New Irish "Green Card" system planned for skilled workers

A new 'green card' system planned by the Irish government will allow highly skilled workers coming to Ireland to bring their families with them and allow spouses to work as soon as they want.

Residency would be automatic after one year. Micheál Martin, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, said the new work permit system would be in operation by early 2006. It will make it easier and more attractive for skilled migrant workers to come to Ireland.

Martin expects about 2,000 people to come to Ireland under the system each year. The Employee Permits Bill, published in June, is expected to have passed through the Oireachtas by the end of the year, allowing for the introduction of the new system. Martin is expected to bring proposals for a new economic migration policy to cabinet at the end of this month. "I would like to think we will have completed an important piece of work with the Works Permits Bill, which will be introduced in this Dáil," he said.

Martin said the economic migration policy would be the framework for "a more liberal work permits system'', which would be "balanced on the side of the employee''. Employees with skills in science and technology and financial services are expected to come under the scheme.

"Up to now it has been cumbersome for those kinds of people to come in, because they cannot bring their wife or their kids," Martin said.

"They can in America and they can in Britain."

Martin said he wanted a system that was not administratively cumbersome. "We are heading in the direction of qualification and salary as determining factors as to who gets the green card. The green card will be a passport to residency."