Thousands of undocumented migrants and their families will have a pathway to Irish citizenship under a government scheme that opened on Monday. The justice department estimates there could be 17,000 undocumented people – including 3,000 children – living in Ireland, broadcaster RTÉ reports.
Those who have lived in Ireland for the past four years can apply for official permission to live there. The Irish justice minister said it was a “once-in-a-generation” scheme. Helen McEntee said the plan would improve the lives of thousands who were contributing to society but had to live in the legal shadows.
Undocumented people with children under the age of 18 will only need to have lived in Ireland for three years.
Those who have children older than 18 can include their spouse and children, aged up to 23, in their application.
Successful applicants will be able to work in Ireland and can begin a path to Irish citizenship.
Those with an existing deportation order or former student visa holders can also apply.
Applicants must be considered to have good character and not pose a threat, but applications are “unlikely to be refused” for minor offences, according to the department.
The scheme will run for six months, closing on 31 July.