COVID-19: The impact on Irish immigration – issues for employers

23 March 2020

In light of COVID-19, there are a number of issues that employers should be aware of in terms of Irish immigration and their business. This is an extremely fast-moving situation and further updates to the below are likely. We will keep you updated.

The current situation

Employment Permits

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) have advised that they will be expediting all applications for employment permits for medical staff in their processing queue. It is expected that this process will take approximately a week to complete and, as a result, there will be some impacts on the timelines for the processing of all other employment permit applications. At this point, it appears that employment permit applications under the Trusted Partner Scheme will take approximately 8 weeks to be processed. This should be factored in to setting the start date for new employees.

Employees should enter Ireland within 3 months of the issue of an employment permit. We are liaising with the authorities to establish if some flexibility will be allowed on this.

The DBEI is currently functioning as normal. In the event of a slowdown, or a shut down, they will be able to continue to carry out priority work such as processing employment permits and carrying out reviews. At some stage it may not be possible to print and distribute employment permits, if this happens the Department will update all stakeholders informing them of its solution. We will keep you updated on any developments in relation to this.

Most employees entering Ireland to begin work with your organisation will be required to self-isolate upon arrival and will not be able to physically present in your offices for their start date. Further information on this is available from the HSE.

GNIB Appointments

The Burgh Quay registration office and all other registration centres have now closed. All employees with permission to reside in the state that are due to expire between 20 March 2020 and 20 May 2020 are automatically renewed for a period of 2 months. This renewal is on the same basis as the existing permission and the same conditions attach.

Visa Applications

The Irish immigration authorities have advised that they are temporarily ceasing to accept new visa applications. While it will still be possible for applicants to apply for a visa online, applicants will not be able to complete the application process and submit their hard copy supporting documents to their local Irish embassy/consulate. Any application made online will remain valid until such time as restrictions are lifted.
Certain Priority/Emergency cases will continue to be processed and these include the following:

  • Emergency visa (e.g. Healthcare professionals, health researchers, and elderly care professionals)
  • Immediate family members of Irish citizens, persons legally resident in the State and Persons entitled to avail of the provision of the EU Free Movement Directive.

If an application falls into one of these categories, the applicant can apply on-line in the usual way.

What next?

Our firm is a member of the Corporate Immigration User Group and we are engaging with the DBEI on an urgent basis to obtain clarity on several issues likely to impact on your organization over the coming weeks.

  • If the DBEI will need to be updated on employees who are working from home and as a result, not working at the worksite specified on the permit.
  • The impact of absence or reduction of pay for employees during the covid-19 period on employment permit holders and their employers.
  • The impact of this situation on stamp 4 support letter applications – for example will it be possible for applications for stamp 4 support letters be submitted by soft copy during this period.
  • We understand that there are plans to utilise technology to allow for digital employment permits in the future. During this period, we will be requesting that
    – Soft copy employment permits are sent directly to applicants
    – Soft copy employment permits are sent directly to the Border Management Unit at Dublin airport allowing entry of non-visa required nationals directly into the country without the need to wait for a hard copy
    – Soft copy employment permits sent directly to visa processors in Visa Processing Centre in Dublin or other embassies/consulates to allow for entry visa processing for visa required nationals

We are also asking the DBEI if there will be an opportunity to post-date start dates due to any delays that may arise in employment permit processing times.
We will issue a further update to you once we have received a response from the DBEI in relation to these issues.

For further information please contact David Cantrell, Partner or another member of the Immigration Group at Eugene F Collins.

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