Wednesday, 27 February 2019
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
I thank the Senator for raising this matter. The Minister, Deputy Flanagan, who is appearing before a committee this morning, sends his apologies. I welcome the opportunity to address the position regarding the recent special scheme for non-EEA national students.
In October 2018, a new scheme to allow certain non-EEA nationals to apply for permission to remain in the State was launched, as the Senator has outlined. The scheme was open to non-EEA nationals resident in the State who held a valid student permission between 1 January 2005 and 31 December 2010, and who had not, in the intervening period, acquired an alternative immigration permission, to apply for permission to remain in the State.
The scheme addressed a significant cohort of people who had been in the State for a number of years and who form part of the undocumented persons in the State, having moved from a position of having permission to be in the State some years ago to having fallen out of permission. The scheme provides that permission will be granted for an initial probationary period of two years. This permission allows successful applicants to remain in the State including the right to reside and work in the State and will be subject to renewal after two years.
The Senator may not be aware that this is not the first such immigration scheme introduced by the Minister in respect of students. The Irish National Immigration Service, INIS, previously introduced a student scheme in 2012, available to persons who had been continuously resident in the State before 2005. It was called the 2004 student probationary extension scheme. Thus this group were specifically considered and dealt with under that scheme. INIS introduced that student scheme to assist in the transition to a new immigration policy regime for full-time students which commenced in January 2011.
As a final measure in assisting the transition to the new regime, the 2012 student probationary extension scheme was made available to non-EEA students who first registered their residence in Ireland as students on or before 31 December 2004 and who had commenced their studies in Ireland by that date. These arrangements allowed eligible students to reside in Ireland for a further period of two years on specified conditions. Some 2,700 individuals qualified under this scheme and were granted permission. In addition, at the conclusion of the two-year probationary period those students were eligible to apply for a more permanent status on condition that certain obligations were fulfilled.
Accordingly, students who came to Ireland prior to 2005, have already had a scheme and pathway made available to them. Consequently, it would not be appropriate for the Minister to duplicate the most recent scheme of 2018 for a group already given the opportunity to regularise their status in 2012.
I might add that other options are available to persons who seek to regularise their situation in the State, particularly in cases where the person fell out of permission through no fault of his or her own.