Scheme to regularise undocumented migrants may open in November

Decision yet to be taken whether those subject to deportation orders will be eligible

Minister of State with responsibility for law reform James Browne: Those migrants working undocumented in Ireland are “at risk of being exploited” as a result of their vulnerable status. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

A scheme to regularise the status of undocumented migrants who have been living in Ireland for at least four years, or three years in the case of those with children, may open as early as November.

The scheme is on track to be brought before Cabinet in September for approval, and is due to come into effect before the end of the year.

Minister of State with responsibility for law reform James Browne held a discussion with refugee and immigration organisations on Friday, to provide a briefing on the current details of the draft plan.

It is understood that current plans may see the regularisation scheme open in November, or the first week of December.


It is the intention of officials to keep the scheme as straightforward and simple for applicants as possible, Mr Browne told The Irish Times.

The State did not want a situation where undocumented migrants had to access complex legal advice in order to find out if they were eligible for the scheme, he said.

In the vast majority of cases, people would have a clear idea whether they were eligible or not to apply to regularise their status, he said.

“Most of them are here, they are working here, they are not going home,” he said. Those that were working undocumented in Ireland at present were “at risk of being exploited” as a result of their vulnerable status, he said.

Jobs and citizenship

The proposed scheme would give migrants unrestricted access to the labour market, and allow them to apply for citizenship later.

The draft plan is believed to be similar to a previous scheme which regularised the position of non-EU foreign nationals who came to Ireland to study between 2005 and 2010, but stayed on without immigration permission.

It is understood Department of Justice officials are currently examining if undocumented migrants subject to deportation orders will be eligible to apply for the new scheme.

There is a push from some quarters internally to allow migrants who “ran out of road” applying for asylum protection to be eligible for the scheme, one source said.

Criminal offences

It is expected undocumented migrants subject to deportation orders due to any criminal offences would be unlikely to be included in the scheme.

Officials are trying to find out if it is possible to design the scheme to cover cohorts subject to deportation orders for certain reasons, but not others, the source said.

In a statement, Mr Browne said the scheme would “provide an opportunity for those who meet its criteria to remain and reside in the State and to become part of mainstream Irish society rather than living on its margins”.

“Successful applicants will receive an immigration permission, access to the labour market and will be able to begin the process of becoming Irish citizens, should they wish to do so,” he said.

“My department continues to work to finalise the details, including eligibility considerations and qualifying criteria with a view to bringing final proposals to Government in September.”

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times