Irish Immigration in a Post-coronavirus Age

In this Business Post article, Róisín Fitzpatrick, Tax & Legal Partner, Deloitte Ireland, discusses the Government's move to digitalise many of its immigration applications in combating challenges posed by Covid-19

Despite the difficulties of the global pandemic, Ireland has continued to welcome talented individuals from around the world who possess critical skillsets.

This country has a strong business environment which hosts many multinational companies. Due to the improved digital processes, multinationals and local Irish business are able to scout the best talent from around the world.

In comparison to other countries, immigration permission costs are low, family reunification is permitted (for most workers) and resident labour market testing is not required for highly skilled individuals.

When Covid-19 hit Irelandin March 2020 and the majority of government employees were required to work from home, this did not halt the processing of Irish employment permit applications. The department continued to issue employment permits, which ensured that companies were able to continue hiring the talent required.

To combat some of the challenges, the Irish government digitalised many of its immigration applications. Since the start of the pandemic, the government has allowed the following:

  • Employment permits have been issued electronically, rather than as hard copies;
  • Paper-based applications (such as EU Treaty Rights applications) have been permitted electronic filing; and
  • The residence permit renewal pro- cess in Dublin successfully moved in the summer of 2020 to an online platform.

These welcome changes have simplified filing processes, in addition to the positive environmental impact. Application processing times are swifter, as applicants do not have to rely on the delivery of their employ-ment permits overseas.

The online residence permit renewal platform should allow for an increase in first time appointments at the registration office in Dublin, now that it has reopened. Finally, further digitalisation could help in allowing SARP application claims to the Revenue Commissioners for work permit holders to be processed more efficiently.

In 2020, Ireland was ranked second in the world for adaptability and flexibility according to the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook, 2020 and Human Development Index 2020. Thegovernment has also taken the initiative by promoting a national remote work strategy to facilitate employees to work from home. During the pandemic, Ireland has permitted all foreign nationals to work from their homes in Ireland without the need to make any formal updates to their work permission.

This is likely to provide further job opportunities for people living in rural Ireland, people with disabilities and people with caring responsibilities. Potentially, there is scope to extend remote working opportunities for foreign national family members to allow greater labour market access, through the likes of nomad visas, which we’ve seen implemented in Barbados.

Whilst Covid-19 has brought many challenges in terms of the cessation of entry visa processing, hotel quarantines and closure of the Dublin registration office, we are anticipating that the future will bring positive changes for immigration in our post Covid society. Goal 4 of the Department of Justice’s Statement of Strategy for 2021-23 issued this year aims to ‘deliver a fair immigration system for a digital age’. IDA’s recent Facts About Ireland pays tribute to Ireland’s proven track record for a successful location for leading multinationals (Ireland has been chosen by nine of the top ten pharmaceutical and US technology companies as an example).

The Irish immigration system will need to continue to adapt to the needs of its migrant population to continue to thrive as a diverse and economically successful country.

This article was first published in the Business Post on Sunday, 16 May 2021. 

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