Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has announced new landmark scheme to regularise long-term undocumented migrants
- Once-in-a-generation scheme will be open to those who don’t have a current permission to reside in Ireland
Scheme will open online for applications in January with applications accepted during 6 month window.
Applicants must have a period of 4 years undocumented residence in the State, or 3 years in the case of those with children
Successful applicants will receive immigration permission, access to the labour market and can begin path to citizenship.
The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, has today announced that the Government has approved a scheme to regularise thousands of undocumented migrants and their families who are living in Ireland.
The scheme, which is a key part of Minister McEntee’s Justice Plan 2021, will be for long-term undocumented migrants and their eligible dependents, where the specific criteria is met.
It will enable eligible applicants to remain and reside in the State and to regularise their residency status.
There is no reliable data on the number of undocumented persons in the State but studies suggest there could be up to 17,000 undocumented persons including up to 3,000 children and that many could be in employment, although likely low paid employment.
Announcing the scheme, Minister McEntee said,
“I’m delighted that the Government has approved my proposal for this momentous, once-in-a-generation scheme.
“Given that those who will benefit from this scheme currently live in the shadows, it is difficult to say how many will be eligible, but we are opening this scheme for six months from January to allow people come forward and regularise their status.
“It will bring some much-needed certainty and peace of mind to thousands of people who are already living here and making a valuable contribution to our society and the economy, many of whom may be very vulnerable due to their current immigration circumstances.”
“As a result, they may be reluctant to seek medical assistance when ill, assistance from An Garda Síochána when they are the victim of a crime, or a range of other supports designed to assist vulnerable people in their times of need.”
“I believe that in opening this scheme, we are demonstrating the same goodwill and generosity of spirit that we ask is shown to the countless Irish people who left this island to build their lives elsewhere.”
People who are eligible under the scheme will:
Have a period of 4 years residence in the State without an immigration permission, or 3 years in the case of those with children on the date the Scheme opens for applications;
Be granted an immigration permission that allows for unrestricted access to the labour market; and
Have years of residence with that permission reckonable for the purposes of pursuing citizenship by way of naturalisation.
Those with an existing Deportation Order can apply, if they meet the minimum undocumented residence requirement.
Applicants must meet standards regarding good character and criminal record/behaviour and not pose a threat to the State.
Having convictions for minor offences will not, of itself, result in disqualification.
People with expired student permissions will also be able to apply.
Minister McEntee added,
“We know that regularisation programmes can yield important social benefits and improvements in economic living conditions and a reduction in the potential for exploitation in employment.
“There are also economic benefits, both for the beneficiaries who are granted access to the labour market and who can benefit from a wider range of job opportunities, and for the State in terms of increased tax yields and social security contributions.”
The scheme will include a parallel process to implement the recommendation included in the report of the Expert Advisory Group, led by Dr Catherine Day, by allowing international protection applicants who have an outstanding application for international protection and have been in the asylum process for a minimum of 2 years to apply.
Outlining the rationale for this approach, Minister McEntee said:
“I am conscious of the recommendation made by the Expert Advisory Group, led by Dr Catherine Day, regarding people who have been in the protection process for two years or more.
“In regularising those who are long-term undocumented in the State, the Government is keen to also ensure that we address any legacy asylum cases so that the new system envisaged under the White Paper can come into operation in 2024
“I am committed to reducing processing times of both first instance decisions and appeals to 6 months respectively, which will ultimately benefit everyone in the protection process.”
The scheme was developed following a consultation process with key stakeholders including NGOs that work directly with people and families who are in vulnerable immigration-related circumstances, as well as inter-Departmental and operational stakeholders.
The time-limited scheme will open for online applications in January 2022 and applications will be accepted for 6 months.