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Justice clampdown on foreign students who overstay visas

THE Department of Justice is clamping down on overseas students who stay too long in Ireland.

From next January strict limits will be imposed on the amount of time they can remain studying in this country.

There are almost 33,000 students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) paying fees for higher education, further education or English language courses. Many are Chinese and some move from one course to another to remain in Ireland.

In future, the maximum length of time that a student from outside the EEA (all 27 EU countries plus Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) can attend a language or non-degree programme will be three years.

For those taking an honours degree the maximum length of time will be seven years and they will be required to pass their exams in order to maintain permission to remain in Ireland.

As an interim measure, "timed-out" students from outside the EEA whose immigration expires between January and the end of June next will be entitled to a six-month special extension. After that, they will have to leave the country or secure some other form of employment permission to remain in the State.

The new streamlined system was announced yesterday as part of a government blueprint which targets €1.2bn earnings annually from overseas students.

The strategy was launched yesterday by the Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Minister for Education and Tanaiste Mary Coughlan and Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern. The key targets for 2015 are to:

  • Increase overall international student numbers in higher education institutions by 50pc to 38,000.
  • Raise the number of English language students by 25pc to 120,000.
  • Increase the proportion of full-time international students undertaking research or taught postgraduate programmes from 23pc to 35pc.

Ms Coughlan said that quality would be at the heart of the strategy outlined in "Investing in Global Relationships". A statutory Code of Practice and a Quality Mark would be awarded to educational institutions that met certain criteria. Institutions would need to put appropriate supports, including pastoral care, in place for international students.


However, Fine Gael said the Government's plan paled in comparison with its own. "The Fine Gael plan, launched six months ago, would have created 6,000 jobs, generated an additional €900m and was centred around firm policies such as establishing an international education office, issuing green cards to PhD graduates in key sectors and ensuring a dedicated Minister for State is responsible for the strategy's implementation," said education spokesman Fergus O'Dowd.

But the Irish Council of Overseas Students welcomed the Government's plan.

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