Visa rules relaxed to allow for some family reunions and additional workers

Minister says Government still firmly against non-essential travel

Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys says the Government is ‘now making some small adjustments to support essential family reunification and essential business needs’. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times.

Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys says the Government is ‘now making some small adjustments to support essential family reunification and essential business needs’. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times.

 

Travel for essential family reunification is now allowed, with over 1,000 families likely to be impacted by the change, the acting Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys has said.

Visa applications will now be accepted for essential family reunification as well as from people who have been granted an employment permit and are travelling for “essential business or employment purposes”.

Ms Humphreys confirmed on Thursday the two new categories have been added to the priority/emergency list of visas being processed at this time.

The Minister said the Government remains “fully supportive” of the general policy against non-essential travel.

“However, we also recognise that the travel restrictions have been difficult for everyone involved, and we are now making some small adjustments to support essential family reunification and essential business needs,” she said.

“From today, we will resume processing all Long Stay ‘D’ Visa join family applications and preclearance applications, including for de facto partners of Irish nationals, and critical skills employment permit holders. I know that this news will come as a welcome relief to the families who will benefit from these new arrangements.

“There is welcome news too for businesses that have been hit hard by the pandemic. Applications will also be accepted from people who have been granted an employment permit and are travelling for essential business or employment purposes.”

Minister of State for Law Reform, Youth Justice and Immigration James Browne said expanding the priority categories to include people granted employment permits “gives a key signal to employers that Ireland remains open for business”.

“As we begin to reopen our economy, it is more important than ever that we support business endeavours,” he said.

The decision to temporarily cease accepting new visa/preclearance applications, with the exception of priority or emergency applications, applied to all countries and had been in place since January 29th, 2021.

Short stay visa applications are currently still not being accepted, except for cases that fall under the emergency/priority criteria.

“All travellers arriving into Ireland must continue to comply fully with the public health measures required by law, including completing a Covid-19 passenger locator form, pre-arrival PCR test and quarantine in a designated facility or at home, as appropriate,” according to the Department of Justice.

“The situation will continue to be reviewed in consultation with the relevant authorities in the coming weeks.”

Brian Killoran, chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said the announcement would be met with huge relief from many families “who contacted us in recent weeks and months, sharing their heartbreaking stories”.

“Families separated from loved ones - parents from children, spouses from each other - have been hoping for this for some time,” he said.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has been a very stressful time and this was magnified all the more for many migrants by the lack of certainty and ability to be united with their families.”

Colin Lenihan, information and support services coordinator with the council, said the Government must ensure that adequate resources are in place to deal with “the inevitable backlog efficiently”.

“We need to ensure that the families affected are reunited as quickly as possible, and are not separated further due to slow processing,” he said.