The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) has published a contingency plan to keep the employment permits system operational during the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan allows for online submission for a number of immigration processes and indicates the DBEI will be flexible during the pandemic.

The plan was implemented March 30 and there is currently no end date.

Key Points:

  • Employment permits will be issued electronically. Authorities will issue PDF versions of employment permits to the employer, employee and immigration agent. The employment permit will be accompanied by a letter from DBEI. Both the permit and the letter should be kept for verification purposes. Once operations return to normal, the original and certified copies of the employment permit will be sent to the employer and employee.
  • Applications for Stamp 4 Letters of Support (renewals of CSEPs) may now be submitted electronically. The form should be submitted to Decisions, including grant letters, will be communicated via email. Applications recently submitted by post can be resubmitted online. Applications can be submitted after 20 months of continuous employment on a Critical Skills employment permit but will not be processed until after 21 months.
  • Appeals of Employment Permit decisions may now be submitted electronically. The form should be submitted to Decisions will be communicated via email.
  • Employees retain permission to continue working while renewal is processing. Applications to renew an employment permit can be submitted between 1-4 months before the expiry of the current permit. Employment permit holders will be allowed to remain in Ireland and continue working while their renewal is processed. Once a new employment permit is issued, permit holders can apply to the Department of Justice and Equality to update their immigration permission.
  • Trusted Partner (renewal and new) applications, Statement of Loss and Transfer of Undertakings can be submitted electronically.
  • Rules requiring the surrender of employment permits have been suspended. Neither companies nor individuals will be required to return employment permits within the standard four-week period after the cessation of employment. DBEI expects that originals and certified copies will be returned only after normal operations resume.
  • Accommodations may be made for applicants with pending applications. DBEI has said it can hold applications in the processing queue, change start dates or cancel applications with a full refund if the withdrawal is related to COVID-19.
  • Applicants from visa-required countries will be contacted about their applications. Ireland has stopped processing entry visas because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Emergency entry visa applications may be accepted for a limited number of applicants, including for healthcare professionals or immediate family members of Irish nationals. The suspension of visa issuance, however, will make it impossible for some employment permit applicants from visa-required countries to enter Ireland at this time. In these cases, both the employer and employee will be contacted. DBEI can hold applications in the queue, amend start dates or return applications with a full refund.
  • Employment permit section should be contacted by email rather than post.
  • Employment permit holders may work from home. An employer should send a blanket notification to DBEI.
  • Officials are working to address temporary layoffs, reduced working hours and redundancy as a result of COVID-19. DBEI should be informed in advance of the temporary layoff/reduced working hours to record it in the permit file. At renewal stage, the salary and working hours as per the conditions of the permit granted may not have been achieved, however, DBEI has noted that where it is related to COVID-19, they will take this into account when considering applications for renewal. The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment scheme is available to all employees or self-employed workers, including non-EEA nationals, who lost their job on or after March 13 because of the pandemic. The Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme is available to help employers keep employees, including employment permit holders, on payroll throughout the pandemic. The Deloitte tax team has produced this article to give further information.
  • If an employment permit holder has been made redundant, DBEI should be notified. DBEI should be informed within four weeks of the redundancy date, via the relevant Redundancy Form. The employment permit holder may seek employment in any eligible occupation and apply for a permit within six months of the date, and the Labour Market Needs Test is waived during those six months. The employer is then unable to secure an employment permit for that particular occupation for six months.
  • Analysis & Comments: The contingency plan addresses many of the policy points Deloitte raised to DBEI. It will ease immigration procedures for employers and employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The DBEI has indicated it will be flexible on a case-by-case basis with employers affected by covid-19. Employers are urged to review the plan and contact Deloitte with questions regarding their COVID-19 planning. Employers should expect processing delays, as employment permits for medical personnel will be prioritized.

Deloitte continues to update its Ireland FAQ document as more information becomes available. Please contact your Deloitte professional to discuss specific cases that may be impacted by the pandemic.

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