Hot on the heels of Great Britain’s announcement of a five-year plan to shift the entire UK work permit system for migrants to one based on points, the Irish government has announced plans for a “green card” system to replace the current one.
At the moment skilled workers may bring their families to Ireland under a work visa or authorisation scheme, which is renewable every two years. Others receive a 12-month permit.
So far, unlike in Britain where all long-term immigrants will have to learn English, there has been no mention of immigrants to Ireland needing to pass an English or Irish language test to be allowed stay in the country long-term.
Under the plan, persons who are unlikely to become a burden on the state can apply for a green card. Those who hold a green card for five years or more will be able to apply for Irish citizenship.
The legislation is expected to include 50,000 euro fines or five years in prison for employers found guilty of breaches of labour law.
Unions and immigrant groups have criticised the plan for not going far enough, especially as there are no immediate plans to change the current system where employers hold the migrant’s work permit, a system former President Mary Robinson has described as “bonded servitude”.
Only 37,000 work permits were issued in 2004 as opposed to 47,500 in 2003 although this is partially due to the 60,000+ Eastern Europeans who have made their home here since the expansion of the EU last May.
Currently, 300 cases of employer abuse of working immigrants are being investigated by Government inspectors.