A new pre-clearance process is to be introduced to help non-European partners of Irish citizens live and work in Ireland.
The new scheme aims to speed up the permission process and allow applicants to apply from overseas and work in Ireland without delay.
Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan launched the “streamlined” process to make it easier for Irish emigrants to return home with de facto partners from outside the European Economic Area.
For immigration purposes, a person may be considered the de facto partner, opposite or same sex, of another person if “they have a mutual commitment to a shared life to the exclusion of all others akin to a marriage or civil partnership in practice though not in law”.
De facto partners of Irish citizens will be allowed to apply for permission to reside in the country before they travel to Ireland.
“Pre-clearance will provide greater certainty for people considering or planning on moving back home to Ireland with their non-EEA de facto partner,” Mr Flanagan said.
He said he wants to ensure there is a “clear and simple” path for those who want to return to Ireland.
“I hope this will encourage more people to come home. In recent times, many of our young and our most highly educated citizens have emigrated,” he said.
“They may have wanted to further their careers, make more money, or simply to experience the wider world. While away, some have met life partners and perhaps even started their own families.
“We want to show these people that Ireland is ready to welcome them home and that we will provide a clear immigration and labour market pathway for their de facto partners.”
The change means the immigration situation of de facto partners will be more akin to non-EEA spouses and civil partners of Irish citizens.
Under the previous system, the application process for de facto partners could only begin after their arrival in the state and may have taken up to a year to complete.
Now, once pre-clearance has been granted, applicants can arrive and register with the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) immediately, and will have access to the labour market straight away.
The new process addresses one of the key recommendations of the Indecon Report, Addressing Challenges faced by returning Irish emigrants, and is part of an ongoing INIS customer service improvement plan.
Full details and further information on the revised arrangements, including the criteria for obtaining pre-clearance, are set out on the INIS website www.inis.gov.ie
- Press Association