Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for Justice when the short stay visa waiver programme will be recommenced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25618/21]
673. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice if her Department will permit a person (details supplied) to re-enter the State to attend work. [26380/21]
674. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice when her Department will resume processing entry visa applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26381/21]
675. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice when her Department plans to resume the processing of certain priority and emergency visa applications for chefs or food workers in addition to the limited exemptions currently in place for transit workers, journalists and medical workers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26382/21]
679. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Justice when the recently amended visa requirements for visitors previously visa exempt and the restrictions imposed on the making of visa applications other than priority, emergency applications will be reversed; if visa applications from family members of Irish residents including spouses, partners and dependent children are currently being accepted and processed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26423/21]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): I propose to take Questions Nos. 634, 673 to 675, inclusive, and 679 together.
The Government and public health advice is clear, everybody should avoid non-essential travel completely. The travel restrictions are part of the Government’s efforts to interrupt the transmission of COVID-19 and they are designed to support our current public health restrictions on movement, including into and out of Ireland.
The decision to temporarily cease accepting new visa/preclearance applications, with the exception of Priority or Emergency applications, applies to all countries and has been in place since 29 January 2021. The situation will be reviewed in consultation with the relevant authorities as part of the consideration of matters relating to international travel more generally by Government. The Department’s Immigration Service intends to resume accepting non-priority applications when possible. The short stay visa waiver programme was also suspended in July 2020, and its reintroduction will depend on when the restrictions on short stay visas are lifted.
Priority/Emergency cases currently 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;
- journalists, when performing their duties.
The framework for these restrictive measures is set out in the Government’s Resilience and Recovery: Plan for Living with COVID-19. When making such decisions, the Government considers the expert public health advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to tackle the disease.