Goodbye all over again

 

The ESRI are estimating that 50,000 people will emigrate from Ireland this year. Here are some options for those considering the big move.

DURING THE 1980s, when Ireland was in the throes of a dreadful recession and high unemployment, the then minister for foreign affairs (the late Brian Lenihan), famously observed: "We can't all live on a small island." People left in droves. But back then, the world was a very different place and Irish emigrants were spoilt for choice and opportunity.

The US and British economies were booming and attracted tens of thousands of Irish emigrants to a wide variety of jobs. Europe also offered plentiful opportunities in the 1980s as Irish graduates found careers and new lives in cities from Brussels to Rome, Stockholm to Madrid.

The 2009 recession is hitting most economies worldwide. So what are the options for emigrants and what are the rules for Irish people trying to move to various countries?

There will be some opportunities in the construction sector in London with the 2012 Olympics and niche opportunities in destinations such as the seemingly recession-proof Arabian cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. But the "big four" traditional destinations of Australia, Canada, the United States and New Zealand still continue to offer the best possibilities.

AUSTRALIA

Almost half (44 per cent) of Australians were either born overseas or have a parent who was. Many are Irish. With a population of just 21 million people in a country bigger than Europe, Australia has the space - and the need for immigrants. It's got exciting cities, spectacular landscapes, great weather and a reputation for being informal and friendly.

To emigrate, the easiest option is to have a job offer in Australia, which means the employer does the initial paperwork on your behalf. A good way to start is to post your CV on what's known as a skill matching database, which is accessed by employers, who may then nominate for a visa programme.

If you don't have a job offer, you can register with the General Skilled Migration Programme, which is designed for people who are not sponsored by an employer but who have skills in particular occupations required in Australia. Applicants must be aged between 18 and 45 and have recent work experience. There are openings for professionals in areas such as civil engineering, architecture and physiotherapy but also shortages of welders, pastry chefs, stonemasons, bricklayers and hairdressers.

There's always a demand for nurses and there's a specific programme called DoctorConnect, operated by Australia's department of health and ageing, to recruit doctors who have been trained overseas.

See www.ireland.embassy.gov.au.

CANADA

Canada, the world's second largest country, with a population of just over 33 million, also has lots of space - and a long history of welcoming emigrants from Ireland. The Canadian government says: "Skilled workers are selected as permanent residents based on their education, work experience, knowledge of English and/or French, and other criteria that have been shown to help them become economically established."

Like Australia, if you have already found a job, your prospective employer will help with the visa application. Otherwise, if you have at least one-year's work experience in a list of occupations (regularly updated on the website) you can apply. There is currently a demand for such professions as mining engineers, restaurant and food-service managers, healthcare professionals, crane operators, chefs, occupational therapists, plumbers and welders. If you speak French, there are special opportunities in Quebec Province, which has separate immigration procedures. See www.canada.ie.

UNITED STATES

Despite a population of some 306 million, the United States is still not overcrowded. But getting in is not easy. There are three legal ways to emigrate permanently to the US. Firstly, if you have a family member (husband, wife, parent, brother or sister) who is a US citizen, they can apply on your behalf. Among the conditions is a requirement that they have the financial resources to support you "at 125 per cent above the mandated poverty line", by filling out an "affidavit of support".

The second option is to apply for one of a limited number of employment-based immigrant visas granted every year. This requires you to find a job in the US and then the employer makes the application on your behalf.

The third option is winning the "Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery Program" which provides a maximum of 55,000 visas each year to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the US. Irish citizens are eligible, but unfortunately applications for the 2010 lottery closed on December 1st last. The details and application dates for the next lottery have not yet been announced by the US Embassy. See www.dublin.usembassy.gov.

NEW ZEALAND

With a population of 4.2 million, but a land mass almost four times the size of Ireland - New Zealand is a popular destination for people who like the great outdoors and are seeking an alternative to metropolitan life. According to its embassy in London, which also provides diplomatic and consular services to Ireland, New Zealand has "a low unemployment rate and an ageing population" which means "a desperate need for skilled personnel".

Potential migrants who wish to emigrate to New Zealand permanently must first obtain a residence visa and permit, entitling them to live and work indefinitely in the country. The officially approved New Zealand Visa Bureau's jobseeker service offers an online assessment service which allows you to look for a job in advance. It promises to "contact you within 48 hours for a no-obligation consultation instructing you of your chances of securing a job offer in New Zealand".

If you have a job offer or a skill which is in urgent demand, you may be able to obtain a temporary permit which will allow you to enter New Zealand to work straight away and then eventually apply for permanent residency. The website currently has an intriguingly varied skill shortage list, featuring professions which range from apiarist and shepherd to scaffolder and ski instructor.

But there are also vacancies for dozens of less exotic occupations.

See embassy.nz.visabureau.com.

THE SHORT-TERM OPTION

AUSTRALIA

More than 17,000 Irish citizens were granted a working holiday visa last year.

To be eligible, applicants need to be aged between 18 and 30 at the time of applying; not have accompanying dependent children; meet health, character and financial requirements; not have previously entered Australia on a working holiday visa; be outside Australia when applying (and when the visa is granted); and apply within 12 months of intended travel dates.

This one-year visa can then be extended for another year for applicants who have done specified work for a minimum of three months (88 days) while on their first visa.

See www.ireland.embassy.gov.au.

CANADA

Canada has traditionally granted temporary, one-year visas to students under a working holiday programme. This has now been extended to non-students.

To qualify you must be: a citizen of, and resident in, Ireland; aged between 18 and 35; have no criminal record; must not have participated in the Irish working holiday programmes before; and, have sufficient funds to maintain yourself during your initial period of stay in Canada.

Although the scheme is now open to non-students, applications continue to be handled by Usit. See www.canada.usit.ie.

UNITED STATES

There are opportunities for au pairs under a programme called Au Pair USA which is regulated by the US state department. Both male and female candidates can apply but you must agree to a one-to-one interview which will be held in the UK or Germany (they will provide accommodation for one night).

Last September, the Irish and US governments announced a new reciprocal visa scheme called the Intern Work and Travel (IWT) Pilot Program. Up to 20,000 Irish people are expected to avail annually of the new J visa (separate from the existing student J1 visa) to "participate in internships and travel independently for a period of up to 12 months".

To be eligible for a J visa you must have completed secondary education and have enrolled in an educational course that could lead to a degree or diploma, or be a recent graduate (not more than 12 months ago). You must provide proof of sufficient financial resources and not be accompanied by spouse or dependents. See www.dublin.usembassy.gov or www.exchanges.state.gov/jexchanges

NEW ZEALAND

The New Zealand working holiday visa scheme is open to people aged between 18 and 30. Every year, 2,800 such visas are granted to Irish citizens. To qualify you must have minimum funds of NZ$4,200 (about €1,700) to maintain yourself. The visa is valid for 12 months. See: embassy.nz.visabureau.com