COVID-19: Immigration - Temporary Work Permit Arrangements
COVID-19: Immigration - Temporary Work Permit Arrangements
Continuing need for valid work permit
As discussed in our previous COVID-19 immigration update, due to COVID-19 any individual whose current Irish immigration permission is due to expire between 20 March and 20 May 2020 will be deemed to have their existing permission automatically renewed by the Minister for Justice and Equality for a period of two months.
However, if that individual requires a work permit, the permit will not automatically be renewed or extended by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) during the period of the COVID-19 crisis. In order for that individual to have continued permission to work in Ireland a new employment permit or renewal must be sought from the DBEI.
It is only if there are delays in processing employment permit renewal applications or Stamp 4 letters of support (such that an individual's current permit expires) that employment permit holders may continue to live and work under the same terms and conditions of their existing permission. It is important that an application for a permit renewal or Stamp 4 would be made prior to the previous work permit expiring and this is in keeping with the DBEI's normal procedures.
Temporary work permit arrangements
The DBEI has implemented a number of important temporary arrangements regarding work permits for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis which employers should be aware of:
1. The DBEI continues to process employment permits as normal during this period
Permits will now issue by email (pdf) rather than by post.
The minor delays caused by the Department's prioritisation of medical work permits in recent weeks have been mainly resolved and it is currently taking five weeks for trusted partner applications and 14 weeks for standard applications to be processed.
2. New online procedures for various applications and reviews
As part of its efforts to ensure business continuity, the DBEI has implemented temporary procedures to process various additional applications electronically, where previously this was not possible:
Stamp 4 Letter of Support
Reviews of rejected permit applications
Applications for Trusted Partner Status
Applications may now be submitted by completing the required form and emailing them to the relevant address as set out here:
*No current requirement to file hard copy of application.
Any decision on an application, including the grant letter, will be communicated to the applicant by email. Any applications that have been made by post in recent days can be resubmitted through the online process.
3. Employment permit holders working from home
For the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, employment permit holders are permitted to work remotely from home in Ireland once their employer notifies the DBEI of this.
The DBEI has stated that it does not require the names of the employees concerned, only the name of the employer. However, in practice we understand the DBEI is in fact asking for the names of employees.
4. Laying off / reducing working hours and pay of permit holders
The DBEI should be informed in advance by an employer (via email) if any permit holders are being temporarily laid off or having their working hours or pay reduced.
At renewal stage, if the salary and working hours actually provided to the employee do not match the conditions on which the permit was granted (i.e. because pay was cut or a permit holder was laid off temporarily), the DBEI has confirmed it will acknowledge that this may be due to the measures adopted by the Irish Government to deal with the outbreak of COVID-19 and will take this into account when considering any application for renewal.
It is important to note that permit holders who have been laid off due to COVID-19 are entitled to avail of the Government's Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.
5. Employment permit holders who have been made redundant
The permit holder may then seek employment in any eligible occupation and apply for a new permit within six months of the date of his/her redundancy.
It is important to note that permit holders who have been made redundant due to COVID-19 are entitled to avail of the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
6. Surrender of existing employment permits when employment ends
In the normal course where an employee leaves employment prior to the expiry of an employment permit, the DBEI requires that the original and certified copy employment permits are returned to the DBEI within four weeks.
In the current circumstances, the DBEI recognises that this may not be possible and asks that such permits be returned as soon as possible when normal employment permit operations resume.
7. Permit applications for visa-required nationals
As noted previously, the Irish State has temporarily stopped accepting new visa applications. This amounts to a partial travel ban by the back door and means that effective from 20 March 2020 non-EEA nationals from visa-required countries such as China, India, Russia, Pakistan, Turkey and Ukraine may not enter Ireland (subject to some exceptions).
The DBEI appears to be continuing to process permits for visa-required nationals that were submitted and awaiting processing prior to 20 March 2020. It appears that new permit applications for visa-required nationals will not be accepted, other than in exceptional cases.
We understand the DBEI will contact relevant parties to establish if they wish to proceed with any such ongoing applications. The DBEI can continue to hold the application in the processing queue, change the employment start date or facilitate a withdrawal of the application with a full (though delayed) refund.
Flexible approach to permit issues
The DBEI has undertaken to be flexible in dealing with employment permit issues that arise due to the COVID-19 crisis. However, some questions remain outstanding.
For example, it is not clear how the DBEI will address situations where employee's permits expire during the COVID-19 crisis, but the individual is unable to return to their country of origin due to travel restrictions. Is their current employer allowed to continue to employ that individual on an interim basis until they can leave Ireland, even if the employer does not wish to formally extend that individual's contract to work in Ireland via a new permit or a renewal? Alternatively, can such an individual seek work elsewhere on a temporary basis without the need for a permit? It is not clear that an individual in that situation would be entitled to the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment if the reason for their non-employment is unrelated to the COVID-19 crisis.
The DBEI's guidance note has provided some helpful clarity on this area in light of the current COVID-19 crisis. The DBEI has generally taken a practical approach to issues that arise for employment permit and Stamp 4 applications.