Petition calls on Government to streamline visa process for partners of skilled workers
‘We’re not homemakers; we’re modern families, we’re modern females.’
Nahla Bastawi from Egypt and now living in Dublin pictured with fellow Stamp 3 visa holders at Leinster House. Photograph: Tom Honan
Thousands of non-EU trained professionals have called on the Government to make it easier for spouses of people who come here on highly skilled work visas to apply for jobs and work in Ireland.
Dozens of spouses and partners of non-EEA nationals who came to Ireland on “critical skills” and “general work” permits gathered outside Leinster House on Tuesday afternoon to deliver a petition calling for a more streamlined system to enable access to the labour market.
The petition, which has been signed by nearly 6,500 people, highlights that long delays in visa registrations, a lack of awareness among employers and “ineffective policies” has made it “almost impossible” for Stamp 3 holders to find jobs.
The Stamp 3 permit is given to non-EU nationals who join their non-EU spouse or partner legally working in Ireland. It does not allow holders to enter the labour market but does allow them to apply for work. If offered a job they can apply for a Stamp 1 work permit. However, many employers believe Stamp 3 holders cannot apply for work, the group has said.
The campaign has called for the introduction of a new stamp that directly acknowledges the legal status of dependent family members who are entitled to apply for jobs. Dependent families should not need to apply for a second work permit and the registration time for permits should not exceed two weeks, according to the campaign.
The group has also called on the State to adopt a system similar to the UK or Denmark or the European Blue Card permit under which spouses can enter the labour market. Ireland is one of the only countries in the EU which does not allow spouses or partners of highly-skilled workers to have direct access to employment and self-employment.
Yulia Ghumman moved to Ireland near four years ago after her husband, who is a doctor, was offered a job here. Originally from Ukraine, Ms Ghumman was working in real estate in Latvia before moving to Ireland but has been unable to find work despite applying for numerous jobs.
“When we were preparing to come here we were told it would be easy to get a job, that it’s no problem. The vast majority of us had left our own rewarding careers in other countries to join partners and spouses working in Ireland. Many of us feel if we had known the barriers we would face accessing work we would have gone to a different country.”
“We’re not homemakers; we’re modern families, we’re modern females. We want to be part of the society and we want to feel like our voice matters in this country.”
Ankita Ahluwalia worked in human resources for a decade before moving to Ireland with her partner last January. She’s found that employers prefer to avoid the “complicated” logistics of interviewing a Stamp 3 holder.
“The worst thing about being in this situation in losing financial independence. Before moving here I didn’t have to rely on my partner for money and it’s pathetic because I feel helpless and have to depend on somebody else. I want to support my partner’s career but at the same time it’s difficult when I can see my own career disappearing slowly.”
Labour Senator Kevin Humphreys said the block booking of visa appointments by internet ‘bot’ programmes was creating an added barrier for Stamp 3 holders looking to work. He also warned that foreign investment companies were providing misleading information about spousal visas in order to secure contracts with non-EEA skilled workers.
“It’s not good enough encouraging one partner to come over and then refuse somebody else access to work,” he said. “It just shouldn’t be allowed.”