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Important Notice | Update on COVID-19 for the English Language Sector

06 January 2021

The measures announced by the government on December 23 2020 moved the country from Level 3 to Level 5 under the Government’s Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021 Plan for Living with COVID-19.

This Framework for Restrictive Measures in Response to COVID-19 requires adult education, which includes the English language sector, to immediately move all classes and learning online. This is an exceptional, short-term and temporary measure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prospective International English Language students seeking to enter the State must wait until in-person classes have resumed. Failure to do so may result in being refused permission to land in Ireland and refused registration. Education providers have been requested to bring this notice to the attention of prospective students.

While our visa offices and missions overseas continue to accept applications for English Languages studies, decisions on applications remain on hold in light of the move to Level 5 COVID restrictions and pending further consideration by the relevant authorities.




Notices issued to English Language Providers regarding COVID-19




Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP)

An updated Interim list of Eligible Programmes (ILEP) has been drawn up following the application process set out and appeals where necessary. The list is available at the following link: Interim List of Eligible Programmes (xlsx file 625KB)

This list is subject to change from time to time. It is likely that in the initial stages of an updated ILEP some minor adjustments will be necessary in any event and some providers will be required to make adjustments to certain programmes.

The fact that a provider and courses are listed on the ILEP means that in accordance with Ireland’s student immigration policy, attendance at that college in respect of one of their listed full time courses on the ILEP is an eligible purpose for a non-EEA national coming to Ireland. That is of course subject to the normal immigration controls and case by case consideration of individual immigration applications. The ILEP does not guarantee the quality of the institution but if a provider is listed on the ILEP in respect of courses they will have met certain criteria including the mandatory provision of learner protection in respect of enrolled non-EEA students. For the English language sector a maximum class size of 15 students applies to all ILEP listed providers and they must also have demonstrated that their teaching staff are properly qualified. As with any consumer purchase of goods or services students should assess what is on offer, the reputation of the institution and its facilities and be aware that the lowest price may not necessarily be the best deal.


Ongoing monitoring

For all institutions their listing on the ILEP is contingent on their ongoing compliance with immigration rules and continuing to meet the other conditions set down for listing on the ILEP. The policy changes associated with the introduction of the ILEP in January 2016 introduced more consistent standards. This includes unannounced inspections, spot checks and other monitoring. Examinations are now a compulsory element of the student programme and all students will be required to be registered for the examinations. Providers who breach the requirements or engage in immigration abuse are liable to be removed from the ILEP.

It should be noted that, as per the ILEP guidelines, providers must immediately inform, and not later than 5 working days, the Department of Justice and Equality of any changes to ownership, shareholdings, directorships, or governance and / or of any change to its status since its last application. Failure to do so, or the provision of false or misleading information, may result in removal of all programmes of the provider from the Interim List.


Immigration arrangements for language students

As set out in the Government Policy Statement in May 2015, the standard immigration permission available for the purposes of pursuing an English language programme on the ILEP is 8 months. Since 1 January 2015 students holding a valid immigration stamp 2 are permitted to work 40 hours per week during the months of June, July, August and September and from 15 December to 15 January inclusive. At all other times they will be limited to working 20 hours per week.


ILEP criteria 14 September 2018

In line with the Government decision of 19 May 2015, a series of reforms to the student immigration system for international education were implemented, including introducing the Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP).

This interim measure was expected to be in place for a short period of time pending the introduction of the International Education Mark (IEM). However, as the IEM has yet to be introduced, the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Education and Skills have decided to further extend the ILEP.

It should be noted that the ILEP was, and continues to be, a mechanism for identifying programmes eligible for the purpose of recruiting non-EEA students. The ILEP is not a quality assurance process and nor should listing on the ILEP be represented as engagement with a quality assurance process.

In order to ensure the ILEP is fit-for-purpose for this extended lifespan, periodic reviews of the guidelines for inclusion of programmes (both Higher Education and Professional and English Language) have been necessary. In this context, most providers will already be aware that the criteria and application forms were updated with effect from 14 September 2018. Providers are advised to again review the updated criteria, particularly providers submitting an application for new programmes.

Applications will only be accepted on the relevant and current version of the application form.


English Language Programme


Higher Education and Professional Programmes


Foundation Programme

In the context of the extended lifespan of the ILEP and other developments, the policy position in relation to Foundation Programmes was reviewed. While the original policy set out that Foundation Programmes would be dealt with outside of the ILEP structure, it has become clear that for this extended period, it is necessary to ensure that these form part of the ILEP structure and criteria for their inclusion has been developed. Providers may apply for inclusion of Foundation Programmes during the ILEP application cycle.


ILEP application cycles 2021

Based on consultation with representative bodies in both the Higher Education and English Language sectors, there will be two application cycles per year.

Applications for the December 2021 update of the ILEP will be accepted during the following dates: 

  • 01 October to 08 October 2021 for English Language Programmes
  • 14 October to 21 October 2021 for Foundation and higher education programmes and professional awards

The ILEP update will be published on 17 December 2021.


*Please note: The completion of this cycle is subject to the Department of Justice having the capacity to complete same in compliance with Government Covid-19 restrictions on work attendance and travel.
**Please note: Only complete applications will be accepted; incomplete applications will be returned. Providers should not submit an application until the next application cycle opens. Any applications received before the next application cycle opens will be returned. In the case of higher education programmes, the programme must be fully validated at the time of application to the ILEP in order to be considered complete


Information on the application process

All providers are advised to carefully consider the guidelines and application form before submitting an application. Incomplete applications will be returned.

