Green Card system for immigrants

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.

  • aquifer

    For long term immigrants not to have to learn the language of their host country is potentially disastrous for the immigrants and for the country.

    This policy would not pass equality screening, due to the sexism in some immigrant cultures.

  • pakman

    “Notes on Northern Ireland politics and Culture”.

    How does a blog about the domestic policy of the government of the Republic of Ireland fit Sluggers’ remit?

  • George

    as Ireland and the UK operate a common travel area, immigration laws in both jurisdictions.
    are of extreme relevance.

  • George

    For example Pakman,
    An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland produced A Cross Border Organised Crime Assessment in 2004. Here is what they have to say about immigration. They both seem to believe immigration to each other’s jurisdicitons is relevant and hence produced a joint report.

    “there are clear indicators that individuals are involved in the facilitation of illegal immigrants by the provision of forged or fraudulent documentation; these individuals will also help to find work for immigrants – often unskilled, low-paid work with little regard to health and safety conditions – and will help with their accommodation needs – again, often sub-standard, squalid living conditions for which an inflated rent may be charged.

    While those involved in this area of criminality clearly rely on a wide network of contacts outside the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, there is limited evidence of organised
    criminality within either the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.

    Further investigation and analysis is required to
    establish the true scale of the problem.

    In the Republic of Ireland responsibility lies with An Garda Síochána National Immigration Bureau whereas in Northern Ireland the United Kingdom Immigration Service is the lead
    enforcement Agency.

    The accession into the EU on 01 May 2004 of ten mostly eastern European states1 significantly increases the number of foreign nationals who can legally reside and / or work in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

    This may also make it more difficult to detect immigration offenders and provide increased criminal opportunities for the use of
    falsified documentation.

    However, it will also reduce criminal opportunities for individuals to exploit workers from those countries as they no longer need to conceal their presence or seek work illegally.

    Evidence has suggested that some immigrants have exploited student or tourist visas to facilitate entry into the country.

    Once here some may seek employment, notably in the
    Republic of Ireland in the escort agency / prostitution / lap dancing business. However there is no evidence to suggest any form of coercion or duress; all claim to be involved of
    their own volition as they can earn a reasonable wage.

    The absence of any border controls makes free movement throughout Ireland very simple, although Immigration Officials do carry out checks on cross border rail services.

    For security reasons, most airlines ask for photographic identification, usually a passport, national identity card or driving licence, in order to travel, but such restrictions are
    rare at ferry ports thereby enabling comparatively
    unhindered travel between Northern Ireland / the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain.

  • Friendly Fire

    Good response George.

    Let me give you a real example.

    I was working in East Africa and I had a local girlfriend. She got a visa from the British High Commission and then I went to get her a visa for RoI. No way they said; notwithstanding the facts that she had a UK visa.

    So I changed my flight from LHR – DUB to LHR – Belfast, rented a car and drove unimpeded across the border.

  • Alan2

    Yep. Stupid isn`t it.
    Looks like we we all be speaking Russian very shortly. LOL
    Thats a JOKE before some jumps on me but seriously the amout of people from Eastern Europe upon their ascension to EU member states coming to the UK and Ireland must be phenominal as every other customer I serve speaks only pigeon English.

  • Alan2

    or is that pidgin?

  • George

    it’s just looked upon as the next phase of Hiberno-English in Ireland, I love it.

    Full credit to Ireland, the UK and Sweden (I think it’s Sweden)who are the only old EU countries to have opened their borders to the new members from the start, the rest have put a seven year moratorium in place.

  • pakman


    your points about relevance relate to illgality, the blog is about legal and controlled entry to the Republic of Ireland. In relation to illegals it could be argued that the porus eastern EU borders and the vast unprotested Italian coastline are more relevant to the problem in NI than a new Irish “Green Card”.

  • Fraggle

    Pakman, some of us in northern ireland work in the republic and thus work permits and so on are very relevant to us.

    Not everyone here has the deliberately cultivated ignorance of and apathy towards the republic that you seem to have.

  • Davros

    Fraggle – do people from NI need a permit to work in the ROI ?

  • Fraggle

    no, of course they do not. however, large numbers of highly qualified immigrants can have huge effects, positive and negative, on the labour market which may effect people from northern ireland.

  • pakman


    how do you justify the allegation that I have a deliberately cultivated ignorance of the Irish Republic?

    How do you justify the charge that I have an apathy (surely you mean antipathy ?) to the Irish Republic?

    Grow up.

  • Davros

    Now I see what you mean fraggle, thanks.

  • ozz

    >Looks like we we all be speaking Russian very shortly. LOL
    >Thats a JOKE…
    > as every other customer I serve speaks only pigeon English

    Immigration must be a good thing for your, eh? More immigrants, more customers?

    That’s the thing about the inflow of the skilled people ´- more workforce, more work being done, more money earned, higher average standards of living in the country. Agree?

  • George

    Britain is to introduce a system whereby unskilled workers will have pretty well no chance of getting into the UK, which I believe will have a serious effect on the NI economy, especially in the areas of food processing and agriculture, which are heavily dependent on cheap foreign labour.

    If the Irish green card system allows for unskilled labourers via a lottery system or whatever we could be looking at a situation where most of the food processing companies have to move their operations south of the border where production costs would be much lower.

    Also, don’t forget that there are 50,000 people from Northern Ireland working and living in the Irish Republic and 300,000 Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland.

    For that reason too, what the Irish government does is relevant to Northern Ireland and to substantial number of its citizens.