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The Minister for Justice says it will allow individuals contribute to the economy. Sam Boal/
Green card

New immigration scheme allows 'undocumented' non-EU former students to stay in Ireland

The scheme applies to those here under student visas between January 2005 and December 2010.

THE GOVERNMENT IS introducing a scheme that will offer a pathway for “undocumented” non-EU nationals living in Ireland to stay here.

The trial scheme is opened from today through the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service and lasts for three months.

The scheme is open to non-EU nationals who came to Ireland to study between January 2005 and December 2010 but who remain here and have no immigration permission.

The scheme is only open to people who currently reside in the State, so people who came to Ireland under the above conditions but who subsequently left cannot apply.

The Department of Justice says that the scheme addresses the concerns raised by the Supreme Court in the Luximon and Balchand cases.

These two cases involved two Mauritians who had arrived in Ireland 11 years ago under student visas. The Supreme Court court said they were self-supporting and viewed Ireland “as their home country”.

The court ruled that the Minister for Justice should take account of an individual’s private life in certain immigration cases, calling any decision taken without doing so “unlawful”.

The department says that this new scheme “provides a pathway” for people in such circumstances to remain here and have their immigration status normalised.

“It also addresses a significant cohort of people who have been in the State for a long number of years and who form part of the “undocumented” persons in the State by virtue of them having moved from a position of having permission to be in the State some years ago to having fallen out of permission,” the department states.

Successful applicants under the scheme will receive permission to live and work in the State for a period of two years, which can then be extended for a further year if the applicant proves they are self-sufficient.

Family reunification is not permitted under the scheme but the department says that family circumstances will be taken into account and:

For persons qualifying under this scheme, the family unit who have been residing with them in the State may be given permission to remain under the scheme.

The introduction of the scheme has been welcomed by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan who says it will allow people living here to contribute to the State.

I am pleased that the scheme provides that permission will be granted for an initial probationary period of two years at the end of which qualifying persons must be able to clearly demonstrate that they are self-sufficient and did not become an unreasonable burden on the State. In these circumstances, beneficiaries can be expected to be net contributors to the economy.

The Immigrant Council has welcomed the scheme, calling it “long-overdue”, but has expressed concern about its cost to applicants. 

“The fees attached to the process, totting up to approximately €1,000, are punitive,” said Immigrant Council legal service manager Catherine Cosgrave.

This is double that of a long-term residence application and is a large expense for anyone, and especially those who have been, through no fault of their own, forced to live on the margins for many years. Also even if successful, permission to remain will only be granted for two years, which seems mean-spirited, given how long many people may have been lived in Ireland already.

“It is also disappointing the scheme does not reassure applicants with dependent family members that they will also be able to stay. By only allowing that family members living with successful applicants ‘may’ also be given permission to remain, it introduces a new level of worry for those who’ve already had years of stress and worry.”

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