Romanian Bulgarian nationals who are the parents of Irish citizen children now have access to the Labour Market within Ireland on the same basis as other EU nationals. See “Employment Permit Information for Romanian Naiontals” on the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation website;
Many of the persons affected by the Minister’s change in policy are in situations where they have been refused access to social benefits, including Jobs Seekers Allowance, Child Benefit payments and Supplementary Welfare Allowance. Having been refused these payments, they are now without any means of income whatsoever. They have been refused access to social benefits usually on the basis of the Habitual Residence Condition, or for the reason that they are not eligible to take up employment in the State. Many have doubted the legitimacy of refusals on the basis of the Habitual Residence Condition, given that the persons have often resided in the State since 2007, have children in school, and have clearly made Ireland their “centre of interest”.
Until now, these Romanian and Bulgarian nationals’ status in the State has been somewhat unclear. They were not legally resident within the ambit of Directive 2004/38, nor did the State recognize an alternative right to reside under the Treaty provisions. However, there was no legal means under EU law which permitted the State to lawfully require their removal from the State. Many such persons have fallen into destitution, surviving with the assistance of charities and voluntary organizations.
The Minster’s change in policy this week to permit Romanian and Bulgarian nationals who are the parents of Irish citizen children access the Labour Market now changes their status in the State, and also their entitlements to access social benefits. Such persons are now eligible to take up employment, and can commence a legitimate search for employment. Those Romanian and Bulgarian nationals who are already in employment, will be immediately regarded as workers within the meaning of EU law and Directive 2004/38. Their right to reside will be also immediately legitimised. They will acquire the benefits of worker status under EU law, for example, they will have access to the State welfare system, including child benefit payments. Should they become involuntarily unemployed and register as a job seeker, they will retain their worker status (and thus their right to reside) either indefinitely if they had worked for over one year, or for at least a period of six months if they had worked for under one year.
For those Romanians and Bulgarian nationals, who are the parents of Irish citizen children, and who are not currently in employment, they can now commence a legitimate search for employment, and therefore must be regarded as economically active as Job Seekers under EU Law. Pursuant to Regulation 1612/68, all EU citizens have the right to move within the territory of the EU to seek employment for at least a six month period. As legitimate Job Seekers, they have a lawful right to reside. They can therefore apply to all benefits including Child Benefit and Jobseekers Allowance and Supplementary Welfare Allowance. If they becomes employed (either part time or full time), self employed, a student or financially self sufficient (with health insurance), they then trigger their “worker status”, and the benefits as described above.
The question now to be determined is when did the Romanian/Bulgarian parents of Irish citizen children commence lawful status in the State? Was it on the 28th February 2012, when the government implemented this change in policy? Or was it previous to this, when the Zambrano judgment was delivered? When the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU was implemented? The answer to these questions could have a signigicant conssequences for those who may have been wrongly refused accesss to social benefits. Most likely, these are questions to be determined by the Court of Justice.