The Minister for Justice has recognised that the current economic climate posed challenges for both Irish citizens who sought employment and for students who wished to pursue a work permit or green card. According to recent guidelines on the INIS website, the Department of Justice will now allow certain categories of ‘timed out’ students to register for a further three months in order to address their immigration status. This concession will apply to non – EEA students whose permission to remain in Ireland expires after October 1st 2011 where the students were legally resident in Ireland for seven years on January 1st, 2011 and who have availed of the six month extension on their residence and who had kept their permission up to date. It also applies to students who were resident in Ireland for seven years on January 1st, 2011 and who have availed of the Irish Third Level Graduate Scheme.
Students shall be permitted to work during the three month concession period as they would be on their academic holidays. However, they will not be permitted to enrol on any further educational course. The ultimate purpose of the extension is to allow these students to address their immigration status or to make arrangements to leave the state. Eligible students can apply for an employment permit or green card during this time without been required to return to their country of origin.
At the end of the three month period, the student will either be classified as a worker with an employment permit (Stamp 1) or, if they fail to secure an employment permit in that time, their permission to be in the state will expire.
This special three month concession will not apply to students who do not meet the above criteria. It will also fail to apply to Stamp 1A holders.
Students who have not kept their permission up to date will only receive the balance of their six month timed out extension. The concession will not apply to students whose permission expires from January 1st, 2012.
A summary of the Student Regime
The Department of Justice’s current regime for non- EEA students commenced in January 2011. This regime allowed language and non – degree programme students permission to reside in the State for a maximum period for three years and degree programme students were permitted to reside in the State for a maximum period of seven years. A language and non – degree programme student could progress to a degree programme and extend their permitted period of residence, however, the maximum period of residence permitted for any student is seven years.
Some interim arrangements were put in place for non – EEA students who were residing in Ireland before January 1st, 2011 and who had exceeded the permitted duration of stay as a student because of the commencement of the new rules.
Language and non – degree programme students who had completed their three years and whose residence permission expired after January were permitted to register if they were commencing the second year of a non- language programme. However, the overall maximum limit of seven years residence as a student applies.
Students whose immigration permission expired between January and the 30th September, 2011 were entitled to six month extension to their permission, where they had exceeded the new time limits. Students could work during the six month concession period on the same terms as during the academic holidays. They could also apply for an employment permit or green card during this time without having to first return to their country of origin.
Degree programme students who had completed the seven years of study and whose residence permission expired after January were permitted to register only if they were commencing their second year of a degree programme. They will be permitted to complete the course.
When the new rules came into force, it emerged that some courses in vocational and business areas did not meet the criteria for degree programme courses here. However, they were validated by overseas bodies. In order to avoid disadvantaging students who had enrolled in these courses in good faith, a temporary arrangement was put in place which would allow these students who had exceeded the three year limit which applied to language and non- degree programmes and whose registration was due to expire to enrol for a course of this type for one year. However, the student was still bound to avoid exceeding the overall seven year time limit. This concession ended on July 1st, 2011.
Students who could not avail of these options were required to make arrangements to leave the state.
Irish Third Level Graduate Scheme
The Irish Third Level Graduate Scheme allows legally resident third level graduates to remain in Ireland for the purposes of seeking employment and applying for a green card or work permit. A six month permission is available for graduates with a qualification at NFQ level 7 while a twelve month permission is available to graduates with a qualification at NFQ level 8 or 9. This scheme allows legally resident non – EEA third level graduates to remain in Ireland for the purpose of seeking employment and applying for a green card or employment permit. The student may work full time during this period of permission.