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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.

VISA SERVICES HAVE RESUMED FROM 22ND JUNE 2020

The Immigration Service Delivery, who process visa applications have confirmed that some visa services have resumed from the 22nd June 2020.

During this “initial resumption phase”, the ISD will be accepting Long Stay “D” visa applications which includes Study. This is in addition to the categories considered under the Priority/Emergency cases which include:

  • 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;

This includes short stay visa application for the family members of EU nationals. However, the ISD have not yet resumed the issuance of short stay visas for non-essential travel.

The notice clarifies that in countries where it is not possible to resume visa services due to the differing restrictions which remain in place, the ISD intend to resume accepting applications as soon as it is possible to so.

Advice is given to contact the relevant Irish Embassy/Mission website for up to date information. Many embassies and VFS Global Services remain closed. Our office continues to work closely with our clients on a case by case basis to ensure that the submission of their visa application is facilitated.

This is a very encouraging development and if you or a family member have any queries about applying for an Irish visa, we would encourage anyone with queries to contact our office and we would be more than happy to advise.

The notice can be read in full here.

 

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.

NO NEW VISA APPLICATIONS ACCEPTED BY INIS SINCE MARCH 2020

RTÉ News has reported that the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service has not accepted any new visa applications as of 20th March 2020 due to Covid-19.

A spokesperson from the Department of Justice was quoted as saying:

“While it will still be possible to apply for an Irish visa online in the normal manner, these temporary measures mean that applicants will not be able to complete their application process. However, any application made online will remain valid until such time as restrictions are lifted.”

VFS Global, which provides a wide range of visa-related services, has also closed many of its Visa Application Centres.

The VFS website states that Ireland has suspended visa services globally as of 23rd March 2020.

This is despite the fact that a limited category of “Priority/Emergency” visas are still being processed, as outlined in INIS notice issued on 21st March 2020. These include 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, and persons entitled to avail of the provisions of the EU Free Movement Directive.

In instances where the local Consulate or Embassy is unable to process visa applications falling within these categories due to local Covid-19 restrictions, the Department has arranged to accept visa applications in its Dublin Visa Office.

RTÉ News questioned whether the decision to cease accepting new visa applications since March 2020 was allowing any backlog of applications to be cleared, and asked the Department of Justice to clarify what the situation is today.

The Department responded:

“…it is not possible to state a total number of employment visa applications on hand at a specific point in time, be it December or now. This is because of the fact that visas are received and processed throughout our network of missions globally and not just at the office here in Dublin.”

The spokesperson for the Department also stated that the intention is to resume accepting visa applications as soon as it is safe to do so.

The article can be read in full here.

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

POSSIBILITY OF GRANTING LEGAL STATUS TO UNDOCUMENTED MIGRANTS DISCUSSED AT GOVERNMENT TALKS

The Irish Independent has reported that a proposed scheme to regularise the status of undocumented migrants in Ireland has been discussed as part of Government formation talks between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party.

According to the article, published by the Irish Independent on 21st May 2020, the parties are in talks to establish a scheme that would allow undocumented migrants in Ireland to apply to regularise their status. The parties proposed that the criteria for such a scheme would be set out within 18 months of the new Government taking office.

At present there has been no final agreement on this scheme and any developments on this matter would be dependent on Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party forming a coalition Government together.

It is estimated that there are currently 15,000-17,000 undocumented people living in Ireland, approximately 2,000 to 3,000 of whom are thought to be children. The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) states that 93% of undocumented migrants are in work, including as many as 29% who work as carers.  The Covid-19 pandemic has also highlighted that many undocumented migrants are employed as key essential workers, working in difficult and challenging situations to keep the country going during this ongoing crisis.

We at Berkeley Solicitors would fully support the implementation of a scheme to regularise the status of undocumented migrants and will publish any future developments on this on our website.

The full article can be read here.

If you or a family member have any queries about your immigration status, please contact our office.

UPDATED INFORMATION ISSUED BY THE IMMIGRATION SERVICE DELIVERY RELATING TO SHORT STAY VISAS AND STAMP 3 PERMISSION HOLDERS

The Immigration Service Delivery has recently updated their set of frequently asked questions relating to Covid-19 and its effects on immigration permissions in the State.

The set of questions has addressed concerns of those regarding their ability to financially support themselves in the State whilst holding visitor visas and Stamp 3 permission that has been extended during Covid-19.

Addressing the query of such permission holder’s ability to take up employment, the ISD have reiterated that the renewal of permission allows you to remain in the State on the “current conditions” in which you are resident in the State and therefore may not take up employment if you are here on a visitor visa or on Stamp 3.

