632. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Justice the details of changes to the visa requirements for citizens of other jurisdictions made since 1 January 2021; the rationale for these changes; if sunset clauses are included in the changes related to Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8983/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): As part of Government efforts to tackle the pandemic, new visa requirements on passport holders from a number of countries came into effect at midnight on 27 January 2021. Passport holders of the following countries are now required to apply for an entry visa or transit visa, as appropriate, before travelling to Ireland:
- South Africa
- Colombia (transit visa now required – this country was already subject to entry visa requirements)
- Ecuador (transit visa now required – this country was already subject to entry visa requirements)
- Peru (transit visa now required – this country was already subject to entry visa requirements)
- Suriname (transit visa now required – this country was already subject to entry visa requirements)
In addition to the visa requirements above, my Department has temporarily ceased accepting new visa/preclearance applications, with effect from close of business on 29 January 2021, with the exception of those applications which are considered priority/emergency applications. This list includes 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.
These measures are designed to support our public health restrictions on movement, including into and out of Ireland. The travel restrictions and the measures introduced as part of the Government’s efforts to interrupt the transmission of COVID-19, mean 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. Enforcement of this measure has been strongly increased over the last few days.
The strong advice therefore is that everyone, regardless of their nationality or visa/preclearance status, or where they started from, who cannot provide proof of an essential purpose to travel to or within Ireland, should not travel to Ireland.
The situation will continue to be reviewed by the Government in consultation with the relevant authorities in the coming weeks.