Work and Study in Ireland – changes to visa regulations
“Several schools offer learner protection with no real policy in place. In the past, students have paid fees and been left out of pocket when the school closes”
Graham Gilligan, Managing Director of Welcome Ireland, gives a whistlestop guide to the major changes to Irish immigration laws in an overhaul of the English language industry.
Last January 1st the Irish government were planning on introducing reforms to immigration laws which would change the popular one-year visa to a new eight-month visa, primary aimed at overhauling the English language industry and addressing immigration abuse.
This was delayed until October 1st and has now again been delayed in order to allow for certain aspects of the changes to be fully implemented. These regulations can be read fully in the policy statement on the government’s education website.
In this blog I will explain the five most important changes and how they will affect students who want to work and study in Ireland.
1 – Change to 1-year visa
Under the current system, non-EEA students can apply for a one-year visa to study in Ireland. In order to qualify for this visa, the student must enrol on an English language course for a minimum six months in duration, with at least 15 hours of class per week. This would allow a student to study for six months and then stay in Ireland for an additional six months to work legally or to travel in Ireland or the EU. This programme has become known as ‘One Year Academic’ or ‘Work and Study in Ireland’.
New regulations now state that eight-month visas will now replace the one year visa. This means that students who enrol on a six-month/25 week course will only be permitted to remain in Ireland on completion of the course for an additional two months. Students will still be entitled to three permissions but the minimum requirement of a six-month course will still be in place.
2 – Implementation of the Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP)
At present, Irish language schools are included on an international register. This will now be replaced by the more restrictive ‘Interim List of Eligible Programmes’ (ILEP). Only those schools who can demonstrate that they have reached an acceptable quality standard will be permitted to appear on the list following the introduction of the new regulations. Schools which are not on this list will no longer be able to accept non-EEA students and will no doubt close. In addition to this Further education and vocational education and training programmes will no longer feature on the list. English language schools which offer business and tourism diplomas will no longer be able to offer these to non-EEA students.
“Schools which are not on this list will no longer be able to accept non-EEA students and will no doubt close”
3 – Accreditation of Courses
At present many schools advertise accreditation on their websites from such UK bodies as LCCI, NCFE and EDI. These will no longer be recognised by immigration authorities and visas will not be issued to students wishing to study in these colleges unless they also have accreditation from Irish awarding bodies such as ACELS.
4 – End of Course Exam
It is compulsory for all students studying English on an international student visa to sit an externally assessed end-of-course examination at the end of their 25 weeks of English language classes.
5 – Learner Protection
Several schools currently offer learner protection with no real policy in place. In the past, students have paid fees to these schools and have been left out of pocket when the school closes. New regulations will require that schools to have a transparent policy in place and provide written details of this policy alongside Irish accreditation. We recommend that students should consider looking for schools which are part of MEI (Marketing English in Ireland) and at a minimum have ACELS accreditation.
We would also advise students to be careful when choosing a college and to be cautious of:
• Colleges with no Irish accreditation. Accreditation from such UK bodies as LCCI, NCFE and EDI will no longer be accepted.
• Colleges offering cheap one-year programmes. Many colleges are aware that they will close and are using lower prices to attract students and to generate as much money as possible before closing.
“Many colleges are aware that they will close and are using lower prices to attract students and to generate as much money as possible before closing”
• Colleges which delay or defer start dates, or expel students with no real reason. Colleges which are destined to close have now filled their classes with students who paid for cheap courses with no remaining places left. In order to recruit more students, they are still accepting money and delaying or deferring start dates. We recommend students carry out as much research as possible, contact students presently in these colleges and find out if these practices are taking place.
• Colleges with no information of who the management is. In some cases, management and marketing teams from some colleges which closed are now involved in several colleges still in operation.
• Colleges with a high level of non-EAA or South American students. As with some colleges, their business model has been based on the recruitment of non-EAA students due to the ease of generating a large amount of money in one transaction as opposed to recruiting European students for short, two-week courses. Once the new regulations come into place, this business model will result in some schools losing a large majority of their target market and will ultimately close, leaving the student out of pocket.