With the first case of COVID-19 in Ireland having been confirmed just over a year ago, it is timely to pause and reflect on the immigration and mobility challenges of the past year. Perhaps more importantly, now is the time to focus on key considerations and strategic planning to help companies navigate towards the workplace of the future.
From the outset, the Irish immigration authorities have consistently reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic, and continue to do so. The recent announcement from the Minister for Justice extending immigration permissions until 20 September 2021, despite having said that the previous automatic extension would be the last, is one further example of this pragmatic approach in line with an ever-changing landscape.
The extension means that any individual who is legally resident in Ireland is permitted to remain until 20 September, even if their Irish Residence Permit (IRP) has expired. As a reminder to those individuals resident in Dublin, they should continue to renew their immigration permission via the online renewal system. Those resident outside of Dublin should continue to seek a renewal appointment with their local immigration registration office.
The extension also applies to first time arrivals in Ireland who are unable to obtain a first time registration appointment prior to the expiry of the entry stamp in their passport. Employers should encourage employees who need to renew their immigration permission to do so as a matter of priority.
Individuals outside of Ireland with expired permissions should ensure to check the latest updates prior to seeking re-entry to Ireland.
This is particularly important for any visa required nationals as they will be required to obtain an entry visa prior to travelling where their IRP has expired.
This may be a challenge due to the temporary suspension of visa application processing which is in place until 5 April 2021. Only priority or emergency cases are currently being processed and this is very much being assessed on a case by case basis
Employers and employees should also ensure that the visa required national list is checked prior to travel as this has been updated in recent months with citizens of South Africa and all South American nationals, some of whom could previously avail of visa free travel to Ireland, now required to obtain a visa prior to travelling.
This temporary measure, together with a new mandatory quarantine requirement, was announced in response to restrictions already in place in Ireland to protect public health and to mitigate the risk of new variants of COVID-19 entering Ireland.
Mandatory quarantine came into force in Ireland effective from 4am on 26 March. This applies to passengers arriving from certain “high risk” countries and the Government will continue to review and update this list as required. Employers should be mindful of this requirement and the additional cost involved in this step.
All passengers entering Ireland are required to show a negative result of a pre-departure PCR test taken 72 hours prior to arrival in Ireland, and those who cannot show this will be subject to mandatory quarantine. Employers should also ensure to remind any employees travelling or relocating to Ireland to complete the COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form prior to travelling.
In other updates, holders of Stamp 2 student immigration permission have received some clarity around eligibility for seeking Stamp 1G Graduate Scheme permission during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Students currently in Ireland together with those who have returned to their home countries to complete their studies remotely during the pandemic can avail of Graduate Scheme permission by submitting applications electronically to the Registration Office at Burgh Quay.
Looking forward, the Department of Justice has also published its action plan for 2021.
Inherent to the plan is the goal to deliver a fair immigration system for a digital age and ensure a simplified, accessible and user friendly online immigration system which is to be welcomed.
The Department’s commitment to clear the backlog of citizenship applications will undoubtedly also be welcomed by those who currently have applications pending as well as prospective applicants.
The immigration landscape is one which has undergone a sudden and unprecedented period of change over the last 12 months, with many employers finding themselves grappling with an uncertain reactive approach when COVID-19 initially struck.
It is becoming increasingly evident that the way we work and the ability to travel will be impacted by COVID-19 for a significant time to come. Employers can however continue to look forward and use this time to strategically plan and design revised immigration and global mobility frameworks and policies which will ensure a smooth transition to a new way of working and travelling when countries begin to re-open for business.
Some key considerations employers need to think about as they plan for the reopening of borders and the workplace of the future include:
If you have any queries in relation to any employees who are affected by any of the above updates, or want to get in touch regarding assistance in strategic planning and future moves for your employees, please contact the PwC immigration team.