The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr Dermot Ahern T.D., today announced that the Government has approved a Scheme for foreign nationals who have become undocumented through no fault of their own after previously holding a work permit. The Government's intention to introduce a scheme for this category of migrants had been signalled in the "Towards 2016, Review and Transitional Agreement 2008-2009".

The full details of the Scheme will be announced shortly by the Department and it is expected that the Scheme will open for applications from 1st October 2009 up to the end of the year.  

The main purpose of the Scheme, which is on an ex gratia basis, is to provide a facility whereby undocumented non-EEA nationals, who can show that their undocumented status is through no fault of their own, can obtain a temporary immigration permission of 4 months within which to seek legitimate employment, or if they are already employed, within which to obtain an employment permit from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment.

The scheme is not in any sense a regularisation. Each case is assessed on its merits and the temporary permission (which has been referred to by some as a "bridging visa") is only given where the applicant can satisfy the authorities as to the merits of their application. The scheme does not apply to any other categories of undocumented migrant (e.g. those who entered the State illegally or overstayed their visa).     

Announcing the Scheme, Minister Ahern said; "It is very important that foreign nationals who are in Ireland and working here do so legally at all times. However, I am aware that there will be a small minority of cases where it is clear from the evidence that the reason for the individual becoming undocumented is not the fault of the migrant but of the employer. Where migrant workers have not been treated fairly by their employer and this has been the cause of their undocumented status it is appropriate that we give them the chance to put things right".    

The scheme will not be retrospective (i.e. it will not confer legitimacy on past periods of illegal presence or work). It will not apply to persons made redundant because of the economic downturn or whose contract of employment has otherwise come to a natural end. The Minister recently announced separate arrangements to deal with redundancy of migrant workers.

14 September 2009

Note for Editors

Brief Outline of the Scheme

Applications will be made on a special form that will be available from the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (www.inis.gov.ie). Each case will be considered on its own merits and applicants will be expected to demonstrate that they previously had permission both to reside and work in the State and that, on the balance of the evidence available, their subsequent illegal presence was not their fault but was due to the action or inaction of their employer. 

Among the factors that may be taken into account in arriving at a decision are:-

· The circumstances in which the foreign national’s work permit was not renewed
· The periods for which the foreign national has been in the State legally and illegally.
· Whether the foreign national left the country during the period of illegality and subsequently returned.
· The speed with which the foreign national reported his/her situation to the authorities either directly or through an intermediary.
· Any criminal conduct by the foreign national while resident in Ireland.
· The applicant's prospect of gaining suitable employment during their temporary period of permission to remain.
· The extent to which the applicant is able to demonstrate that they have not been an unreasonable burden on the State's resources during their period of illegal residence.

Successful applicants will be granted a temporary period of residence of four months within which to reapply for an employment permit. It will be a matter for the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment to determine whether the undocumented worker will be granted an employment permit. 

Foreign nationals who are not successful under the Scheme or who fail to secure a new work permit within the temporary permission period will be expected to remove themselves from the State.