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MINISTER FOR JUSTICE ANNOUNCES BURGH QUAY REGISTRATION OFFICE TO REOPEN AND EXPANSION OF ONLINE REGISTRATION RENEWAL SYSTEM

On 7th July 2020 the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, announced that the Online Renewal system for immigration permissions will be expanded to allow all Dublin based non-nationals to apply online to renew their immigration registration.

It is expected that this will make the renewal process easier for thousands of people every year, and significantly reduce the number of people who need to attend the Burgh Quay Registration Office in person.

The online system will be made available from 7th July 2020 for those with an urgent need to travel and who require an Immigration Residence Permit (IRP) card before they travel.

Making the announcement, the Minister stated:

“I’m very pleased to be able to announce the expansion of our online Registration Renewal System. This is good news for our Dublin based customers because it makes the whole process easier and means they can do their renewal from the comfort of their own home instead of having to book an appointment to come into the city and attend Burgh Quay. 

 Now, all that applicants have to do is complete a form online, upload supporting documents, pay the fee and then submit their passport and current IRP card via registered post. This is much easier and quicker than the previous system, where it could sometimes be difficult to get an appointment.” 

The Minister also announced that the Burgh Quay Registration Office will reopen on 20th July 2020 for first time registration. As first-time registrations require biometrics to be taken, it is not possible to for these to be done online.

Individuals who had their first-time registration appointments cancelled when the Burgh Quay office closed in March due to Covid-19 restrictions will be prioritised once the office reopens. The Immigration Service Delivery will be contacting those affected to organise new appointments.

The full announcement can be read here.

If you or a family member have queries about your immigration permission, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

CURRENT DELAYS ON THE PROCESSING OF EU TREATY RIGHTS APPLICATIONS

 

Principal of Berkeley Solicitors, Karen Berkeley, was quoted in The Times on the 6th July 2020 highlighting her concerns regarding the current delays in the processing of EU Treaty Rights applications.

The article referred to the Minister’s recent response to a Parliamentary Question, in which the Minister confirmed as follows:

There is a significant number of review cases on hand arising from a sustained increase in applications since 2014. Currently, there are 2,283 cases awaiting processing at EU Treaty Rights review stage, of which 1,751 review applications (76%) have been awaiting a decision for over a year, with the oldest cases having been received in May 2017.

Ms Berkeley indicated her concern regarding these delays which have been creeping up over the last number of years. She stated that the courts have suggested that six months is a reasonable timeframe for the EUTR review applications, and once the timeframe goes beyond six months the Department may potentially be in reach of the EU law.

Ms Berkeley highlighted some clients of her office are waiting up to 18 months for a decision, a clear breach of the EU law. She also confirmed that Berkeley Solicitors are currently taking cases to court for some clients who are experiencing these delays.

The delays are a particular problem for the family members of British citizens currently waiting the outcome of their EU Treaty Rights review applications. After the 31st December 2020, their EU Treaty Rights will cease due to the end of the Brexit transition period. There is no clarity on what will happen to these pending applications

Read the full article here:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/immigration-permits-under-eu-treaty-taking-over-a-year-hn29fv09b

Read the Minister’s response to the Parliamentary Question here:

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PQ-30-06-2020-287

SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT ON FAMILY REUNIFICATION FOR NATURALISED REFUGEES: M.A.M. (SOMALIA) AND K.N. (UZBEKISTAN)

Berkeley Solicitors are delighted to congratulate our client who won her appeal in the Supreme Court today in the joint test cases of – M.A.M. (Somalia) v The Minister for Justice and Equality and K.N. (Uzbekistan) and Others v The Minister for Justice. The judgement of Mr Justice McMenamin was a unanimous judgement of the Supreme Court in favour of the appellants, and was delivered on the 19th June 2020.

The judgement is very significant as it affects not just the individual families taking the appeal, but approximately fifty other applicant families who have cases pending in the High Court holding list awaiting the outcome of this Supreme Court appeal.

The case arose from a challenge to the decision of the Minister for Justice to refuse family reunification to our client’s family members under The Refugee Act of 1996 (as amended). The sole reason for the Minister’s decision was the fact that our client had become an Irish citizen by naturalisation prior to her family reunification application, and the Minister held she was not therefore entitled to the family reunification rights as a refugee.

During the course of the proceedings, the Minister accepted that the Department of Justice had previously interpreted Section 18 of the 1996 Refugee Act to permit naturalised refugees to apply for family reunification for their family members, and this favourable scheme was in operation between 2010 and October 2017. The Minister also accepted that in October 2017, following new legal advices, the Minister commenced a new procedure to preclude naturalised refugees from applying for family reunification. This change in policy resulted in many naturalised refugees being refused family reunification during the period of 2017 and 2018, prior to the commencement of the family reunification provisions of the International Protection Act 2015.

