On recent changes to the employment rules for international students and botched attempts to clean up the industry

The Department of Justice (INIS) has announced changes to the rules that apply to international students who work in Ireland recently. In the past, students could work 20 hours per week during the term time of their particular college, and 40 hours per week during the holidays. Since the 1st of January 2015 however, the holidays have been standardised across the board, so that international students can work full-time during the months of May, June, July & August, and from the 15th of December to the 15th of January. Outside of those times, such students are entitled to work a total of 20 hours in any week.

The standardisation of term times is presumably part of the Department’s efforts to prevent abuse of the international student scheme, and to make it difficult for colleges to market themselves to those who are not genuine students. The Department has, similarly, tried to apply universal standards to the teaching of English. This appears to me to be a very good idea and a good way to assure students who are considering study in Ireland that their money will be well spent here. It would appear however that a sledgehammer was used to crack that particular nut, and that very genuine colleges who happened to be using English-teaching testing and teaching methods other than those favoured by the Department were quite unfairly required to comply with the Department’s proposed scheme within overly restrictive time limits. The High Court overturned the Department’s proposed requirements yesterday.

It is a pity perhaps that the Department has not introduced a scheme to protect students who pay fees to unscrupulous colleges. International students have to pay the college’s annual fee in full before they make their visa application. If the visa is refused, their fee should be refunded to them. However, if it is not, there is little they can do about it other than sue the college to get their money back. Similarly, genuine students have arrived in Ireland only to find that their college is a farce, with appallingly low academic standards, and operated by providers who assume that their “students” have come only to work in Ireland. Again, students who are left in that position have no option but to sue the college in order to seek a refund of their fees and compensation for time and money wasted. If the Department operated some kind of stakeholder system, or took a bond from colleges who apply to be on the internationalisation register, that would greatly help to resolve the problem. Luckily for the likes of me however, they do not seem to wish to acknowledge this very real problem, preferring to leave it to Solicitors and Courts to attempt to vindicate the rights of unfortunate students who have, from afar, chosen the wrong college.

BTW: A note for employers who wonder: How do I know if someone has, or needs, a permission to work in Ireland? 

“International students” are those who come from countries outside of Europe, or more particularly, from outside the European Economic Area. EEA countries are listed here. Students from outside the EEA require the permission of the Department of Justice to live (and work) in Ireland. This is evidenced by way of a “Certificate of Registration”, which takes the form of a credit-card sized card that is issued by the Garda National Immigration Bureau. It would state that the holder benefits from a “Stamp 2″ Immigration Permission.

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Principal, Claire McCarthy Solicitor

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