The Irish government has further eased visa conditions for international language students that proposes additional emergency relief and financing to help sustain Irish language schools through the post-pandemic recovery. More than 150,000 students attend ELT programmes in Ireland every year. The Irish government has also recently released a five-stage blueprint for re-opening the economy as the company transitions out of lockdown provisions. The country is now in the first phase of that process. Institutions and schools are not projected to re-open until the fifth and final stage which is currently targeted to begin on 10 August.
Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, has introduced a package of temporary measures to ease visa conditions for international students following language courses in Ireland on May 26th. The provisions are:
*Visiting students who were forced by the pandemic to leave Ireland before completing their planned studies may return and resume their courses, without the term of their absence from the country counting toward the two-year period permitted for English language study.
*Those students with a current, valid study visa who have remained in Ireland, and have completed that two-year limit on language study, will be permitted to remain in the country until such time as they can safely travel home. They will be required, however, to re-enrol in an online course for the balance of this year.
These new measures follow an earlier announcement by the Minister providing for an automatic two-month renewal of any study visas due to expire between 20 May and 20 July. For visiting language students, this means that they may continue to work during the extension period but must also re-enrol in an on-line course of study during that time. (Under the terms of their study visa (formally, a Stamp 2 permission), language students are permitted to work in casual employment for a maximum of 20 hours per week during the school term and up to 40 hours per week during holiday period).
The apex body Marketing English in Ireland (MEI) has recently published a recovery plan, which is, in effect, a special briefing on the sector for the Irish government. The plan calls for emergency relief for language schools, including the continuation or introduction of new programmes of wage subsidies, commercial rent relief, and tax deferrals. The MEI brief also proposes the creation of a €50 million fund to provide grants and loans to Irish language schools.