Important further updates regarding temporary changes to Ireland’s Visa requirements and employment permit regime
3 February 2021
We have now received additional guidance from the Irish authorities in relation to the latest Covid-19 travel restrictions.
The new measures include an announcement that the Department of Justice is to impose new entry visa requirements on passport holders from a number of countries in South America and South Africa (which traditionally weren’t visa requiring countries) and that it is also to temporarily cease accepting new entry visa/preclearance applications from all visa requiring countries except in certain limited priority/emergency situations including:
- workers or self-employed persons exercising critical occupations including healthcare workers, frontier and posted workers as well as seasonal workers as referred to in the Guidelines concerning the exercise of the free movement of workers during the COVID-19 outbreak;
- transport workers or transport service providers, including drivers of freight vehicles carrying goods for use in the territory as well as those merely transiting;
- patients travelling for imperative medical reasons;
- pupils, students and trainees who travel abroad on a daily basis and Third-country nationals travelling for the purpose of 3rd level study;
- persons travelling for imperative family or business reasons;
- diplomats, staff of international organisations and people invited by international organisations whose physical presence is required for the well-functioning of these organisations, military personnel and police officers, and humanitarian aid workers and civil protection personnel in the exercise of their functions;
- passengers in transit;
- journalists, when performing their duties.
The Department intends to resume accepting applications as soon as safety concerns abate – we therefore have no visibility on how long these restrictions will remain in place.
Practical Impact of Restrictions
These new temporary arrangements will have a major impact on all new and ongoing Irish Employment Permit applications.
a) Employment Permit applications submitted on behalf of visa requiring nationals
The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (“DETE”) is continuing to process applications for Employment Permits. However, given the new temporary visa arrangements, it may not be possible for individuals from visa required countries to travel to the State at this time unless the individual qualifies as one of the priority/emergency situations as listed above. As such, a new process is being implemented whereby all employment permit applicants (employers and employees) for passport holders from visa required countries will be contacted and asked if they would like to:
- Proceed with the application as it is considered that the role is on the priority/emergency list.
- Hold application in the employment permit processing queue for processing at a later date, when the temporary visa arrangements have been rescinded.
- Withdraw the application with a full refund provided.
b) Employment Permit applications submitted on behalf of non-visa requiring nationals
Employment Permit applications for applicants from non-visa required countries will continue to be processed. The advice from the Department of Justice is that everyone, regardless of their nationality or visa/preclearance status, or where they started from, who cannot provide proof of an essential purpose to travel to or within Ireland, should not travel to Ireland. We are advised that people traveling to Ireland will be asked about the nature of their journey, when they arrive in the State. If possible, all individuals travelling should be in possession of a letter from their Irish employer summarising the essential nature of their travel to Ireland (i.e. the specific reasons why this work cannot be carried out remotely from outside the State).
Impact of delays on validity of Irish immigration permissions
Ordinarily, extended periods spent outside of Ireland could have a negative impact on the validity of Irish immigration permissions. However, the guidance from the Irish authorities is that they will be flexible in circumstances where the delays in travelling to Ireland have been caused by external factors and not by the candidate’s themselves. The authorities will review every case on its merits but provided the candidate has travelled to Ireland as soon as possible once the travel restrictions are lifted and it is safe to do so, then they are unlikely to run into too much difficulty. However, issues could potentially arise if the travel restrictions are lifted and a particular candidate postpones their travel plans for other personal reasons.
Eugene F Collins is closely monitoring the situation as it develops and our immigration team is available to answer any of your queries.
However we recommend that anyone considering travel to Ireland should consult the following Government website beforehand