to visa appeals or applications and whilst an original passport will always be required to issue a visa, it suggests that copies of documentation for visa applications as opposed to originals may be accepted. Clarification is required by the visa office on this statement.

 

Visas for Family Reunification applicants and IHAP beneficiaries

There are many individuals who have been granted Long Stay D visas to join family members in Ireland who have been unable to travel prior to the expiry date of the visa. The visa office has confirmed that when normal service resumes that they may be able to issue new visas to such persons who were unable to travel prior to the expiry of the original visa. Individual circumstances will be relevant as well as the period of time which has passed since the original expiry. Individuals are advised to contact their local Embassy/Consulate when in a position to travel for further advices.

Analysis – This concession of the visa office is hugely welcomed in circumstances where family members in some instances have been waiting years for their relevant applications to be processed. It is not clear however whether this position relates to applicants who have been granted family reunification under the International Protection Act/IHAP scheme or whether it is relevant to all family relationships visas/permissions such as spouses of Irish nationals, parents of Irish citizen children, defacto partners of Irish citizens, spouses of Critical Skills Permit holders and many other family members. Again, clarity is required on this statement by the ISD.

 

New Visa applications for Family Members of Critical Skills Employment Permit Holders 

These applications are not classified as priority visas however the visa office will deal with these applications on a case by case basis.

Analysis – For many CSEP holders, the grant of the visa to their family members may dictate whether they will be able to move to Ireland or not to commence employment and as such all efforts should be made to facilitate the processing of visas for their family members.

 

Change of visitor permission to work permission

As an exceptional measure if a person who is in the State on visitor conditions wishes to change their permission to facilitate employment with the HSE as per the HSE’s “Be on Call for Ireland” campaign, they can submit an application to Unit 2, Domestic Residence and Permissions Division, Immigration Service Delivery of the Department of Justice and Equality via email to unit2residencedivision@justice.ie in order for their case to be considered.  Evidence of a job offer from the HSE will be required. 

Analysis – This is a practical solution in circumstances where ordinarily such persons may be required to leave the State and apply from outside of the State for an employment permit. Again, cases are assessed on an individual basis and applicants should be mindful of this.

 


Renewal of courses of studies for students

Whilst many students have or will avail of the automatic two-month extension of their immigration permissions announced in March, if their course has come to an end they must re-enrol in a new course in order to continue to work lawfully. Re-enrolment must be done as soon as the previous course ended, otherwise future registration may be refused.

Where courses have been moved to online teaching, students are not allowed to pause their course until physical classes resume and must attend the online classes. 

Analysis – We submit that this is extremely unfair on many students who have saved up for years or taken out expensive loans to enable them to come to Ireland to study in a physical classroom using conventional teaching methods. We are aware of many clients who came to Ireland to study English language courses, paying high fees to colleges on the basis that they would be receiving full time courses Monday to Friday, who are now providing them with one hour of online classes per day – something which they could have done from their own country at a much reduced cost. The whole purpose of many of these students coming to Ireland to study English was to learn English in a group setting where they could improve and practice their skills, having full time access to teachers and tutors to assist with this learning experience.  If the ISD is expecting students to continue with these courses then we submit that it is the obligation of the colleges to provide full time hours and better services to students. We submit that the ISD is reneging from their obligations to ensure that foreign students in Ireland are protected and provided with the proper education which they have paid high fees to come to Ireland for. 

 

Stamp 2 holders seeking to change to a Stamp 1G (Third Level Graduate Programme)

Students who have completed their courses and who wish to avail of the Third Level Graduate Programme, including students who have returned to their home countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, can submit an application electronically with supporting documentation to – burghquayregoffice@justice.ie to change their immigration permission from a Stamp 2 to a Stamp 1G. 

This procedure will continue to be reviewed by the ISD but will cease to apply from the 30th of September 2020.

Analysis – This is a practical solution to enable qualifying students to change to the Third Level Graduate Programme in circumstances where most third level courses have finished or will be finishing shortly.

 

Working Holiday Authorisation

Individuals resident in the State pursuant to a Working Holiday Authorisation who wish to change their immigration permission in order to apply for an employment permit are being directed to contact the Department of Foreign Affairs rather than the Department of Justice and Equality.

Analysis – This is an absolute fettering of discretion and we submit “passing of the buck” by the ISD whom we submit have the power and absolute discretion to allow Working Holiday Authorisation holders to change their status in the State to enable them to apply for an employment permit. We submit that in our experience, directing an individual to contact a different government department for clarification on their legal status will result in that government department directing them to contact the original department and in this case will result in individuals being sent back and forth between the Department of Foreign Affairs and the ISD with neither Department providing assistance or clarification. 

We have been contacted by many individuals resident on Working Holiday Authorisations who have received offers of employment in highly skilled positions who are unable to apply for employment permits due to their WHA status,  or who are forced to leave the State to apply due to this inflexible and now even more convoluted policy. 

 

Atypical Working Scheme (AWS)

In relation to cooling off periods for locum doctors in the Primary Care and Hospital sectors, the normal cooling off period will apply from the date that the individual last leaves the State under any availed of extension of permission.

Where a person has been granted AWS permission to travel to the State but cannot travel before the expiry date of the original permission letter, the original valid letter of approval  should be returned to the ISD as a matter of urgency. An amended letter of approval will issue when the AWS Unit is notified of revised travel plans by means of a suitably signed letter from the relevant Irish-based host.  

