1398. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Justice the status of the reopening of visa application centres and mandatory biometric enrolment for applicants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18709/21]


Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): As part of Government efforts to tackle the pandemic, on 27 January 2021, I signed an Order that imposes new visa requirements on passport holders from a number of South American countries and South Africa.
In addition to the new requirements, the Immigration Service of my department also took the decision to temporarily cease accepting new visa/preclearance applications with the exception of the Priority/Emergency case types, details of which can be found on the Immigration Service website at: . This process is effective from close of business on 29 January 2021, and applies to all countries.
These measures have now been extended to at least 5 May 2021, and the situation will continue to be reviewed in consultation with the relevant authorities in the coming weeks.
Increasing travel restrictions and the 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. It is currently against the law for any person (regardless of nationality or passport) to travel within Ireland for non-essential purposes and people can be fined for doing so.
The Visa Application Centres (VACs) are not currently closed, but are only accepting applications that fit the list of Priority/Emergency criteria. The VACs are also subject to local restrictions imposed by the authorities in the relevant country. Mandatory biometrics are only taken in a very small number of countries including China, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan and Nigeria.
Any resumption of services is subject to current health and safety advice in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Immigration Service intends to resume accepting all other application types as soon as safety concerns abate.