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Written Answers - Residency Permits

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 765 No. 3

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 395.  Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter  the number of persons who presented to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of the Garda National Immigration Bureau to apply for extensions of residence for timed out students since the arrangements for such extensions began; the number of extension applications being granted and the number being refused; the number of persons who have timed out but have not presented for an extension and thus may have left the State or may be illegally resident in the State; his views on long term plans for timed out students. [24259/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The new immigration regime for full time non-EEA students has been in operation since 1 January 2011. These new immigration rules are designed to reform the student immigration regime in a manner that is better integrated with Ireland’s immigration policy generally while providing a stronger regulatory framework for the development of the international education sector.

In order to ensure a smooth transition from the old regime to the new, special transitional arrangements were put in place for those students already in the State who were affected by the change in the immigration regime and, in particular, by the introduction of limits on the duration of student residence. Students were allowed to complete any course they had commenced prior to the introduction of the new rules.

As a special concession “timed-out” students were granted a six month extension of their immigration permission to allow those students to address their immigration status in the State. During this six month concession period, “timed out students” were permitted to work full time and to apply for an employment permit or green card without having to return to their country of origin. Whilst this six month concession was initially non-renewable, in recognition of a tighter labour market, a further two three month extensions of the “timed out” concession has been extended to students who have been resident in the State prior to 1 January 2006, in order to permit them to finalise their status in the State. In essence, this has afforded such students up to one year to seek an alternative permission to be in the State.

Whilst an exact figure for the number of students who have presented to the Garda National Immigration Bureau and the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service seeking “timed out” permission is not currently available and the level of departure from the State is not recorded because Ireland does not operate exit controls, a snapshot of non-EEA students resident in Ireland as at end March 2012 shows that on that date there were approximately 1400 students recorded as being in the category in question. This figure is fluid as students finish their courses and in some cases others previously granted the concession go on to degree level education.

Overall, it should be borne in mind that the time limits themselves, at 7 years overall and 3 years within the language and non-degree sector, are not ungenerous. Student permission cannot be open ended and, even without the new time limits, has always been recognised as a more limited immigration status (for instance it is not reckonable for naturalisation).

Therefore I am satisfied that significant measures have been put in place to ensure that non-EEA students resident in Ireland prior to 1 January 2011 have been treated fairly with the [452]introduction of the new arrangements. The transitional measures have provided ample time for students to seek alternative means of remaining in the State and some have in fact done so. Ultimately anyone seeking to stay on must have a sustainable basis to their residence. Further extensions of the timed out concession itself could only be justified for a limited subset of the student population. In that regard, it should be noted that to operate any other policy would be to tacitly acknowledge that entering the State as a student would facilitate permanent migration to the State. I am not aware of any country that has such a system in place.

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