Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Questions (365)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

365. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the position in relation to students from abroad whose studies were interrupted who wish to return to complete their studies and whose visas have since expired; if they will be permitted to return to complete their studies; the documentation required to facilitate same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8036/20]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy may be aware that, on 13 May 2020, I announced that immigration permissions due to expire between 20 May and 20 July 2020 will be automatically extended for two months. Any permission which was renewed by an earlier notice of 20 March 2020 and which therefore has a new expiry date between 20 May 2020 and 20 July 2020 is also renewed. Provided the person otherwise meets the conditions set out in the notices, this exceptional temporary measure also applies to non-nationals currently outside the State.

The extension means that they may continue to work if they wish, but must also re-enrol in an on-line course of study to adhere to the conditions of their permission.

My Department has engaged with MEI (Marketing English in Ireland), the representative body for the majority of language schools in Ireland. MEI have confirmed that most colleges are now offering on-line courses, and students should contact their college directly to make any necessary arrangements.

I can also inform the Deputy that I made a further announcement on 26 May 2020 setting out further measures to assist international students studying English in Ireland who have been impacted upon by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new measures are as follows:

- Students who left the State before completion of their studies due to COVID-19 may return and resume their studies and the duration of their absence will not count towards the two years maximum period of English language study allowed; and

- International English language students with a current, valid permission who are still in the State and who have completed the maximum two years permitted as a language student, but due to COVID-19 are unable to return home, may remain as students until the end of the year provided they re-enrol in an online course of study for the remainder of the year.

I understand and recognise the difficulties that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on all immigrants, and in particular our international student population. I was, therefore, pleased to be able to announce these new measures to support students, which I hope will provide some welcome assurance and certainty for the coming months. We will continue to keep the situation under active review as matters evolve in our national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The renewal of permission is on the same basis as the existing permission and the same conditions attach. This means, for instance, that students will need to ensure that they remain enrolled on their course of study.

Visa required students will need to apply for a visa before returning to the State if the validity period of the visa has expired. While the Immigration Service has temporarily ceased accepting new visa applications, persons legally resident in the State are included in the categories of Priority/Emergency cases, which will continue to be processed. Visa required students are advised to consult the Immigration Service website for the required documentation - www.inis.gov.ie.

I can also advise the Deputy that while both the Dublin area Registration Office in Burgh Quay and regional Registration Offices operated by An Garda Síochána remain temporarily closed, arrangements have been put in place for students awaiting first time registration, students who wish to change their permission applications and students who wish to avail of the Third Level Graduate Programme.

Additionally, my Department is considering alternative arrangements for renewal of registrations and priority will be given initially to those whose Irish Residence Permit (IRP) card has expired.

Further updates will be provided on the Immigration Service website when available, and I would encourage all students to regularly consult our updates on the Immigration Service website at:

http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/COVID-19-updates-and-announcements.

A detailed Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document is also available on this website on the impact of COVID-19 on immigration and international protection. This document is regularly updated.

Question No. 366 answered with Question No. 334.