The European Migration Network have released a report on attracting and retaining international higher education students after graduation. The report describes a 45% increase in non-EEA student numbers between 2013 and 2017, from 9,300 to 13,500 students. This makes students the largest category of non-EEA migrants to Ireland. Unlike most other EU Member States, education-related reasons account for the highest proportion of all first residence permits issued in Ireland in 2017. Of all first permits issued to non-EEA nationals in Ireland, 58 per cent were issued for education reasons. Romania and the UK were the only other EU Member States in which the most common reason for issuing a first-residence permit was related to education, at 34 per cent and 35 per cent respectively. The top six countries of origin for these students were China, Malaysia, USA, Canada, India and Saudi Arabia.

Non-EEA students have reported difficulty finding work for several reasons. Employers are not always aware that they are entitled to work under the Third Level Graduate Programme. Ireland allows non-EEA students with an honours degree or higher to remain in the State for 12 to 24 months after studies to look for work under the Third Level Graduate Programme. This is uncommon among EU countries and is designed to retain highly-skilled international graduates. Almost 2,090 non-EEA students were granted permission to stay under the Third Level Graduate Programme in 2017, up from around 650 in 2012. Immigration registration delays are also a problem for students, who report difficulties scheduling appointments to register or renew their residence permits at INIS. Often there are no appointments available on the online booking system. Students have reported that delays cause stress and anxiety in relation to their legal status and have a negative impact on their academic experience in Ireland.

The number of non-EEA graduates who obtained an employment permit following their studies also increased from 48 in 2013 to 871 in 2017. Minimum income thresholds for employment permits were also reported as a barrier for non-EEA graduates seeking employment in Ireland.

Source: European Migration Network, May 21st