Since 2001, students from outside Europe can work part-time during term and full-time during the holidays.
Other countries have similar arrangements and the concession has helped Irish colleges to sign up many students from outside Europe.
Once they had enrolled on an approved course, they were automatically entitled to work and many did.
But some clearly over-stayed and simply signed on for new courses year after year.
The Government will shortly consider proposals to limit the time that a third-level student can remain here to a maximum of five years, with some limited exceptions.
For English-language students and those on further education courses here, the proposed maximum time limit is two years, again with some limited exceptions.