The Minister argued that in order for a person to have rights to family reunification under Section 18 of the 1996 Act, not only must they hold a declaration confirming their refugee status, but they must also be a refugee in line with the definition of a refugee in Section 2 of the Act. As this definition requires a person to be outside their “country of nationality” to be a refugee, the Minister’s argument was that a refugee who becomes naturalised is no longer deemed to be a refugee as they are not outside their country of nationality, when that country becomes Ireland.

The Supreme Court disregarded this argument, holding that there was nothing to suggest in the Act that the appellants’ “country of nationality” had altered from Somalia and Uzbekistan to Ireland, as their well-founded fear of persecution remained  in those countries and not Ireland.

The Supreme Court carried out a detailed statutory interpretation exercise in respect of the 1996 Refugee Act, and highlighted the absurdities that would follow if a refugee with a declaration of refugee status would also have to be “deemed” to be a refugee in order to avail of the important rights of family reunification.

The court stated:

“The consequence of the interpretation urged by the Minister would be to create substantial legislative uncertainty when the purpose of the 1996 Act was to achieve clarity. The case advanced would run counter to the legislative aim of the Oireachtas, which was, by a carefully devised procedure defined in the Act, to identify one definitive “mark” of recognition to persons who were entitled to refugee status in this State, which, in turn, would grant them benefits and entitlements.”

In conclusion, the Supreme Court held as follows:

“This judgement concludes that the fact that the appellants became citizens did not deprive them of the right to apply for family reunification under s.18 of the 1996 Act.”

This is a very welcome decision from the Supreme Court, because it gives certainty to the definition of a refugee and the interpretation of the family reunification provisions in the 1996 Refugee Act.

In effect it means that all the decisions issued by the Minister during the period of 2017 and 2018 to refuse applications for family reunification under the 1996 Act because the sponsors were refugees who had naturalised as Irish citizens, were unlawful.

It also means that the decisions granting family reunification to naturalised refugees during the 2010 to 2017 period are lawful, bringing legal certainty to the status of countless families now settled in Ireland.

We would expect that Minister will now agree to withdraw these previous unlawful decisions refusing family reunification, and reconsider and re determine the applications in line with the Supreme Court’s judgement.

We welcome the clarity that this judgement brings and look forward to working with our clients to have the unlawful family reunification decisions withdrawn and re determined.

The full judgement can be read here.

We are happy to advise further to anyone believes they are affected by this judgement.

Berkeley Solicitors

IMMIGRATION SERVICE DELIVERY ANNOUNCES POLICY CHANGE ON EXTENSION OF ENTRY VISAS DUE TO COVID-19

The Immigration Service Delivery has issued an updated set of frequently asked questions in relation to Covid-19 and its effects on immigration services in the State.

The document now states that individuals who were recently issued  D category entry visas (prior to 15th March 2020) and who were unable to travel to Ireland during the validity dates of their visa as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, may now apply to amend dates on the approved visa.

The previous position of the Immigration Service Delivery was that such individuals would have to submit new visa applications in the event that they could not travel to Ireland within the validity dates of their visa.

The relevant section states as follows:

“Q 5. What facility will be put in place if I am currently outside Ireland and was recently granted a C or D entry visa for Ireland but I am now unable to come to Ireland during the validity period of my entry visa due to travel restrictions? Can my entry visa be extended or will I have to submit a new visa application?

A. In the case of Long Stay visas issued prior to 15th March 2020 where an applicant was not in a position to travel to Ireland because of the COVID-19 situation, it may be possible to amend the dates on the approved visa. Once we resume accepting visa applications, you should contact the Irish Embassy or Consulate that issued the visa to you.

In the case of Employment/Volunteer/Minister of Religion/Study visas, you should be able to show the Embassy that the reason for your travel to Ireland still applies, before consideration could be given to amending the visa that was issued to you.

Anyone who was issued a Short Stay visa during the same period but was similarly unable to travel to Ireland because of the COVID-19 situation will need to make a new visa application when normal visa processing resumes. However, depending on the period of time that has passed and the circumstances of the particular case, if you decide to re-apply we will consider waiving the fee for the new application.”

Given the long processing times for new visa applications, we at Berkeley Solicitors welcome this development.

The full document can be read here.

If you have any queries about applying for an Irish visa, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ANNOUNCES TEMPORARY ARRANGEMENTS FOR THOSE AWAITING FIRST TIME REGISTRATION

The Department of Justice has announced that anyone who is present in the State with a current, valid permission to remain and is still awaiting their first registration, can now make an electronic application to the Registration Office to request a letter confirming their permission to remain in the State and the conditions attached.

