COVID-19: Immigration and Employment Permits UpdateWednesday, 01 April 2020
Both the Immigration Service Delivery (formerly the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service) (“ISD”) and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (the “Department”) have issued updates in recent days on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on immigration and employment permit services.
1. Registration and visa applications
The ISD has stated that:
- All immigration and international protection permissions to reside in the State that are due to expire between 20 March 2020 and 20 May 2020 are automatically renewed by the Minister for two months, on the same basis and conditions of the existing permission.
- The Registration Office in Burgh Quay, along with the Registration Offices outside Dublin operated by An Garda Síochána are temporarily closed.
- New visa applications will not be processed until normal operations resume, except for certain priority or emergency categories, such as healthcare professionals or persons legally resident in the State. A full list is available at: http://www.inis.gov.ie/
A list of frequently asked questions in relation to immigration services is available here: http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Immigration-Service-Delivery-Covid-19-FAQ-2.pdf/Files/Immigration-Service-Delivery-Covid-19-FAQ-2.pdf.
2. Employment permits
The Department has stated that:
- The Employment Permits Section (“EPS”) office has been closed and all staff are working remotely. As a result, all correspondence and issuing of documents will be by email. The EPS can be contacted by email during this time at firstname.lastname@example.org. The following services are now being provided electronically:
- Applications for Stamp 4 letters of support;
- Reviews of employment permit decisions;
- Trusted Partner registrations; and
- Transfer of Undertaking changes.
- There will be increased flexibility in dealing with issues that arise and that changes to applications already submitted, such as the contract start date, will be facilitated; applications may be held in the processing queue for processing at a later date; or applications may be withdrawn prior to processing with a full refund if the withdrawal is as a result of the pandemic.
- As referred to above, ISD have extended immigration permissions due to expire between 20 March 2020 and 20 May 2020 by two months. If delays arise in processing employment permit renewal applications, employment permit holders may continue to live and work under the same terms and conditions of their existing permission.
- New employment permits will issue electronically by way of a PDF, along with an accompanying letter, both of which should be presented to immigration officials on entering the State. Once operations return to normal, the original and certified copy permits will be issued in the normal manner.
- Where the original or certified copy employment permits are due to be returned to the Department on cessation of employment, this will not be required until the resumption of normal operations.
3. Changes to terms and conditions
Usually, a new employment permit is not required if minor changes are made to the terms and conditions of the employment for which a permit has been granted, such as change of occupation title with duties remaining largely the same or a change of work location, although such changes should be notified to the Department. However for material changes such as changes to remuneration and contract conditions, normally a new permit would be required. In light of the pandemic, the Department will seek to be as flexible as possible and will consider the situations on a case by case basis when brought to the Department's attention. In circumstances where the Government has advised all employees to work from home where possible, the Department has also stated that all employment permit holders can work remotely from home, once the employer notifies the Department. Once the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, the employees will be expected to again work from the locations stated on the employment permit.
4. Lay-off, short-time or redundancy as a result of COVID-19
If an employment permit holder is laid-off or working reduced hours, the Department should be informed in advance. At renewal stage, the salary and working hours as per the conditions of the permit granted may not have been achieved, however the Department will be cognisant that this is likely to be related to the measures introduced to deal with COVID-19 and will take this into account when considering applications for renewal.
If an employment permit holder has been made redundant, the Department should be informed within four weeks. The individual may seek employment in any eligible occupation and apply for a permit within six months of being made redundant. The Labour Market Needs Test is waived within this six month period. The employer will not be able to secure an employment permit for that occupation for a period of six months.
Further information is available at: https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Workplace-and-Skills/Employment-Permits/.
5. Employment supports
The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment applies to non-EEA workers who have lost employment due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Details of this payment are available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/service/be74d3-covid-19-pandemic-unemployment-payment/
In addition, the Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme which is open to qualifying employers can be used to subsidise payments to employees who are permit holders.
Details of this scheme are available here: https://revenue.ie/en/news/articles/guidance-on-the-temporary-covid-19-wage-subsidy-scheme.aspx
Please note that the content of this summary does not amount to professional advice. Legal and tax advice should be sought in respect of specific queries. The COVID-19 situation is evolving rapidly and this update is provided on the basis of information available as at 1 April 2020.