The Department of Justice has extended visas for international students studying English in Ireland until the end of the year.
According to Marketing English in Ireland (MEI), the representative body for the majority of language schools in Ireland, more than 10,000 students were forced to stay here due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.
The Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan had previously announced the extension of visas that were due to expire between 20 May 2020 and 20 July by two months. Now, the visa extensions apply to the end of the year.
However, Minister Flanagan pointed out that the students can stay on provided they re-enrol in an online course of study for the remainder of the year.
MEI has confirmed that most colleges are now offering online courses, and students should contact their college directly to make any necessary arrangements.
Students will be required to register to re-enrol in an online course of study until the end of the year. These students must re-register once the Registration Offices reopen.
The registration office in Burgh Quay in Dublin is closed and will only reopen when it is safe to do so, in line with Government’s Roadmap. When the Registration Office reopens, priority will be given to those seeking to register for the first time.
International language students are allowed to study English here for a maximum of two years. During that time, they are also allowed to work in casual employment for a maximum of 20 hours per week during school term and 40 hours per week during holidays.
Due to the many Covid-19 closures, most of them lost their jobs, but the Covid-19 Unemployment payment was made available to them.
It was also announced today that any students who left the State before completing their studies due to Covid-19 may return and resume their studies.
The duration of their absence will not count towards the two-year maximum period of English language study allowed.
Announcing these measures, Minister Flanagan said: "I understand and recognise the difficulties that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on all immigrants, and in particular our international student population.
"I’m therefore pleased to be able to announce these new measures to support students which I hope will provide some welcome assurance and certainty for the coming months.
"We will continue to keep the situation under active review as matters evolve in our national response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”