As part of the combined efforts to tackle COVID-19, a number of measures have been taken by the Department of Justice and Equality Immigration Service Delivery (ISD) and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) to ensure individual’s safety. Many of these measures impact directly on businesses employing non–EEA foreign nationals and the individuals themselves.
As of 31 March 2020, the following measures have been imposed:
DBEI are continuing to process employment permit applications. They are prioritising employment permits for medical staff but this has only resulted in minor delays. At present, the current processing time for Trusted Partner applications is 5 weeks and for standard applications it’s 12 weeks.
As of 30 March 2020, as a temporary measure, DBEI is issuing permits as PDF softcopy documents by email rather than hardcopy documents by post. It has also been agreed that the immigration authorities at border control will accept these printed work permits for the time being where a foreign national is entering the State for work purposes.
Employers should be aware that, where employment permit holders are now working from home as a result of COVID-19, a notification in writing must be submitted to DBEI. Our Business Immigration team is available for further guidance on this requirement and process.
In the event that a permit holder employee finds themselves in a situation where they are working from home outside the State, the employer and employee must be aware that frequent absences or an extended absence which constitute part of an employment permit holder’s employment are not considered grounds for revocation of the permit. Employers should note that an employment permit holder must however work at least 183 days in a full calendar year in Ireland to be considered employed in the State.
If an employment permit holder has been temporarily laid off or is working reduced hours during the period of the permit, DBEI should be informed in advance of the temporary layoff / reduced working hours so that it can be noted on the permit file.
If an employment permit holder has been made redundant, DBEI should be informed of the redundancy within four weeks of the date of redundancy. Notification can be provided via the relevant Redundancy Form. The employment permit holder may seek employment in any eligible occupation and apply for a permit within six months of the date.
As of 20 March 2020, ISD has temporarily ceased accepting new visa applications. This is in response to the increasing travel restrictions and the measures introduced as part of the Government’s efforts to interrupt the transmission of COVID-19. This means that travel may not be possible for some visa required employees. Visa applications can still be submitted online and applicants will be able to submit their supporting documentation when embassies re-open.
As of 20 March 2020, all Registration Offices, including Burgh Quay and those operated by An Garda Síochána, have closed temporarily and all appointments for the coming weeks have been cancelled.
As a result of these closures, all valid immigration permissions to reside in the State that are due to expire between 20 March 2020 and 20 May 2020 are automatically being renewed by the Minister for Justice and Equality for a period of two months. The renewal of permission is on the same basis as the existing permission and the same conditions attach. Over the coming weeks, employers can rely on one of the individual's previous immigration permission as evidence of their ongoing permission to remain in the State.
Any renewal applications for permissions which expired before 20 March 2020 but had not been renewed by this date will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis when the Registration Offices reopen.
Any employees who arrived in the State subject to an employment permit who were required to register with Immigration within 90 days of arrival in the State will now not be required to do so until the Registration Offices reopen or alternative arrangements are put in place.
While the Government authorities have implemented a number of measures to help safe guard the public, it is not all bad news. Ireland shows its determination to keep the cogs turning by allowing electronic applications in every form and removing the need for hard copy proofs while managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Employers can still employ their foreign national employees whose permissions expire between 20 March 2020 and 20 May 2020 due to the 2 month extension imposed by the Government. Employers can also still legally employ their foreign national employees who are working from home once the relevant notification has been made to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.