Where a completed application is unsuccessful a provider will be afforded an opportunity to make an appeal which will be considered by a more senior official. If a provider wishes to appeal the refusal of the application, they must submit an appeal within 5 working days of being notified of the decision to refuse. It is not intended that a lengthy appeal period will apply and where a provider does not submit details of an appeal in good time the Department of Justice and Equality may refuse an appeal and deem an application refused. This is without prejudice to the right of the provider to re-apply for inclusion in the Interim List in a future application cycle.

Providers should provide a hard copy application including all supporting documentation to:

ILEP (Interim List of Eligible Programmes)
4th Floor
13/14 Burgh Quay
Dublin 2
D02 XK70


*Please note:

  • It will not be possible for this Office to deal with any queries by phone therefore all queries should be submitted to the e-mail address The priority for INIS will be to deal with complete application forms therefore providers are urged to review the notes available.
  • In any application cycle, providers with an existing listing are required to submit details of new programmes; there is no requirement to re-apply in respect of existing listings.
  • Providers should not recruit or offer places to students on programmes not listed on the ILEP (including programmes awaiting accreditation or listing on the ILEP). Such action will have immigration and / or visa-related implications for the students concerned, up to and including the refusal of permission in certain circumstances.


Expulsion of English language Students - Guidelines for providers since December 2015

INIS has become aware of issues surrounding the expulsion of non-EEA students for non attendance at courses. In the interests of students and providers the following guidelines have been drawn up.


ILEP requirements on absenteeism and expulsion

The existing guidelines to providers seeking inclusion on the Interim List of Eligible Programmes state the following.

*Absenteeism and Expulsion: The policy and procedure must describe the steps which are taken and by whom in the case of an absent student. It must be clear at which point in this procedure that steps for expulsion of the student are activated and by whom; all standard correspondence as part of this process must be retained and be available on request to relevant internal personnel and external authorities. Absenteeism and expulsion procedures must be implemented in a timely manner, i.e. the disciplinary action must follow immediately after the absenteeism issue has been identified by management. It is not acceptable that non-EEA students are expelled towards the end of their programmes in relation to issues identified at an earlier point in the programme.”

However this does not prescribe the policy to be adopted other than the fact that disciplinary action should be taken in a timely manner and that the process is fully documented.

A non-EEA student is a consumer and entitled to protection as such. The student is also a person who has obtained immigration permission on the basis that they are attending a course of study. If they are not attending their classes then their immigration status is liable to be revoked. They are also receiving a service that is delivered to a classroom of other consumers. It is the nature of a classroom that students are interdependent and should progress together. The progress of those attending regularly cannot be unduly disrupted to cater for bringing a student who has been missing classes up to speed with his or her classmates.

In the circumstances it is legitimate for a college to operate an expulsion policy provided that the policy is fair to the student and is outlined clearly to that student before they enrol.

  • The disciplinary system which may ultimately lead to expulsion must be clearly laid out in writing, including the issue of forfeiture of fees
  • It should be communicated to the student in a language that he or she can reasonably be expected to understand
  • Save in the case of most serious events, e.g. where the student has engaged in violent conduct against the staff or fellow students, it must be progressive with the student receiving a number of warnings before the expulsion step is taken
  • The student should have recourse to some form of appeal or review


Attendance requirements under the ILEP

Under the ILEP the following attendance requirements have been set out for English Language Students.

*Providers offering English language programmes which are eligible for inclusion in the Interim List must:

1. enrol a maximum of no more than 15 students per class, i.e. each student is enrolled for the duration of the programme and registered for a specific class. Students cannot change classes during the course, or attend any classes other than the one for which they are registered for the duration of the programme;

2. have mandatory attendance requirements of a minimum 85% attendance for all enrolled students. The system of taking and recording attendance must be documented and publicly available. Where a student has 25% or more uncertified absence in the first six weeks of their programme, this must be communicated to the GNIB and INIS. Where a student cannot make up attendance to a minimum of 85% before the programme ends the student must be informed that they do not meet the attendance requirements and this fact will be communicated to the GNIB and INIS. There is no mechanism permitted whereby students can make up an uncertified absence(s) through additional classes, either during or post the end of the programme;”

It should be noted that the 85% attendance requirement is over the length of the course rather than on a per week or per month basis and a certain amount of leeway is permissible for the student in line with the above guidelines.

The most important element in addressing non attendance is that it be communicated without delay to the Immigration authorities (GNIB and INIS). This applies whether or not the Provider is seeking an ILEP listing and irrespective of the disciplinary/expulsion policy in place.

The following practices are absolutely forbidden

  • Seeking payment from students in return for altering their attendance records or not notifying the immigration authorities of non attendance (any student faced with such a demand should report it immediately and confidentially to the immigration authorities).
  • Using premature expulsion as a means of freeing up more classes for future enrolment.


Policy statement on international education

The policy statement on International Education which led to the introduction of the ILEP can be accessed below:

Policy statement on International Education (Size 1047KB)  This document is a pdf


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Updated: 15 June 2021