Introduction
 
As part of the Irish Government's response to COVID-19, a number of important announcements which involve exceptional changes to usual immigration rules have been published.  Ordinarily, all non-EEA nationals must apply for an employment permit to work in Ireland and certain nationalities must also apply for an entry visa to enter the country to commence work.  Once in Ireland, all non-EEA nationals must apply for an Irish Residence Permit to register their permission and reside.  The announcements which have been made by the Department of Justice and Equality in conjunction with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation will have a significant impact on employment permit and visa applications as well as current employment permit holders.
 
Changes for current Employment Permit Holders
 
A number of temporary measures have been introduced for employees who are current employment permit holders.  Such employees are now permitted to work remotely from home once the employer notifies the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (the "Department").  The Department expects that when these temporary measures are lifted, employees will once again work at the location stated on their employment permit.  The Department will also be taking a more flexible approach to changes to remuneration and contract conditions in light of the current circumstances.
 
If any employment permit holders are to be temporarily laid-off or placed on a reduced hour's arrangement, the Department should be notified in advance.  The Department will be cognisant of these measures introduced to deal with COVID-19 when assessing the salary and working hour's conditions at renewal stage.
 
If an employment permit holder is made redundant, the Department must be notified within four weeks.  The employment permit holder may seek employment in any eligible occupation and apply for a permit within six months of the date.  In such circumstances, the employer cannot secure a permit for the particular occupation for a period of six months.
 
Furthermore, all immigration permissions to reside in the State that are due to expire between 20 March 2020 and 20 May 2020 will be deemed to have automatically renewed by the Minister for Justice and Equality for a period of 2 months.  The renewal of the permission will be on the same basis as the individual's existing permission and the same conditions attach.  From an employer's perspective, over the coming weeks even though an employee may not have any up to date documentation evidencing that they have a continuing right to remain in Ireland, it will be sufficient to accept evidence of that individual's previous immigration permission as evidence of their ongoing permission to remain in the State.
 
Amendments to the Employment Permit Application Process
 
The Department has put in place contingency to allow it to continue to process and issue employment permits in all scenarios for the duration of COVID-19.  The Department has agreed with the Immigration Service Delivery of the Department of Justice and Equality, there will be soft copy arrangements for the issuing of employment permits.  An electronic version (PDF) of an employment permit will issue by email to the employer/employee or agents as proof of an employment permit having been granted for the named employee.  This will be accompanied by a letter from the Department and both documents should be presented to immigration officials for verification purposes.  The original and certified copies of the permit will be distributed once operations return to normal.
 
The Department has also stated that it will be flexible in dealing with employment permit issues that arise as the challenges to travelling to Ireland may impact on the ability of new employees to take up employment.
 
In such circumstances, changes to applications will be facilitated such as changes to the employment contract start date to applications that have been received but yet to be processed.
  • A full refund will be given by the Department if applications are withdrawn before they are processed, if withdrawal is as a result of COVID-19.
  • Applications for the following can all be submitted to the Department online during COVID-19

           - stamp four Letters of Support;

           - applications to review a decision of an employment permit; and

           - applications & renewals for Trusted Partner Status.
 
The Department is also highlighting to employers that the HSE has advised that any individuals arriving to Ireland from another country at present are required to restrict their movements for 14 days.
 
Processing of New Visa Applications
 
On 21 March 2020, the Immigration Service Delivery of the Department of Justice and Equality announced that it was temporarily ceasing the processing of new visa applications.  This appears to amount to a partial travel ban and means that effective from 20 March non-EEA nationals from visa-required countries such as China, India, Russia, Pakistan, Turkey and Ukraine may not enter Ireland.
 
Certain Priority/Emergency cases will continue to be processed and can be applied for online in the usual way and these include the following:
  • 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; and
  • diplomats, staff of international organisations, military personnel and humanitarian aid workers in the exercise of their functions.
Further clarification is needed in order to determine the implications of the visa ban in practice.  It remains to be seen whether the decision will have any implications for individuals who have had their work permits recently granted by the Department.  Such individuals may not be able to proceed with their visa applications if the application was submitted after 20 March 2020 unless the individual falls within the exemptions listed above.

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CONTACTS

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Karen Killalea

Partner

+353 1 619 2037

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James Scanlon

Associate

+353 1 619 2061

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Ciara Ni Longaigh

Associate

+353 1 619 2740

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