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EUROPEAN COMMISSION OUTLINES PROPOSALS TO EASE RESTRICTIONS ON NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL

In an announcement published on the 3rd May 2021, the European Commission has proposed that Member States begin to ease current restrictions on non-essential travel from outside the European Union.

This announcement was made in light of the progress associated with the vaccine rollout as scientific advice indicates that the risk of transmitting Covid-19 is significantly lowered once a person has been vaccinated.

It is submitted that those who have received both vaccination doses will be permitted to enter the EU on presentation of a vaccine certificate.

The Commission has acknowledged that with the development of the Digital Green Certificate, Member States should also accept certificates from Non-EU nationals.

It is suggested that:

‘Member States could consider setting up a portal allowing travellers to ask for the recognition of a vaccination certificate issued by a non-EU country.’

The full Commission announcement can be found at:

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_2121

In contrast to the Commission’s announcement, the Department of Justice issued notice on the 5th May 2021 that the suspension on processing non-priority visa and preclearance applications has been extended until further notice.

This notice can be found here:

http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/visas-updates

This means that the Minister is continuing to prohibit travel for non-EEA family members of Union citizens.

This does not appear to be in line with the current guidance from the European Commission.

 

PASSPORT SERVICES TO BE CONSIDERED ESSENTIAL UNDER NEW PLANS BROUGHT TO CABINET

Today, new proposals will be brought to Cabinet by the Minister for Foreign Affairs which will deem the production of passports an essential service.

The majority of passport services have been suspended since December in line with the Level 5 restrictions.

It is planned that the Minister will ask the Cabinet to consider passport services an essential service in order to allow the backlog to be efficiently cleared.

Approximately 89,000 people have been affected by delays in the processing of passport applications including 44,000 domestic applications and 45,000 from outside the State.

The issuing of a passport to Irish citizens is provided for under the Passports Act 2008 which states:

‘a person who is an Irish citizen and is, subject to this Act, thereby entitled to be issued with a passport.’

Berkeley Solicitors therefore believes that the failure to issue passports to Irish citizens is contrary to this Act.

This matter is of great concern and Berkeley Solicitors has received many queries from those who have been unable to receive a passport for travel or identification purposes.

In deeming the production of passports an essential service, it is hoped that this backlog can be cleared in a matter of weeks.

Berkeley Solicitors are happy to see this news today and we hope that it will benefit those who have been affected.

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE PUBLISHES UPDATE ON THE PROCESSING OF NEW VISA APPLICATIONS FOR IMPERATIVE FAMILY REASONS

As of 29th January 2021, the Department of Justice has ceased accepting the majority of new visa/preclearance applications due to Covid-19, with the exception of a number of Priority/Emergency categories of visas.

The Priority/Emergency category includes persons travelling for imperative family reasons.

The Minister for Justice has published an update providing clarity on the meaning of imperative family reasons for the purpose of new visa applications.

In a notice dated 6th April 2021, it is stated that:

“Applicants seeking to travel for imperative family reasons are assessed on an individual basis and are largely confined to emergency cases that may arise in a family situation but do not include the following: missing a loved one; wanting to attend a birth; or wanting to attend a wedding or a milestone birthday. Please note that this list of examples is not exhaustive and whether your application meets the criteria or not is determined by examining the circumstances and supporting documentation of each case on an individual basis.”

The full notice can be read here.

If you or a family member have any queries about applying for a visa to Ireland, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE ANNOUNCES FURTHER EXTENSION OF IMMIGRATION PERMISSIONS

On 26th March 2021, the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee published a notice announcing a further temporary extension of immigration and international protection permissions. This extension applies to immigration and international protection permissions to reside in the State that are due to expire between 21st April 2021 and 20th September 2021.

It applies to all persons with a current valid permission, whether pursuant to domestic law or powers of the Minister, or pursuant to Directive 2004/38/EC (the EU Free Movement Directive).

