1427. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Justice if she will provide certainty for the English language education sector by providing a commitment to a timely return to pre-pandemic visa rules for English language students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19396/21]


Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): Since the start of the pandemic, my Department has been part of a Working Group facilitated by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (DFHERIS). The Working Group includes representatives of relevant Government Departments, English language providers, staff, and students. Part of the work of the Group has included the development of re-opening protocols and an adaptation framework and discussing the issues and concerns of the sector.
The Immigration Service of my Department has temporarily ceased 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.
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.