376. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Justice when her Department will begin accepting new visa preclearance applications again after they were suspended on 29 January 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25376/21]


Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): As part of Government efforts to tackle the pandemic, in January 2021, new visa requirements on passport holders from a number of South American countries and South Africa were introduced and the Immigration Service of my Department also took the decision to temporarily cease accepting new visa/preclearance applications from all countries, with the exception of the Priority/Emergency case types listed below.
Priority/emergency cases from all nationalities will continue to be accepted/processed and these include the following:
- Workers or self-employed persons exercising critical occupations including healthcare workers, frontier and posted workers as well as seasonal workers as referred to in the Guidelines concerning the exercise of the free movement of workers during the COVID-19 outbreak;
- transport workers or transport service providers, including drivers of freight vehicles carrying goods for use in the territory as well as those merely transiting;
- patients travelling for imperative medical reasons;
- pupils, students and trainees who travel abroad on a daily basis and Third-country nationals travelling for the purpose of 3rd level study;
- persons travelling for imperative family or business reasons;
- diplomats, staff of international organisations and people invited by international organisations whose physical presence is required for the well-functioning of these organisations, military personnel and police officers, and humanitarian aid workers and civil protection personnel in the exercise of their functions;
- passengers in transit;
- seafarers;
- journalists, when performing their duties.
If a person's application falls into one of these categories, they can apply on-line in the usual way. However, before proceeding with an on-line application, they should check with their local Embassy/Honorary Consulate/Visa Office to confirm that their application meets the priority/emergency criteria as outlined.
These measures are designed to support our current public health restrictions on movement, including into and out of Ireland. The increased travel restrictions, along with the mandatory hotel quarantine measures introduced as part of the Government’s efforts to interrupt the transmission of COVID-19, means that travel may not be possible and even if possible is not advisable unless absolutely essential.
When making such decisions, the Government considers the expert public health advices of NPHET to tackle the disease. The situation will continue to be reviewed in consultation with the relevant authorities in the coming weeks.