All such permissions are automatically renewed by the Minister to the 20th of September 2021.

Any permission that was renewed by the previous notices and was due to expire between 21st April 2021 and 20th September 2021 is automatically renewed by this notice until 20th September 2021.

The automatic renewal is on the same basis as the existing permission and the same conditions will continue to apply.

Announcing the measure, the Minister for Justice commented:

“As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, I want to reassure people whose immigration permissions are due to expire shortly that your legal status in the country will continue to be maintained. To do this, I am introducing a further automatic extension to 20 September 2021 for anyone already holding a valid permission.

“This extension will benefit those who cannot get an appointment to register or renew an existing permission. However, I encourage anyone who can renew, particularly Dublin-based customers who can use the online system, to do so and not to wait until September.

The notice also confirms that the Registration Office in Burgh Quay remains closed due to Covid-19 restrictions. Persons who were issued with appointments for first time registrations will be contacted directly by the Immigration Service and they will be prioritised for appointments once the Public Office can safely reopen.

The notice can be read in full here.

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

NEW VISA AND PRECLEARANCE APPLICATIONS SUSPENDED

On 29th January 2021, a notice was posted on the Department of Justice website noting that the Minister for Justice had imposed several new measures with regard to travel to the State. The Notice stated that it is currently against the law for any person to travel within Ireland for non-essential purposes outside their 5km radius, and that:

“The strong advice therefore 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.”

The notice states that from the 29th January 2021 the Department is temporarily ceasing the acceptance of new visa/preclearance applications. This notice states that any applications made online will remain valid but a decision will not be made on these applications until such time as restrictions have been lifted.

 “Increasing travel restrictions and the measures introduced as part of the Government’s efforts to interrupt the transmission of COVID-19 means that travel may not be possible and even if possible is not advisable unless absolutely essential.”

Priority or Emergency cases will continue to be processed online in the normal manner with specific instructions for submission detailed on the summary page, at the end of the application.

The full list of applications  currently falling within this category are as follows:

  • 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;
  • seafarers;
  • journalists, when performing their duties.

The list of priority/ emergency visa has been amended from the previous visa suspensions during last year.

Of particular note is the fact that applications for visas/ pre clearance submitted pursuant to Directive 2004/38/EC and the European Communities ( Free Movement of Persons) Regulation 2015 are not currently listed as priority and based on this published note alone  would appear to be suspended.

In addition to the above, the Minister signed an order imposing new visa requirements on passport holders from a number of South American countries and South Africa. The order came into effect at midnight on the 27th January 2021. In addition to the existing visa required countries, nationals of the following countries are now visa required nationals:

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Colombia (transit visa now required – this country is already subject to entry visa requirements)
  • Ecuador (transit visa now required – this country is already subject to entry visa requirements)
  • Guyana
  • Paraguay
  • Peru (transit visa now required – this country is already subject to entry visa requirements)
  • South Africa
  • Suriname (transit visa now required – this country is already subject to entry visa requirements)
  • Uruguay

 

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ANNOUNCES EU TREATY RIGHTS AND DOMESTIC RESIDENCE APPLICATIONS CAN BE SUBMITTED ELECTRONICALLY DURING COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS

On 15th January 2021, the Department of Justice published an updated notice regarding the submission of certain immigration applications during Covid-19 restrictions.

The notice confirms that as a temporary measure between Monday 18th January 2021 and Friday 30th April 2021, both EU Treaty Rights and Domestic Residence applications can be submitted by email with copies of supporting documentation.

In normal circumstances these applications need to be submitted by post with hard copy documents.

Any original documentation that is required for the application may need be submitted by post at a later date. The notice further states that documents should be submitted in PDF format.

This is a welcome development which will simplify the application process during the current Covid-19 lockdown.

The full notice can be read here.

If you have queries about EU Treaty Rights and Domestic Residence applications, please do not hesitate to contact the office.

