Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan has announced plans to extend all immigration permissions set to expire between 20 May and 20 July 2020 for two months.
This announcement comes in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. International Trinity students have been unsure about returning to study on Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) visas, this announcement providing limited clarity.
The announcement has, however, provided consolation to students who have also chosen to stay in Ireland during the pandemic, extending their visas while travel restrictions remain in place.
In a video posted to his Twitter, the minister outlined: “If you’re a student from outside the European Union, you’ll need to re-enrol on an online course of study in order to fulfil the conditions.”
He added that he is “in discussions with the colleges in this regard.”
Speaking to Trinity News, an international student from India voiced her concern about this attempt at reparation. While she plans to return to Trinity for her second year this September, her INIS visa expires on 31 May. This will mean that the two-month extension on the INIS visa will have no impact on her.
She expressed to Trinity News that she is unsure how she could return to Ireland. Even without possible school-year changes due to COVID-19, she would not expect to return to Dublin before late August or early September. She expressed worry that this change was, therefore, not enough to help students whose visas expire within the allotted time range.
Flanagan claimed to be in contact with universities in terms of aiding returning students; however, the problem is unresolved even with changes to the visa extensions.
In conversation with Trinity News, Trinity College Dublin Students Union (TCDSU) International Officer Salem Bakarat stated: “The decision to extend the expiration date of Stamp 2 VISAs is a great decision made by the Department of Justice and Equality.”
He said that he hopes that the department “continue to automatically renew student VISAs until the lockdown is completely over,” for which he “[does] not see any reason why they would not.”
“While it is a very uncertain time for everyone, the college has ensured that they are working to clarify as much as possible and as soon as possible what is going to happen next semester,” Bakarat added.
Trinity College Dublin Graduate Students’ Union (TCDGSU) president Shaz Oye also posted on her Twitter in response to the announcement. She stated: “Hopefully [it] offers some peace of mind to many of our fellow international students”.
Trinity’s Global Room remains open to assist any international students who are affected by the COVID-19 crisis.