This is a temporary measure which will apply from now until the 20th July 2020.

The notice, published on 21st May 2020, states as follows:

“In light of the uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the difficulties some people can encounter due to not having an IRP card, as a temporary measure between now and 20th July 2020, anyone in the State awaiting their first registration, and who has a current, valid permission to remain, but does not have a current permission letter can apply to the Registration Office to request a letter confirming their permission to remain in the State and the conditions attached. 

For international English Language Students, the extension means that they may continue to work if they wish, but must be enrolled in a course of study to adhere to the conditions of their permission.  

All required documentation (see website for details) should be scanned and included in the application email. All eligibility criteria will continue to apply. 

Applications may be submitted electronically to the Registration Office, Burgh Quay, Dublin (bqregofficeapplications@justice.ie)”

The full notice can be accessed here.

If you or a family member are affected by this notice, please contact our office to discuss.

DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO COVID-19 VISA APPLICATIONS IN IRELAND AND THE UK

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a vast decrease in international travel, and many people with valid Irish visas are now unable to enter the State during the validity period of their visa.

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service has stated that it will not re-issue visas for new dates at this time, and those individuals who cannot travel to Ireland during the validity period of their visa will need to reapply for an Irish visa at a later date.

This is in contrast to the approach of the UK Government which has published the following announcement:

“If your 30 day visa to travel to the UK for work, study or to join family has expired, or is about to expire, you can request a replacement visa with revised validity dates free of charge until the end of this year.

To make a request, contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre…

You’ll be contacted when our VACs reopen to arrange for a replacement visa to be endorsed in your passport.

You will not be penalised for being unable collect your BRP while coronavirus measures are in place.

This process will be in place until the end of 2020.”

The announcement can be read in full here.

We at Berkeley Solicitors find the approach of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service on this issue to be extremely disappointing and unfair to those individuals who have recently been granted visas for Ireland, many of whom may have been waiting many months to receive a decision on their visa application.

We call on the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service to revise their position on this matter and consider adopting a similar approach to that of the UK, allowing those affected to request replacement visas with new validity dates.

If you have any queries about applying for an Irish visa at this time, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

IMMIGRATION SERVICE DELIVERY ANNOUNCES CHANGE OF PERMISSION APPLICATIONS CAN BE SUBMITTED ELECTRONICALLY UNTIL 20TH MAY 2020

Immigration Service Delivery issued a new notice on 27th April 2020 confirming that a number of change of permission applications may be submitted electronically on a temporary basis until 20th May 2020.

The notice confirms as follows:

“In light of the uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as a temporary measure between now and 20th May 2020, applications for the following change of permissions may be submitted electronically to the Registration Office, Burgh Quay, Dublin (burghquayregoffice@justice.ie):

 

From Stamp To Stamp
Stamp 1 (Critical Skill Employment Permit) Stamp 4 (after 2 completed years on CSEP and DBEI Stamp 4 support letter)
Stamp 1 (Employment Permit) Stamp 4 (after 5 completed years on Employment Permits)
Stamp 2 Stamp 1 (Employment Permit)
Stamp 2 Stamp 1A (Trainee Accountant Contract)
Stamp 1, 2 or 3 Stamp 1G (Spouse of Critical Skill Employment Permit holder)
Stamp 1, 2 or 3 Stamp 4 (Spouse of Irish National)

 All required documentation should be scanned and included in the application. All eligibility criteria will continue to apply.

 Where a permission has been granted, applicants will still be required to register the change as normal once the Registration Office in Burgh Quay and local Registration Offices reopen.”

 

This is a positive development for any clients who wish to submit an application for change of permission and who fall within the categories listed in the notice.

Our office continues to act for many clients who have pending immigration applications, and we are continuing to liaise with INIS on behalf of our clients as normal.

The full notice can be read here.

If you would like more information regarding an application for change of permission, please contact our office.

HIGH COURT DECISION ON REFUSAL OF EMPLOYMENT PERMIT FOR TRAINEE ACCOUNTANT

On 25th March 2020, Mr Justice Heslin delivered his judgment in Julia Olivera Rodriguez v The Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

This case concerned a Venezuelan national with a BSc. Degree in Public Accounting from Venezuela and a Certificate in Business Accounting which she obtained in Ireland through the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants in May 2018.

Ms Rodriguez’s application for an Employment Permit for the role of Trainee Accountant was refused by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation on the basis that the position of Trainee Accountant does not fall within the list of eligible categories of employment, as set out in the Employment Permits Regulations, 2017.

Ms Rodriguez challenged this decision in the High Court, arguing that the Minister had been incorrect in this finding and that the role of ‘Accountant’ should be interpreted to include those training for the position, as is the case in the UK.