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE ANNOUNCES NEW TEMPORARY PROCESS FOR GRANTING CITIZENSHIP DURING COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS

On 18th January 2021, the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee announced a new temporary process for the granting of citizenship during Covid-19 restrictions.

In normal circumstances, successful applicants are required to attend a citizenship ceremony in order to obtain a certificate of nationality.

However, citizenship ceremonies have been suspended since March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under the new temporary system, qualifying applicants will be asked to complete a statutory declaration that will be emailed to them by the Citizenship Division of the Department of Justice. They will be required to bring the statutory declaration to one of the listed designated officials who will witness the applicant sign the statutory declaration.

The applicant must then send the signed statutory declaration, the appropriate fee and any other requested documentation to the Department’s Citizenship Division. A certificate of naturalisation signed by the Minister for Justice will then be sent to the applicant.

This new system is in place from 18th January 2021.

Commenting on the new system, the Minister stated Minister McEntee said:

“The granting of Irish citizenship through naturalisation is a privilege and an honour which is recognised by the thousands of people who apply every year. I am pleased that we can now bring some certainty to the people whose applications have effectively been on hold during the pandemic.

Approximately 4,000 applicants have not been able to receive a certificate of naturalisation due to the temporary suspension of citizenship ceremonies. The process I am opening today means that certificates can now be granted again, once the signed and witnessed statutory declaration and relevant fee has been received by my Department.”

The Department of Justice will be in contact with qualifying applicants regarding the requirements on a phased basis over the next few months until in-person citizenship ceremonies are able to recommence.

The Department stated that the 4,000 applicants currently waiting on naturalisation will have been provided with an opportunity to gain citizenship by the end of March.

The Minister also commented that in-person ceremonies are provisionally scheduled to resume in December 2021.

In addition to this, Minister McEntee outlined some additional digital measures that she intends to implement in order to simplify the naturalisation process:

“I am putting the Justice Sector on a Digital First footing and will move our services away from old, paper-based systems.

Plans for the digitalisation of the naturalisation process are well advanced, through increased digital and ICT investment. As part of this process, eTax-clearance for citizenship applicants has been introduced. Online payments have been trialled for applications from minors and the process is currently being rolled out to adult applications on a phased basis.”

If you have any queries about the naturalisation process, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ANNOUNCES FURTHER RESUMPTION OF VISA SERVICES

On 25th September 2020, the Department of Justice published an announcement on its website confirming that it has recommenced issuing decisions for certain visa categories.

Due to Covid-19, the Department had been issuing decisions in respect of the Emergency/Priority categories of visas only.

The announcement states as follows:

“We can now confirm that we have also recommenced issuing decisions on certain long-stay visas which include categories such as Third level study at primary degree and postgraduate level, Employment and Join Family.

You should note that while we continue to accept applications for English Languages studies, decisions on applications from new students will remain on hold pending further consideration by the relevant authorities.”

It remains the position that we are not accepting any short stay visa applications, except for cases that fall under the Emergency/Priority criteria.”

The Department further announced that it has expanded the list of exemptions which fall under Emergency/Priority to include those specific categories of travellers, identified as having an essential function or need in the EU Council Recommendation (EU) 2020/912 of 30 June 2020.

The full notice can be read here.

INIS ANNOUNCES REOPENING OF REGISTRATION OFFICES OUTSIDE DUBLIN

Following three months of closures due to Covid-19 restrictions, INIS has announced that Registration Offices outside Dublin will be reopening on a phased basis in line with the Government roadmap.

The INIS website has published a list of opening dates in respect of individual registration offices.

Many are due to open between 20th July 2020 and 15th August 2020, however a number have yet to confirm a reopening date.

The full notice, which details the opening dates of individual offices, can be read here.

Email addresses for each registration office are provided for queries and the arranging of appointments.  INIS has advised that persons wishing to register or renew should contact the Immigration Officer on the email address provided prior to attending at a Garda Station as individuals without an appointment will not be seen.

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.