Ireland extends post-study work eligibility for distance learning students due to COVID

Ireland extends post-study work eligibility for distance learning students due to COVID

Short on time? Here are the highlights: 

Ireland allows international students in the second semester of Irish higher education programs to continue to benefit from employment rights after their studies if they study remotely outside of Ireland.
Temporary flexibility is comparable to that of Australia, Canada and the UK and more generous than the US and New Zealand rules
Ireland temporarily changed a key immigration policy for international students in light of COVID, in an effort to both improve students' ability to stay in Ireland to work after graduation and to discourage students from returning to Ireland during COVID.
International students studying online and / or remotely in the second semester of an Irish higher education program will remain eligible for the Bachelor's Degree (1G) program for a short period of time.
This program allows non-EU / EEA students who graduate with a degree from a recognized Irish awarding institution to stay in Ireland to seek employment at the university level for up to 24 months, depending on the level of education achieved. They can then apply for a Green Card (work permit) after 24 months. Before the pandemic and until now, students had to apply for the program while studying in Ireland in person.
Students studying at a distance in Ireland's 'Tier 8' or 'Tier 9' programs (including Honors Bachelors, Masters and Postgraduates) have until 31 May 2021 to apply.

Certain conditions must be met

Students can apply for this program if they returned to their home country due to the pandemic or were unable to get an appointment due to COVID restrictions. They can send their applications electronically to the Registry Office, Burgh Quay, Dublin, with scans of the required documentation. They must register in Ireland if they can return to the country. 

To be eligible, students must: 

A letter from their higher education institution stating that they were students for the 2020/2021 academic year; 
A letter from their higher education institution stating that this course was taught 100% remotely and that they were not required to attend classes in person.
A letter from the competent contracting body or institution informing them that they have obtained the award for which they were enrolled as students.

In line with other destinations

Ireland's announcement follows the example of some other major destinations that have introduced new COVID-specific – post-study work rights policies. These include Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
The United States has not announced any more flexibility with regards to its Optional Practical Training Program (OPT); students must be in the United States to study for their programs to count towards eligibility for the OPT and New Zealand has also not changed its post-study work rights policies.
Students who are looking for more
In a related development, a group of international students launched an online petition asking for further concessions in light of COVID. They are asking the Irish government to extend visas for all graduate students for another year to increase students' chances of finding a job in Ireland, which students say is more difficult to obtain due to COVID.

Importance of the third level Master's Degree Course

In the years when the UK tightened visa and employment rights rules for non-EU / EEA students, the Irish Graduate Program of the 3rd degree was a key competitive advantage for Irish higher education institutions, which were able to attract a portion of students who might otherwise have gone to the UK. The number of new non-EU / EEA students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) pursuing higher education in Ireland increased by 45% between 2013 and 2017.
The UK has now restored labor rights for two years, which will again make it more competitive in non-EU / EEA markets (but it also faces the potential loss of thousands of EU students due to Brexit). Some believe that Brexit offers Irish institutions new potential to attract EU/EEA students, particularly students seeking ELT courses.

Pushpinder Bhatia
Founder & CEO

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