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There are few enough students willing to spend money to find out about moving to Ireland, so it is one constituency I hadn't originally aimed to serve extensively. However, wouldn't you know it, I've been getting loads of questions about studying in Ireland.

The most common reason for this fascination with the Irish educational system is the desire to live in Ireland and maybe get a work permit while enrolled in college. In other words, try and do an end run around the legal restrictions to living and working in Ireland as a non-EU citizen by becoming a student.

It's a good idea. Unfortunately, like so many of my own best ideas, it's a no-go.

Employment While Studying in Ireland

Yes, you can work in Ireland if you are registered as a full-time student in a course lasting at least one year. Since 2005, not just any course will satisfy the government. Your course must be listed on a special Register of Programmes. This requirement closes off an avenue used by some people to remain in Ireland by enrolling in a short language course and then working full time. No longer, I'm afraid.

Here's the information from the government citizensinformation.ie website page about student visas. You'll want to check out this page for its wealth of visa related information and to find out if you even need a visa.

Citizens from countries outside the EU/EEA (that is, the 27 EU member states member states and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) who are registered as full-time students with the Garda Síochána are permitted to work part-time in Ireland (up to a maximum of 20 hours a week and full-time during vacation periods) to support themselves. Read more information on employment rights of part-time workers in Ireland here.

Since 18 April 2005 new students given permission to remain in Ireland for study cannot be given permission to work unless they are attending a full-time course of at least a year leading to a recognised qualification (recognised qualifications include those issued by the Dublin Institute of Technology, the universities, FETAC and HETAC). This change does not affect students who had permission to remain on the 18 April 2005. These students can continue to work part-time and study in Ireland for the remaining period of their visa. (See 'Renewal of student visas' below.)

The Department of Education and Science has compiled a 'Register of Programmes Recognised by the Minister for Education and Science for purposes of student access to employment'. The Register of Programmes is divided into two parts:

  1. Programmes in a range of disciplines offered to students in third-level and further education colleges that lead to qualifications validated under the National Framework of Qualifications or a similar awarding body in another jurisdiction or qualifications validated by a professional body with a basis in Irish law
  2. English language programmes that are approved by the Department of Education and Science on the basis of the Advisory Council for English Language Schools (ACELS) inspection scheme.

Full-time courses are courses of at least one year's duration. The academic year is considered to be 25 weeks (rather than 52 weeks) so courses of this length will qualify for inclusion on the register.

Anecdotally, the 20 hour maximum is often ignored by employers and students alike. Once you've got the work permit in hand, student employees are usually treated like any other employee when it comes to working hours and rosters.

Students from EU countries

In sum, a citizen from an EU country has the same rights as any native citizen of Ireland - whether they're a student or no. The European Commission turns out a booklet called Studying, Training, and doing Research in another country of the European Union. It is part of the Citizens First series.

Here are the opening paragraphs of the booklet:

" You may apply to study, train or do research anywhere in the Union, whether you go to another EU country specifically for that purpose or already live there. If you are unemployed, you can also undergo training and peridods of work experience elsewhere in the Union.

On a practical level, equality of treatment means that the university or college in the Member State where you wish to study (the 'host establishment') must accept you under the same conditions as nationals and not, for example, require yuou to pay higher course fees. Similarly, if a grant is paid to nationals of the country where you wish to study (the 'host country') to cover course fees, you too must be able to receive it. The equality of treatment you are entitled to covers the payment of course fees, but beware: the principle does not apply to support or maintenance grants intended to help students pay their daily living expenses. Of course, Member States may provide grants or other forms of assistance to foreign students, on their own initiative."

The booklet goes on to discuss extra incentives for migrant workers and points out that "Knowledge of the language may also sometimes be a condition of access to education. In some Member States, you may be asked to take a language test."

There is tons more, but you get the essentials - you have the same rights as Irish students.

The huge official Europa website has lots more about your rights and the home page features buttons on travelling, studying and working in the EU.

Overseas Applications

More information about applications from overseas students for Irish colleges can be found by clicking here. In particular, note that tuition fees for non-EU students are high and you won't qualify for lowered tuition even after many years attending an Irish university.

Student visas are required if you are a citizen of a country that does not have a 90 day automatic travel visa treaty with Ireland. For much, much more on this, check out this site's Visa page.

Graduate Scheme

Students who have completed 3rd level college studies in Ireland are eligible for a one time 6 month extension to their visa. This graduate scheme came into effect in April 2007.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment gives the details and requirements on their Graduate Scheme page. Here's what they say about Permission to Remain:

"Persons who qualify under this scheme will be granted one non-renewable extension to their current student permission (Stamp 2) for a six month period starting on the date upon which the person receives their exam results. The purpose of the permission to remain under this Scheme is to seek employment and gain a Green Card or Work Permit."


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