Brian Lenihan, Minister for Justice, Equality, and Law Reform announced the publication of the 'Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008' on 29 January 2008.
The new legislation covers many areas of immigration law, including procedures for admission to Ireland for immigrants from outside the European Union as well as obtaining and renewing residence permits. It will also streamline procedures for deportation of illegal immigrants.
The bill will also remove the practice of renewing temporary residence permits until a migrant can qualify for naturalization. Instead, a new status of "long-term resident" will be introduced, which will be granted to an immigrant after he or she has resided in Ireland for at least five years. However, the time a migrant spends in Ireland as a student or asylum seeker will be excluded.
There will also be provisions for shorter qualifying periods to gain long-term residence for highly sought-after migrants. This will include holders of Irish Green Card permits, which will qualify them for an accelerated process to become a long-term resident.
Long-term residents will have unrestricted access to the Irish labor market and will be eligible for State-funded services and benefits close to that of Irish citizens.
"For too long, the Irish immigration system has operated on the concept of temporary migration on a year-to-year basis until one has sufficient residence in the State to be able to make an application for naturalisation," said Minister Lenihan.
"It is time we acknowledged the fact that many migrants make an important contribution to the Irish economy and to Irish society generally", he added. "The status of long-term resident will give holders similar access to that of Irish citizens to State-funded services and other entitlements."
The legislation also carries provisions for short-term entry permission -- valid for 90 days -- as well as residence permits good for a non-renewable period of up to one year. These permits will be issued for visits, short courses of study, or other purposes.
"The clarity and transparency this Bill brings to the whole area of immigration will benefit the State as well as those who want to come to this country and possibly settle here," said the Minister.