As Ireland’s economy ramped up in the months prior to COVID-19, corporate immigration became a necessity for many Irish employers in order to find the expertise and skills in short supply in the Irish workforce. Many employers have employment permit applications currently processing with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) and many employees have permit renewal dates approaching. Additionally, employees from visa required countries will have entry visa requirements to comply with which are processed by the Immigration Service Delivery Function of the Department of Justice and Equality (ISD). Non-EEA employees may also have applied to ISD for permission to remain in Ireland.
National and global measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have increased uncertainty in corporate immigration for employees and employers. In our recent articles we advised employers on the law relating to lay-off and short-time working, on tips on home-working and on the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (available in our COVID-19 Hub). In this article we focus on tips for employers who rely on the Irish corporate immigration system to supplement their workforce.
Our top tips for employers are:
1. Airport Immigration Control Operating as Normal
- ISD has confirmed that normal service of immigration control at Dublin airport is in place. It is important to remind any employees travelling to Ireland on an employment permit that they must have all required documents ready for inspection and that checks will continue as normal.
- Employers should keep updated on travel restrictions which may impact employee mobility and can keep up to date with official guidance here.
2. Immigration Office Closures and Automatic Permission Renewal
- ISD has confirmed that its Burgh Quay office is temporarily closed as are registration offices for non-Dublin residents operated by An Garda Síochána. All appointments with these offices are cancelled during this period.
- Permissions to reside in Ireland which are due to expire between 20 March and 20 May 2020 are automatically renewed for a two-month period. Such renewals are on the basis and conditions as apply to the current permission. Those on existing permissions under the EU Free Movement Directive are subject to the condition that they continue to comply with the requirements of the Directive. It is important that employees are informed of these temporary measures.
- Employers requesting sight of permission to remain in Ireland from employees whose permission to remain expires between 20 March and 20 May 2020 should seek a copy of the relevant employee’s last permission to remain in the State.
3. ISD Not Accepting New Visa Applications
- ISD has temporarily ceased accepting new entry visa applications. Although applicants may apply online, the process to obtain an entry visa will not be completed. Online applications remain valid while the restrictions are in place. Certain visa applications are being accepted, such as:
- for healthcare professionals, health researchers and elderly care professionals; and
- Irish citizens’ immediate family members, persons legally resident in Ireland and those entitled to avail of the EU Free Movement Directive.
- While non-EEA job candidates may be granted an employment permit, they will not be able to travel to Ireland if they are from a visa-required country, such as India or China. This measure effectively places a travel ban on such nationals. This measure does not affect nationals from countries who do not require an entry visa, such as the USA and Canada.
- Employers should consider the international mobility of its employees during this period because of this measure.
4. Notify Change in Work Location
- Employers must notify the DBEI of any employees who are employment permit-holders and are working from home during the COVID-19 outbreak, as this qualifies as a change of employment location. Employers may notify the DBEI by way of a simple letter.
5. A-typical Working Permission
- The ISD has confirmed that where permission holders cannot travel during COVID-19 and their permission will expire before they can travel, the permission should be returned to the ISD urgently with an amended letter of permission to issue when the ISD is informed of new travel dates. Employers should carefully consider any travel dates for employees who are permission holders and are due to travel to Ireland.
6. Processing of Employment Permits
- Due to COVID-19, the DBEI has announced that it will continue to process employment permits for as long as possible, but it will fast-track medical related employment permits. Consequently, there is likely to be a delay in regular employment permit processing times. Employment permit holders with renewal dates approaching should be particularly aware that processing may take up to eight weeks for Trusted Partner applications and 13 weeks for Standard applications. The DBEI has announced that it will allow an opportunity to change employment start date, defer the application or cancel the application again giving more flexibility for employers.
7. Entering Ireland
- Those employees who have permission to work in Ireland and who are entering the island of Ireland during COVID-19 should be made aware of the Irish health authorities’ requirements that anyone coming into Ireland must restrict their movements on arrival for 14 days. Employers should bear this requirement in mind when planning on sending workers to Ireland in the near future and can visit the advice page here.
Contributed by Darran Brennan, Karen Hennessy & Richard Smith