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15th Sep 2021

Approved ELT providers in Ireland will soon be permitted to resume international recruitment

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • Over the coming weeks, Ireland’s economy will reopen free of COVID-related government restrictions, with individuals and businesses expected to conduct themselves responsibly and safely of their own accord
  • By 22 October, eligible Irish English-language training providers will once again be permitted to recruit international students
  • The government has just announced that students whose visas are set to expire between 21 September 2021 and 15 January 2022 will be able to remain in Ireland until 15 January 2022, at which point they will be expected to have obtained a visa if they want to stay longer

Beginning this month and through October, the Irish government will relax most official COVID-related restrictions and place the onus on citizens and businesses to stay safe. Rules will be replaced with guidance “underpinned by a focus on public health advice, personal judgement and personal protective behaviours.”

The move reflects a priority of reopening the Irish economy and society and it naturally has implications for Irish educators – including those in the country’s normally thriving (pre-COVID) English-language training sector (ELT). Most importantly, Irish ELT providers will soon – if their programmes are government-approved – be able to recruit and welcome back international students.

The sector took a serious hit in 2020, with ELT enrolments down 73% year-over-year. Pre-COVID, more than 150,000 students attended ELT programmes in Ireland every year, and the sector’s total value to the Irish economy has been estimated at roughly €900 million.

More government guidance to come but some conditions already known

At this stage, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science is consulting with the Department of Justice to review the Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP) – i.e., the programmes approved to accept non-EU international students. Once the list is finalised, the ELT sector will be provided with a list of requirements that must be met for a significant reopening by 22 October.

Immigration permissions extended

Relatedly, the government has announced that students whose visas are set to expire between 21 September 2021 and 15 January 2022 will be able to remain in Ireland until 15 January 2022, at which point they will be expected to have obtained a visa if they want to stay longer. The Minister for Justice, Heather Humphreys TD, said in a press release:

“I want to reassure people whose immigration permissions are due to expire shortly that your legal status in the country will continue to be maintained. To do this, I am introducing a final automatic extension to 15 January 2022 for anyone already holding a valid permission. This extension will benefit those that have so far been unable to get an appointment to register a first time permission or have yet to renew an existing permission. However, I must emphasise that this will be the final temporary extension and I strongly encourage everyone to use the time between now and 15 January to make all efforts do so and not to wait until the last minute when demand may be high.”

Conditions for a safe return for ELT students and staff

Even though government guidance is still in the process of finalisation, ELT educators are working on the conditions they know they will have to meet to meet government approval. For example, providers are being asked to ensure they have a safe reopening plan in place for staff and students as a necessary prerequisite to recruiting internationally. When official government COVID rules transition to a model of personal accountability (a phase intended to be completed by 22 October), it won’t simply be a return to “business as usual.” Among other stipulations, the government is asking the sector to:

  • Ensure that all relevant protective measures, such as mask wearing and physical distancing, are in place and remain in alignment with evolving public health advice;
  • Ensure that sufficient resources and capacity are in place to meet the needs of both existing and any prospective new students;
  • Establish robust procedures for the safe arrival of new ELE students into the State, ensuring that relevant supports and information are in place to assist students to comply with travel restrictions and advices on arrival including where any restriction on movements or mandatory hotel quarantine is required;
  • Promote and encourage vaccine uptake among existing, new, and prospective students to the greatest extent possible;
  • Ensure that all staff and students are aware of the locations of nearby facilities for PCR testing, are encouraged to get tested if displaying any symptoms of COVID-19, [are told] not to attend in person if displaying symptoms and to self-isolate in the event of a positive test.

English-language providers planning to resume recruitment of non-EU/EEA students “will be required to notify ILEP of their reopening plans and to confirm that they have the capacity and capability to safely reopen, to safely bring students into the State in accordance with relevant travel restrictions and advices, to safely provide for their full cohort of students and to fully comply with any and all relevant public health guidelines.”

For additional background, please see:

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