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Immigration rules for full-time non-EEA students

Introduction

Non-EEA nationals coming to study in Ireland must be enrolled in an eligible full-time course. There have been several changes to the immigration rules for non-EEA students in 2015 and 2016 – see below. A list of frequently asked questions for non-EEA students is available on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS), inis.gov.ie.

Students who are from a country that requires a visa to enter Ireland, must apply for a student visa. All non-EEA students, including those who do not require a visa, must register with their local immigration officer to get permission to remain in Ireland for more than 90 days. If they are coming to study for more than 6 months, they must have €3,000 when they first register with their local immigration officer.

Changes in 2015–16

A number of measures based on the policy statement, Reform of the International Education System and Student Immigration Sector (pdf) have been implemented. They include:

  • Since 1 January 2015, standardisation of the working year for the concession that allows non-EEA students to work – see 'Work' below
  • Since 20 January 2016, an updated Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP) for student immigration purposes, made up of:
    • Higher education programmes: in general (with some exceptions) restricted to programmes accredited by Irish awarding bodies or those accredited by certain EU universities - see 'Higher education programmes' below
    • English-language programmes: The ILEP is the only list of recognised programmes for student immigration purposes – see ‘English-language programmes’ below
  • Since 21 January 2016, the immigration permission to attend a 25-week English-language course is reduced from 12 months to 8 months
  • All private providers on the ILEP have to meet additional requirements, including learner protection and a separate accounts facility to safeguard student advance payments
  • There will be an enhanced inspection and compliance regime in order to monitor educational quality and immigration compliance

Closure of private colleges: The website studenttaskforce.ie provides information for students affected by the closure of private colleges. INIS has advised students applying to alternative colleges to obtain written details of the college’s Learner Protection arrangements. The Irish Council for International Students has published information about Learner Protection.

Rules

Non-EEA nationals coming to study in Ireland must be enrolled in a full-time course in one of the following categories. They are not allowed to come to Ireland to do a part-time or distance learning course.

Higher education programmes

Since 1 June 2015, non-EEA nationals can enrol in an eligible course at level 6 or above on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). Eligible courses are listed on the updated Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP). The maximum time they can study in Ireland at this level is 7 years. There are exceptions to this limit for students doing a Ph.D or a course such as medicine and for students in special circumstances such as illness.

Students must have a certain standard of English. They must also prove that they are progressing in the course, for example, passing exams. INIS has published Guidelines for Degree Programme Students (pdf), listing immigration requirements for students on higher education programmes, including the requirement to have medical insurance (pdf).

Third Level Graduate Scheme: When they graduate, students may get an extension of their permission to remain in Ireland under the Third Level Graduate Scheme (pdf). The scheme allows them to find employment and apply for a General Employment Permit or Critical Skills Employment Permit. Graduates with a level 7 qualification may get a 6-month extension to their residence permission. Graduates with qualifications at levels 8-10 may get a 12-month extension to their permission. If they are granted permission to remain, from 1 February 2016 they will get stamp 1G.

English-language programmes

Since 20 January 2016, eligible English-language courses are listed in the updated Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP). Further education programmes and overseas-accredited vocational education and training programmes are no longer listed as eligible courses and the Internationalisation Register has ceased to exist.

The immigration permission to attend a 25-week English-language course is for 8 months (was 12 months). This applies to first-time and renewal registrations with effect from 21 January 2016. Existing permissions are not affected. New students attending language courses may be granted permission for a maximum of 3 language courses. This amounts to a total immigration permission of 2 years (3 x 8 months).

INIS has published an overview of conditions for language programme students listing immigration requirements for such students.

Students registered before 1 January 2011

There are specific arrangements for non-EEA students who were registered in Ireland before 1 January 2011 (pdf).

Timed out students

Probationary extension: From 28 August 2012 to 26 February 2013 certain non-EEA national students resident in Ireland since before 1 January 2005 were granted a special Student Probationary Extension. They got a stamp 2 permission for 2 years followed by a temporary six-month Stamp 4 permission. Then, after an application procedure, eligible students were granted a stamp 4 permission to remain in Ireland.

Other conditions

Changing course

Students may not change course during the first year of study. After that they may be allowed to change to another course, provided it is at the same or a higher level. They may not change from a full-time to a part-time course.

Work

Non-EEA students with Stamp 2 permission to remain are allowed to take up casual employment. They can work up to 20 hours a week during term time and up to 40 hours a week in the holidays. Holiday periods have been standardised – May to August inclusive and from 15 December to 15 January. Students with stamp 2A permission are not allowed to work.

Social welfare

Non-EEA students are not entitled to social welfare payments. One of the conditions of their residence permission is that they have enough money to support themselves and live in Ireland without claiming State benefits.

Family reunification

As a general rule non-EEA students coming to Ireland have no right to bring their family with them. Spouses, partners and children of non-EEA nationals can apply to enter and live in Ireland in their own right, but they cannot apply on the basis of their relationship to a non-EEA student. There are some exceptions to this rule, for example, for Ph.D. students or for students who can prove they have sufficient funds to support their family.

In addition there are transitional arrangements for the children of non-EEA students who were already in Ireland on 1 January 2011 (pdf).

Short-stay language courses and semesters

There are special arrangements for non-EEA students coming to Ireland to do a short English language course (pdf). The course must be for less than 90 days. There are also specific immigration requirements for non-EEA students coming to study for a semester (pdf).

Page edited: 2 June 2016

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If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.