The original permission letter must be returned to the AWS unit before a new permission will issue. Due to delays in postal delivery and travel at present, the AWS unit recommend that proof of postage or otherwise of the return of the original decision letter together with other documentation (as listed on the FAQ notice) be submitted via email in support of a request that a decision letter re-issue.When the relevant criteria are met no new application or payment of a new application fee will be required.

Analysis –  Given the current financial crisis and pressure on employers, it is welcome to see that a new application or fee will not be required subject to the qualifying conditions being met.

 

Registration

Individuals currently in the State awaiting their first registration with a current and valid permission to remain, but without a current permission letter can apply to the Registration Office to request a letter confirming their permission to remain in the State and the conditions attached to that permission.

Any individuals  who had an appointment cancelled for first time registration at Burgh Quay will be contacted shortly via email and will be provided with details of how to apply, the information required and the email address to which to send their application. This information will also be posted on the ISD website.

Analysis This is another welcome development for individuals currently in the State without a permission letter who are waiting to register for the first time. The notice however refers to individuals who had appointments cancelled with Burgh Quay only. There are many individuals resident outside of Dublin whose appointments for first time registration with their local immigration offices were also cancelled and clarity should be provided as to whether they too will be contacted by their local registration office and if not what procedure will be put in place for such individuals. 

 

Non-EEA Defacto Partner of an Irish national 

Applications for pre- entry clearance as the Defacto Partner of an Irish citizen should continue to be submitted to the ISD and applications will be considered on a case by case basis. Where an advisory has issued in relation to leaving a particular country, the ISD will consider the advice of Consular Services of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

If a person is currently in the State on a visitor permission but is unable to leave  the State to submit their application for pre-clearance, they can as an exceptional measure submit their application for Defacto Permission to Remain whilst present in the State. Applications are accepted electronically and in hard copy.

Due to processing times, the ISD may grant temporary residence permission on a Stamp 3 whilst the Defacto application is being processed.

Analysis – This a further positive announcement to facilitate applications for defacto permission from individuals currently in the State, dispensing with the requirement for them to leave in order to apply for pre-clearance. It is further encouraging to see that a temporary Stamp 3 permission may be granted, however we submit that given the length of time which the application may take to process, a temporary Stamp 4 permission would be more appropriate to allow applicants to access the labour market whilst waiting for the applications to be processed.

 

Spouses of Irish citizens

Non-EEA spouses who are also non-visa nationals (i.e. do not require a visa to travel to Ireland) currently with a valid permission to be in the State,  may seek to register as the spouse of an Irish national following marriage at the relevant local immigration office.

Analysis – Usually the non-EEA spouse of an Irish national who is in the State on visitor conditions, and who wishes to obtain a Stamp 4 permission to remain can do so by attending their local immigration office as long as their visitor conditions are valid and have not expired. 

We note that many individuals have benefited from the extension of immigration permissions granted in March and May, but it is not clear from the ISD notice whether such individuals will be permitted to register for the Stamp 4 if their immigration permission has expired. There will be situations where there may be a gap between the expiry date of the persons immigration permission and date of attending the registration office, (whenever they reopen).  Clarification is again required from the ISD in circumstances where we submit that the wording on the notice is not clear. 

 

Citizenship 

The citizenship ceremony scheduled for July 2020 has been postponed. Officials are investigating alternative ceremony options at present.

Applications for citizenship continue to be accepted however only if the Statutory Declaration has been fully completed. Applications should be submitted within 28 days of signing the Statutory Declaration.

Where documents/information have been requested by the citizenship division, particularly from outside of the jurisdiction, but delays are encountered in obtaining, applicants are advised to maintain a written record of all correspondence with the other jurisdiction and submit to the citizenship section in support of their application.

Analysis – We submit that in light of the current situation there may be circumstances where individuals are unable to attend a solicitors/authorised witnesses office to sign the Form 8, for example they may not live within the 5km radius of an office or may be a vulnerable person self-isolating at home, and thus unable to meet the witness in person for signing. The citizenship division should be making allowances at present and should accept all applications for processing, even where the Statutory Declaration cannot be submitted with the Form 8 and is submitted at a later date.

 

COVID-19 pandemic unemployment payment and Citizenship applications

The ISD have previously confirmed that where a person has lost their job due to COVID-19, being in receipt of the COVID 19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment will not affect their Citizenship application.

The ISD have now confirmed that where individuals are in receipt of job seekers payment because their employer has ceased trading, this will similarly not affect their application for citizenship.

Documentary evidence will need to be provided from the business, Revenue and Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to confirm this. If the applicants previous job is still available and they do not recommence work for their employer and instead seek State benefits, this may have a negative impact on future applications for immigration permissions or Citizenship.

Analysis This is an important announcement in circumstances where many individuals will have no option in the future but to seek job seekers benefit in circumstances where businesses have closed due to the pandemic, through no fault of theirs, so it is a relief to many to note that job seekers benefit will not effect their application. It is important for individuals to be aware that there are circumstances where receipt of job seekers benefit may still have a negative impact on an application and the above concession applies where the business has ceased trading due to COVID19 only.

The Immigration Department of Sinnott Solicitors have extensive experience in dealing with all Irish immigration matters.

If you have any queries, do not hesitate to contact our immigration team today on 0035314062862 or info@sinnott.ie.