However, the ISD have mentioned a possible exception to this rule confirming that people on visitor permissions may apply for a change of status, stating that “in light of the current COVID-19 crisis, the Minister for Justice and Equality may examine a situation on a case by case basis in which a person in the State wishes to change permission to allow them to take up employment with the HSE, as per the HSE’s “Be on Call for Ireland” campaign. The person would have to show the Minister evidence of a job offer from the HSE, where the job offer is for a period beyond the two-month extension referred to”.

Referring to the “Be On Call for Ireland” Campaign, the updated notice details that if you are on Stamp 3 and have experience in the area of healthcare you are encouraged to contact the HSE in this regard. Should you qualify under the campaign, you are asked to provide written confirmation of same to INIS in order to apply for change of immigration permission.

This is a very encouraging clarification and we would submit that the Minister should continue to promote self-sufficiency in the State to those who are able to take up employment. These possible avenues to apply for a change of status provides an opportunity for people to contribute to the State in a positive way, especially during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

We submit that during the present pandemic, the importance of employment and the dignity attached to work and employment has been highlighted. We submit that Stamp 3 is always an inappropriate stamp for an adult person who is willing and able to work. 

We at Berkeley Solicitors are happy to advise anyone on their queries relating to their immigration Status in the State or on any possible avenue to making a change of status application during Covid-19.

The Be On Call for Ireland Campaign can be accessed here.

The full updated set of FAQs can be read in full here.

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.

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ANNOUNCES FURTHER EXTENSION OF IMMIGRATION PERMISSIONS

The Department of Justice has announced an additional two-month extension of immigration permissions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This temporary extension applies to the following categories:

  • Persons with immigration permissions due to expire between 20th May 2020 and 20th July 2020, including those that were already extended under the previous notice issued on 20th March 2020;
  • Persons awaiting their first registration, having been granted permission to land at a port of entry on condition they register at Burgh Quay or their local registration office within 3 months, but who have not yet done so;
  • Persons resident in Ireland on the basis of Short Stay visas.

The notice confirms that the permissions will be automatically renewed for a two-month period, on the same basis as the existing permission and subject to the same conditions.

The notice also clarifies that international English Language Students can continue to work if they wish but that they must also re-enrol in an online course of study to adhere to the conditions of their permission.

The registration office in Burgh Quay in Dublin will remain closed and will only reopen when it is safe to do so. The normal requirements to register residence permission will not arise until the registration offices can reopen or alternative arrangements are put in place.

Non-nationals can present evidence of their last residence permission, in the form of a formal decision letter and/or the IRP card, together with a copy of the Notice, as evidence of their ongoing permission to remain in the State.

The notice can be accessed here.

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

CURRENT DELAYS IN PROCESSING APPLICATIONS FOR NATURALISATION AS AN IRISH CITIZEN

Many of our clients are currently experiencing considerable delays in the processing and determination of their application for naturalisation based on five years reckonable residency or three years reckonable residency based on the spouse or civil partner of an Irish citizen.

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service proposes to render decisions for naturalisation applications within six months.

Despite the INIS website stating that “in general, it takes 6 months for a straightforward application to be processed from  the date it is received to the date a decision is made”, in the experience of Berkeley Solicitors, many people continue to experience delays well beyond the proposed time frames.

We are aware of an increasing number of applicants who have been waiting more than two years on the determination of their application. We are also aware of a number of applicants waiting up to four years on their determination.

These long and continued delays in the processing of naturalisation applications has been understandably very frustrating for our clients. Many of our clients are not provided with an explanation for these inordinate delays.

We note this issue has previously been reviewed in Dana Salman v Minister for Justice and Equality. This case involved a hearing in order to establish liability of costs in respect of Judicial Review proceedings challenging the Minister’s delay, of three years and nine months, in issuing a decision on an application for naturalisation.

As no reason for the delay had been given by the Minister and no system was in place to ensure to fair processing of such applications, on 16th December 2011, Mr Justice Kearns of the Supreme Court awarded costs to the Applicant.

Further, we would highlight that in June 2011, then Minister for Justice and Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter stated that, upon entering office, he had taken steps to deal with the extensive backlog of citizenship applications and under the new system, those applying for citizenship would receive “a decision on their application within six months”.

Unfortunately, for a large number of clients, this time-frame has not been adhered to.

There are very substantial delays now occurring in the processing of applications for naturalisation and we have noticed an increased number of clients contacting our office in recent weeks, with queries as to what the options available to them are.

Due to these ongoing delays, our office has issued High Court Judicial Review proceedings on behalf of our some clients, to challenge these unlawful delays before the High Court, which are causing severe stress and anxiety to those lawfully resident in Ireland and who meet the requirements under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956.

Our office is experienced in the submission of applications for naturalisation as an Irish citizen and do our best to assist our clients through this lengthy application process. If you or your family are impacted by these issues or similar issues, please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss this in more detail.

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.