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English Language Training Organisations

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 30 June 2020

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Questions (293)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

293. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on a document (details supplied); if she is considering introducing the measures outlined; her plans to engage with the groups; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12972/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

My Department has taken extensive measures to date to support students and the English language educational sector all the while engaging with MEI (Marketing English in Ireland), the representative body for the majority of language schools in Ireland. With regard to the visa measures outlined in the document referred to by the Deputy, my Department is committed to retaining the current Stamp 2 permission and the ancillary right to work for students holding this permission.

On 13 May 2020, my Department 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. This exceptional temporary measure also applies to non-nationals currently outside the State, provided the person otherwise meets the conditions set out in the notices.

On 26 May 2020 further measures were introduced 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.

These new measures to support students will provide some 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.

MEI (Marketing English in Ireland) have confirmed that most colleges are now offering on-line courses, and students should contact their college directly to make any necessary arrangements.

Visa required students will need to apply for a visa before returning to the State if the validity period of the visa held 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.

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.

A new online Registration Renewal System for non-EEA national students based in Dublin was launched by my Department on 22 June, 2020.

Students wishing to renew their registration will complete their renewal online without having to book an appointment or personally attend the registration office. The service will be made available to all categories of non-EEA national students residing in the Dublin area only, who are eligible for renewal of their permission to reside in Ireland.

Students seeking to renew their permission will now complete the application form online via the following link https://inisonline.jahs.ie, upload copies of supporting documents online, pay the applicable fee and then submit their passport and current IRP card via registered post. Documents will be checked and, if approved, the passport will be stamped and returned by registered post and an IRP card issued by express post.

In general, the requirements for which countries are visa required to come to Ireland are kept under regular review in consultation with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. There are a wide range of factors that need to be taken into account, including the promotion of business and trade and facilitating people who genuinely wish to come here. However, there are a number of other factors that also must be taken into consideration when any change to the visa regime is contemplated.

The Government is pursuing a strategy of greater co-ordination and co-operation on visa issues with the United Kingdom (UK) in the context of the Common Travel Area (CTA) and the future expansion of the British-Irish Visa scheme. This scheme, which is agreed on a country by country basis, enables short stay visa holders to travel freely within the CTA. Since its launch for China and India there has been a substantial increase in the numbers of visitors from these countries. As part of this greater co-operation, the matter of alignment of those States whose citizens are visa required is an important consideration. The greater the extent of alignment between the two jurisdictions, the greater the opportunity to increase the numbers of tourism and business visits to the CTA.

As with all visa services worldwide, the overarching concern is to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the country's vital national interests by maintaining an effective immigration regime, while at the same time facilitating travel for those who want to come to Ireland.

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 website at: 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.

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