Undocumented and asylum seekers can regularise status via 'once-in-a-generation' scheme

Up to 17,000 undocumented people, including 3,000 children, may be eligible

A new scheme will be open to all undocumented migrants who have spent at least four years living in the State without immigration status, or three years in the case of those with children. Video: Enda O'Dowd

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Undocumented migrants and asylum seekers who have been in direct provision for at least two years will be able to apply to regularise their status in Ireland from January under a “once-in-a-generation” scheme.

Up to 17,000 undocumented people may be eligible, including 3,000 children. However, the exact number of potential applicants is unknown because so many undocumented people “live in the shadows”, said Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.

The long-awaited scheme will be open to all undocumented migrants who have spent at least four years living in the State “without an immigration permission”, or three years in the case of those with children, according to details published on Friday.

Family applications for the scheme, which includes children up to the age of 23, will cost €700 while individuals must pay €550 to apply.

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In an unexpected “parallel process”, asylum seekers who have spent at least two years awaiting a decision can also apply for regularisation and will be exempt from paying an application and registration fee.

‘Peace of mind’

The regularisation scheme, which opens in January and runs for six months, will “bring some much-needed certainty and peace of mind to the thousands of people already living here and making a valuable contribution to our society and the economy”, said Ms McEntee.

Applicants “must meet standards regarding good character and criminal record/behaviour and not pose a threat to the State” while those with an existing deportation order can also apply if they meet the residence requirement.

People with expired student permission can also apply, while those with “convictions for minor offences” will not be disqualified for this reason.

It is unclear whether the four-year undocumented period must be continuous and whether those who may have secured temporary permission for a few months, thereby interrupting their undocumented time, will be eligible.

The Minister said inviting asylum seekers to apply would help address “legacy asylum cases” and ensure the new asylum accommodation system to replace direct provision will be fully operational by 2024.

“I believe that in opening this scheme, we are demonstrating the same goodwill and generosity of spirit that we ask is shown to the countless Irish people who left this island to build their lives elsewhere,” she said.