Mr Justice Heslin in his decision stated:

“I am entirely satisfied that the 2017 Regulations cannot be interpreted in the manner in which the applicant contends. Doing so would involve this Court importing into the 2017 Regulations words which are simply not there and also ignoring the plain meaning of words which incontrovertibly appear in the 2017 Regulations.”

Mr Justice Heslin stated that the regulations very clearly set out employments of which there is a shortage and which are required for the proper functioning of the economy, including Accountants and Tax Consultants with particular specialisms and specified experience:

“Schedule 3 of the 2017 Regulations very clearly sets out those employments in respect of which there is a shortage in relation to “qualifications, experience or skills” required for the proper functioning of the economy and these include “Chartered and Certified Accountants” with particular specialisms, “Qualified Accountants” with particular experience and “Tax Consultants” with specified experience. As a matter of fact, the applicant falls into none of the categories specified in Schedule 3. For this Court to hold that she does, would be to do violence to the specific words used in Schedule 3 and would amount to this Court deciding, impermissibly, that someone who is unqualified comes within a category which explicitly addresses shortages in “qualifications”. This Court has no power to ignore the clear wording in Schedule 3 of the 2017 Regulations and to hold that shortages in the qualifications set out in Schedule 3 are met by unqualified persons.”

The court found that Ms Rodriguez does not fall within any of these categories and the decision to refuse her application for an Employment Permit was upheld.

The full text of the judgment can be found here.

If you would like more information on the application process for Employment Permits in Ireland, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

IMMIGRATION APPLICATIONS CAN BE SUBMITTED ELECTRONICALLY UNTIL 20TH MAY 2020

We are happy to see that INIS has issued a new notice on the 15th April 2020 confirming that EU Treaty Rights and Domestic applications can be submitted by email until the 20th May 2020 as a temporary measure.
The notice confirms as follows:
As part of combined efforts to adhere to the Government’s strategy to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to ensure customer safety, we have taken the decision, as a temporary measure between now and the 20th May 2020, to allow EU Treaty Rights and Domestic applications to be submitted by email together with scanned copies of supporting documentation. EU Treaty Rights will require the original application to be submitted by post in due course

The full notice can be read at the below link:
http://www.inis.gov.ie/
Our office continues to act for many clients who have pending immigration applications, and we are continuing to liaise with INIS on behalf of our clients as normal.
It is good news to see that any clients who wish to commence new immigration application can now do so electronically, without the requirement to submit original documents at this time.
Please contact our office with any queries regarding commencing new applications.

Berkeley Solicitors

VISA APPLICATIONS DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS

In a recent blog article, we confirmed that on the 21st March 2020, the Immigration Service Delivery (formerly INIS) announced the temporary suspension of the normal visa application procedures.

It was confirmed that there would some very important exceptions to the suspension would be permitted, as follows;

 

  • 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.

 

However, subsequently there was a further announcements from various Embassies and Consulate offices of Ireland, and from VFS Global Ireland, to confirm they are no longer accepting visa applications on a temporary basis;

The Embassy of Ireland in the UK has posted the following announcement:

Please be advised that due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation, it has been decided that all Irish Visa Application Centres (VACs) across the VFS Great Britain network will now remain closed.

While it will still be possible to apply for an Irish visa online in the normal manner, these temporary closures mean that applicants in Great Britain will not be able to complete the application process and submit their applications for consideration. We apologise for any inconvenience this might cause. Please note that any application made online will remain valid until such time as the VACs reopen.

The Embassy of Ireland in Moscow has confirmed as follows:

“We have taken the decision to temporarily cease accepting new visa applications. This is effective from close of business 20th of March 2020. Please see our visa page for further information. ”

VFS Global Ireland has published the following notice on their website regarding Pakistani visa applications for Ireland:

From 23 March 2020 The Consulate of Ireland will not accept any visa applications therefore the VACs in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore will not be accepting any applications for Irish visas.

The re-opening of the centres will be subject to notifications from central, provincial and city authorities, as well as Irish authorities, so please return to this page for further updates.”

For further information you may visit the website of the Irish Immigration Service http://www.inis.gov.ie/ or the website of the Embassy of Ireland in Turkey https://www.dfa.ie/irish-embassy/turkey/visas/ 

VFS Global Ireland issued similar notices of a temporary closure of the visa application centres in respect of India, Nepal, China, Hong Kong, Nigeria, Qatar and Turkey – all of which have been closed from the 20th March 2020.

It is currently unclear how to apply for visas for the permitted exceptions – emergency visas and family member visas – when it appears that many of the Embassies, Consulate offices and visa processing centres are not accepting visa applications.

 

Berkeley Solicitors