Ireland ready to sign new Irish "green card" legislation

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Micheàl Martin, T.D., Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment confirmed in an interview last week that the first Irish "green cards" for foreign workers will be issued "early" in 2007. The Minister said that the regulations providing for the green cards will be signed into law sometime during January.

The minister expected that as many as 10,000 people from all over the world would come to Ireland to avail of the scheme when it was fully operational - with a take-up of about 5,000 in the first year.

The scheme, first revealed in 2005 and reported in September of that year here, is designed to attract highly-skilled foreign workers to Ireland. It is the first time that Ireland has introduced a category of residency card that does not require a potential immigrant to obtain sponsorship from an employer.

A complete overhaul of the Irish Immigration and Residence Bill has been in the works since April of 2005. There have been a number of delays, among them the premature announcement that the "green card" for Ireland would first be issued in early 2006, something that now appears to happen within the next few months.

The new scheme is designed to be split into two categories. The first is targeted at those with potential earnings of over €60,000 who also have high skills who would not need a sponsoring employer. Effectively, they would be able to act as independent workers, enjoying permanent residency and nearly equal rights with Irish citizens.

The second is a new work permit provision for workers with an earning potential of between €30,000 and €60,000 who are required for sectors with specific skill shortages. These include the IT and computer industries, as well as pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.

Those in the second category coming in with the new green card would have a work permit for two years, not one year as in the existing scheme, and would also be allowed to change employers. "The whole idea of the green card revolves around the area of high skills," Mr. Martin explained.

He pointed to other key areas, including engineering, technology-related specialties, scientists, as well as specialized sales and marketing professionals.

He also said that his department would be clamping down on students who were ostensibly coming into Ireland to do short courses, but were in reality arriving to find work.


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