120. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice if stamp 1 permissions obtained by non-EEA fishermen employed under the atypical work scheme are eligible for transfer to stamp 4 permissions after a five-year period; if such permissions under the scheme are also reckonable towards naturalisation requirements; if not, if her Department plans to amend the criteria for stamp 4 permission and naturalisation to ensure that those employed under the scheme are eligible; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30028/21]
Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy James Browne): I thank Deputy Stanton for raising this important matter. As the Deputy is aware, the atypical working scheme was established as a cross-departmental response to address the matter of non-European Economic Area, EEA, workers on certain categories of vessels in the Irish fishing fleet who are not currently eligible for permission under the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment's employment permit system. The scheme provided, for the first time, a framework for the employment of non-EEA workers within defined segments of the Irish fishing fleet. The scheme was welcomed as a solution to the risk of exploitation and to guarantee employment rights and protections to non-EEA fishers availing of the scheme.
The scheme commenced in February 2016 and was initially only open to non-EEA crew members who were already working in the fishing industry in Ireland. From July of that year, all non-EEA workers came under the remit of the programme and the atypical worker permission, which is stamp 1 with conditions from my Department and a visa clearance, if applicable, prior to entering the State applies to these people. The scheme also provides for the annual renewal of the permission granted and permits the employee to transfer employment within the sector. However, the permission granted is not transferable to any other employment sector within the State.
Holders of atypical working scheme permits do not meet the eligibility criteria for conversion to a stamp 4 permission under the long-term residency administrative scheme operated by my Department. Eligibility for long-term residency is restricted to holders of an employment permit from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. It is open to the fishing industry to apply for inclusion in the Department's employment permit scheme and I understand that my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy English, advised them of this at a meeting with industry representatives last week. Inclusion in the employment permit system would secure stamp 4 status.
Holders of atypical working permits can make an application for a certificate of naturalisation once they meet the residency criteria of five years legal residence in the State. The stamp 1 permission granted to sea fishers under the terms of the atypical scheme is considered reckonable residence for the purpose of making an application for naturalisation.