Right to work non-EU family members of EU citizens

 

THE GOVERNMENT is removing the right to work for non-EU family members of EU citizens while they await a decision on their right to residency in Ireland.

The decision reflects concerns over rising unemployment and the Department of Justice’s ongoing campaign targeting so-called “sham marriages” between EU citizens and third country nationals.

Under current rules, the family members of EU citizens who settle in the Republic can work while the Government considers their right to residency. It usually takes six months for the department to process residency cards.

But the department announced on its website yesterday that from June 1st, 2010, family members would only be able to remain on condition that he/she “does not enter into employment, does not engage in business or profession”.

The department said it was taking the decision “in light of current circumstances and on review of the operation of the administrative scheme currently in operation”.

“There is no requirement that the right to work be given to non EEA family members while they are awaiting a decision on their application,” it added.

Immigrant groups disputed this interpretation of EU law and predicted the Government would be taken to the European Court of Justice over the U-turn in policy. The Immigrant Council of Ireland wrote to Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern yesterday warning that preventing the family members of EU citizens working would lead to an “unjustifiable waste of taxpayers’ money”.

The immigrant council said the right to work was conferred by the EC treaty and the EU directive on freedom of movement rather than any residence card issued by the State. It said it was difficult to estimate how many people the rule change would affect but it noted it received 1,800 inquiries about the Government’s previous incorrect transposition of the EU’s directive on free movement.

The Government lost a landmark test case in 2008 when the European Court of Justice ruled it could not deport the non-EU spouse of EU citizens who had settled in the Republic.

JAMIE SMYTH