Regularisation Scheme for Undocumented Migrants – An update

The Minister for Justice first announced the proposed Regularisation Scheme for Undocumented Migrants in April 2021. This morning, Friday 3rd December 2021, the Minister announced the finalised version of the scheme with some welcome additions to the eligibility criteria.  The announcement includes the introduction of a parallel scheme which will allow International Protection applicants who have an outstanding decision and have been in the asylum process for a minimum of 2 years to apply for the Regularisation Scheme. The Minister also clarified that an applicant with a deportation order in existence can also apply. This is a very welcome development.

Announcing the scheme, Minister McEntee said,

“Given that those who will benefit from this scheme currently live in the shadows, it is difficult to say how many will be eligible, but we are opening this scheme for six months from January to allow people come forward and regularise their status.”

“It will bring some much-needed certainty and peace of mind to thousands of people who are already living here and making a valuable contribution to our society and the economy, many of whom may be very vulnerable due to their current immigration circumstances.”

“As a result, they may be reluctant to seek medical assistance when ill, assistance from An Garda Síochána when they are the victim of a crime, or a range of other supports designed to assist vulnerable people in their times of need.”

“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.”

General Criteria.

The eligibility criteria as announced by the Minister today are listed below;

  • Applicants will have 4 years residence in the State without an immigration permission as of January 2022.
  • For those with children the requirement is 3 years residence in the State without an immigration permission as of January 2022.
  • The permission granted will allow unrestricted access to the labour market.
  • The permission will be reckonable residency for the purposes of applying for naturalisation/citizenship.
  • Applicants must be of good character, and applicants with convictions for minor offences can apply.
  • Persons with a deportation order in existence can apply if they meet the above criteria.
  • There is no requirement on an applicant to prove he/she will not be a burden on the state.

The Minister also announced the fees for applying under the Regularisation Scheme. A single individual application will require payment of a €550 application fee, whereas a family application will cost €700. Children up to 23 years of age, living with their parents, can be included in the Scheme and applications will be accepted for 6 months from January 2022.

Since the original announcement of the Scheme in April this year, applicants for International Protection were not originally included. When a draft of the criteria was released, they were also not included. However, thanks to the persisted advocacy efforts of many migrant rights groups, law firms, and other organisations, the Minister has decided to include International Protection applicants, i.e., those seeking asylum in the State through the International Protection Office.

International Protection Applicants

Persons who have an outstanding International Protection application and are in the asylum process for a minimum of 2 years can apply.  Unlike other applicants for the Scheme, there is no application fee for International Protection applicants.

Outlining the rationale for this approach, Minister McEntee said:

“I am conscious of the recommendation made by the Expert Advisory Group, led by Dr Catherine Day, regarding people who have been in the protection process for two years or more.”

“In regularising those who are long-term undocumented in the State, the Government is keen to also ensure that we address any legacy asylum cases so that the new system envisaged under the White Paper can come into operation in 2024.”

“I am committed to reducing processing times of both first instance decisions and appeals to 6 months respectively, which will ultimately benefit everyone in the protection process.”

Initial Observations

The Regularisation Scheme is clearly a very welcome and long-overdue milestone in attempting to bring Ireland’s immigration and international protection systems to a level which respects the rights of individual persons who may have simply fell through the many cracks in the system. It will bring an end to the anxiety which many of our clients live with every day while awaiting to regularisation their position in the State.

Notwithstanding that, there are still a number of matters which remain unclear until the official Scheme policy document is published. It is unclear whether the applicable period of undocumented residence (2 – 4 years) must be continuous, or can it be accumulative? Will persons who have had their permissions recently back-revoked be included? Will persons who had temporary permissions over the relevant residence period be excluded? These are just some of the questions which we hope will be clarified in the coming weeks, and we will advise our clients and any other persons seeking assistance of any developments.

We will provide updates on this Regularisation Scheme as more information regarding the application process becomes available. Persons who wish to regularise themselves in the State should be fully advised on their position and all available options to them. If you wish to regularise your status, please get in contact and we will tailor our advice to your specific circumstances in order to make you fully informed of all the possible options which may be open to you. You can contact us at 01 6174820 or email [email protected]