Coronavirus: Immigration permits to be extended temporarily

Minister says status of thousands of people could become ‘unlawful’ through no fault of their own

Foreign nationals with visas due to expire in the coming weeks will be able to remain in Ireland until at least May 20th under a temporary extension announced by the Department of Justice in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service on Burgh Quay in Dublin will also temporarily close its doors as part of range of measures being taken in response to the coronavirus.

In a statement released late on Friday night, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said non-EEA nationals with immigration permission due to expire in the near future would be granted an automatic renewal of their visas for two months.

He said the immigration status of thousands of people living in Ireland could become “unlawful” through no fault of their own if permission to remain in the country was not extended.

The decision to close the Burgh Quay registration office was due to the “high footfall, challenges in maintaining social distancing and to ensure consistency across the system”, the Minister said.

These measures will also apply to immigration registrations and renewals that take place outside of Dublin. These take place in garda stations and are overseen by local immigration officers. The department said the moves would free-up members of the force for other duties.

Three categories of foreign nationals will be affected by the development - those who currently hold valid permission to be in Ireland but need to renew this; those who arrived in the State in the past three months and were awaiting their first immigration registration appointment, and those who had been granted three month permission (a short stay visa) to remain in Ireland.

“I want to assure people whose immigration permissions are due to expire shortly that your legal status in the country will be maintained,” said Mr Flanagan.

“If your immigration or international protection permission will expire between March 20th, 2020 and May 20th, 2020, I am granting you an automatic renewal for two months. This renewal is on the same basis as your existing permission and the same conditions will continue to apply.”

Mr Flanagan said he would keep the situation under active review as the Covid-19 pandemic evolves.

Any person who had already scheduled a visa appointment and is now impacted by these changes will be contacted by Immigration Service Delivery, the department said.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast