A new “landmark” scheme to regularise thousands of undocumented migrants and their families who are living in Ireland has been approved.
The scheme, which was announced by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, will be for long-term undocumented migrants and their eligible dependents.
It is understood that, under the scheme, eligible applicants will be able to remain and reside in the State, as well as regularise their residency status.
Although there is no reliable data on the number of undocumented people in the State, it is estimated that the number is somewhere in the region of 17,000, including 3,000 children.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said she was delight that the “once-in-a-generation” scheme was approved by Government.
“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,” Ms McEntee explained.
“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,” she added.
“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.”
According to the Department of Justice, the scheme will be open to 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.
Applications for the scheme come at a cost of €700 for families, which includes children up to the age of 23. Individuals must pay €550 to apply.
People who have spent at least two years awaiting a decision on their status can also apply for regularisation and will be exempt from paying application and registration fees.
Details of the scheme published on Friday include that applicants “must meet standards regarding good character and criminal record/behaviour and not pose a threat to the State”.
Furthermore, having minor convictions will not cause a disqualification from the scheme.
Applications open for six months in January 2022.