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Question

773. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if international students will be granted entry here if the language school or college at which they have been accepted is delivering classes through a mix of blended learning or exclusively online; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18335/20]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Helen McEntee): The question of entry for any individual, visa or non-visa required, is determined by the Immigration Officer at the port of entry at the time the individual seeks entry into the State.  All relevant factors are taken into account with the principal ones being the purpose of the visit, the duration of stay, the ability of the individual to support themselves during their stay, and proof that the person will exit the country on or before the expiry of any permission given.
Each application for entry to the State is assessed on its own merits. Therefore, it is advisable for the individual to carry any relevant documentation for presentation to the Immigration Officer on arrival. It may be noted that the powers granted to an Immigration Officer are not unfettered. The Immigration Act 2004 provides for the grounds on which an individual may be granted or refused leave to land at a port of entry.
Further information on visa requirements and documentation recommended for entry into the State is available on our website at :  http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/check-irish-visa
The Government is advising against non-essential travel until further notice and anyone entering the State is required to self-isolate for 14 days unless arriving from one of the countries on the Covid-19 Green List published by the Department of the Taoiseach. All passengers are required to complete a mandatory Public Health Passenger Locator Form on arrival.
The longstanding policy in this area is that attending an online course is not a valid reason to be present in the State. The only exception to this was during the Covid-19 restrictions when language schools physically closed and such schools were allowed to conduct online courses for continuing students only.   My Department wrote to such English language schools on the Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP) in this regard.
To facilitate Higher Education Students whose courses may not start as usual, the Immigration Service Delivery (ISD) function of my Department intends that all visas which issue to students for the September intake will be valid until a latest date of 31 January 2021, with a maximum validity of 6 months rather than the usual 3 month period. For example:
1. Visa issued 31/07/2020 – valid to 31/01/2021 (6 months)
2. Visa issued 15/09/2020 – valid to 31/01/2021 (4.5 months)
3. Visa issued 15/11/2020 – valid to 31/01/2021 – (3 months)
Non-EEA students arriving in the State between now and the end of 2020, must possess documentary evidence from their college/institution to show they are required to be physically present in the State for face to face classes or practical training.
The Immigration Service of my Department is currently working with the English Language Sector and the Department of Higher Education, through their English Language Education working group which is considering the planning and range of measures which would need to be taken by the language schools to ensure safe management of the arrival of any prospective English Language students, having regard to the priority of protecting public health in the current circumstances, as well as considering criteria which could apply in order to allow reopening of ELE schools using a blended learning model for students in the State.