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01 June, 2017 - Tánaiste Fitzgerald and Minister Bruton Outline revised Graduate Programme aimed at non-EEA students studying in Ireland

Key Action in Plan to Increase the Value of International Education to €2.1 Billion

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Ms Frances Fitzgerald T.D., and the Minister for Education and Skills, Mr Richard Bruton T.D., have today (Thursday) announced changes to the Third Level Graduate Programme, a key action under the International Education Strategy.

  • High performing Non-EEA graduates at level 9 or above on the National Framework of Qualifications can now avail of a two year period of residence and right to work in the State.
  • This enhanced graduate programme provides an opportunity for highly skilled non-EEA graduates to remain in Ireland to the benefit of our economy and society.
  • The immigration system continues to be flexible and progressive in supporting Ireland's economic and strategic priorities

The Graduate Programme is an immigration programme aimed at facilitating high-performing non-EEA graduates to remain and work in Ireland after graduation.

In summary, the enhanced Third Level Graduate Programme:

  • Is open to any student who has completed their studies in Ireland and is awarded a qualification at Level 8 or above of the National Framework of Qualifications. That award must have been granted by a recognised Irish awarding body.
  • Offers graduates at level 9 or above of the National Framework of Qualifications a two-year period of residence and the right to work in the State (Masters, PhD etc.).
  • Offers graduates at level 8 of the National Framework of Qualifications a one-year period of residence and the right to work in the State.
  • Removes the six-month level 7 residence permission, though there will be transitional arrangements in place for persons who have already enrolled in a Level 7 course.

The International Education Strategy, which represents a key element of Ireland’s growth strategy for the next five years, aims to increase the economic value of this sector grow to €2.1bn per annum by 2020, a 33% increase.

The Ministers confirmed that the Graduate Programme gives students from outside the EEA real opportunities to remain on in the State following graduation.  They can become part of the workforce and progress, if they so choose to a career path in Ireland by advancing to a critical skills or conventional employment permit from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, meeting skills and language needs of the Irish economy.

The Ministers said:

“Ireland’s international education strategy recognises that attracting students from across the globe is good for Ireland and good for the students themselves.  Ireland’s reputation as a place that values education and that welcomes innovation, diversity and creativity is supported through the Graduate Programme.  We also want to showcase the opportunities available to students as they progress to the world of work in their chosen fields.

Minister Bruton noted:

“Today announcement is part of our plan to grow the value of the international education sector to €2.1 Billion, a 33% increase.

“As a small, open economy, international students, once they graduate, have a key role to play in helping Irish companies to internationalise and win new export markets, in particular to their home countries.

“Through the implementation of our Plan we will increase the number of international Higher Education students and English language students coming to Ireland by over 37,000 by 2020, which will increase the value of the sector to €2.1 Billion by 2020. There will be strong opportunities for Ireland in the area of international education when Ireland becomes the main English speaking member of the EU.”

An Tánaiste added:

“Ireland’s immigration regime will continue to respond flexibly and progressively in supporting the State’s overall economic and social priorities.  I am delighted, therefore, to be able to offer dynamic international students who have chosen our Higher Education Institutes an opportunity to live and work in the State.”

Ends

Note for Editors:

Amendments to the Third Level Graduate Programme (student) immigration permission:

1. At present, third level non-EEA students graduating with Irish degree awards can avail of an extension of their immigration permission under the Third Level Graduate Programme.  This Programme allows legally resident non-EEA third level graduates to remain in Ireland for up to 12 months for the purposes of seeking employment and applying for a critical skills permit or a conventional employment permit, in a profession/discipline relevant to their degree.

2. The Department of Education and Skills published a whole-of-Government-endorsed international education strategy for Ireland entitled Irish Educated Globally Connected in late 2016.  This strategy contained a commitment to developing a two-year graduate programme for non-EEA nationals graduating from an Irish Higher Education Institute.

3.  The objective is to incentivise the highest-performing students and graduates.  Removing the six-month permission for level 7 graduates only serves to reinforce that message.

Revised Third Level Graduate Programme:

The paragraphs following contain the details of the revised programme.

1.1   The revised programme does not apply to persons who graduated prior to 1 January 2017 irrespective of whether or not they are availing of the previous graduate programme.

1.2    Starting with the graduating classes of 2017 the following applies:

  • The Third Level Graduate Programme is open to any student who has completed their studies in Ireland and are awarded a qualification at Level 8 or above of the National Framework of Qualifications.  That award must have been granted by a recognised Irish awarding body, see here.
  • Graduates with an award at level 8 of the National Framework of Qualifications will be granted a period of residence in the State of either twelve months or such shorter period which would limit their overall period of residence in the State (i.e. time spent as a student and under this programme) to seven years in total.
  • Graduates with an award at level 9 or above of the National Framework of Qualifications will be granted a period of residence in the State; the lesser of twenty-four months or such shorter period which would limit their overall period of residence in the State (i.e. time spent as a student and under this programme) to eight years in total.
  • Graduates at level 9 or above of the National Framework of Qualifications who qualify for the Programme will be granted permission for 12 months initially.  This will be renewed for a further period of twelve months (all subject to the eight year limit) where the graduate satisfies the immigration authorities that he or she has taken appropriate steps to access suitable employment at a graduate level.
  • Persons who have already enrolled in a level 7 award of the National Framework of Qualifications prior to 2017 may still apply for the six-month level 7 residence permission available under the previous programme.  This is a transitional arrangement.

1.3   Persons who have previously benefitted from the graduate programme (say at level 8 stage) will also be eligible to participate in the programme should they subsequently achieve a level 9 qualification, subject again to the overall limit of 8 years.  A graduate will not be permitted to access the Programme on more than two separate occasions.

1.4   Entry to the Graduate Programme is available to persons only if they apply within six months of confirmation of the award and while their current student permission is still valid.

1.5   Persons admitted to the Third Level Graduate Programme will be permitted to work full time, in accordance with the law for the full duration of their permission under the Programme.

1.6   It will not be open to a graduate to apply under the programme if he or she has already exceeded, at the time of their application, the seven-year upper limit on their student permission in the State.