Ireland Launches Immigrant Investor Programme

By ExpatBriefing.com Editorial 26 January, 2012

The Irish government is to introduce two major new immigration initiatives aimed at encouraging non-European migrant entrepreneurs and investors.

The Minister for Justice, Equality & Defence, Alan Shatter has announced that he has secured government approval for the programmes, which will offer such entrepreneurs and investors permission to reside in Ireland in return for investments created for the purpose of saving or creating jobs.

The new initiatives will be known as The Immigrant Investor Programme and The Start-up Entrepreneur Programme. Announcing the programmes the Minister said: "I am grateful for the support of my Cabinet colleagues in devising these important initiatives. All of us in our different Departments are committed to doing what we can to help Ireland’s economic recovery and this represents a further instalment in my Department’s efforts in this respect, following on from the Visa Waiver Programme introduced last year".

Approved participants in the Investor Programmes and their immediate family members will be allowed to enter Ireland on multi-entry visas and to remain there for a defined period. Ordinarily, this will be for a period of five years, reviewable after two. According to Shatter's Department, the sort of investments envisaged will include a specially created low interest Government Bond, capital investment in an Irish business – which may need it for the protection or creation of jobs, or in some cases the purchase of property, including that held by the National Asset Management Association (NAMA). Endowments in the cultural, sporting, educational or health areas will also be considered.

The level and duration of financial commitment required from the Investor will depend on the nature of the investment but will generally range from EUR400,000 (USD520,000) for endowment-related investments to EUR2m in the new Immigrant Investor low-interest bearing Government Bond to be devised by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) in conjunction with the Immigration authorities. The funds in this Bond will be held by the NTMA and, as is the case with other similar financial products, they will be available for the benefit of Ireland. The level of investment in business entities where jobs are being created or saved will generally be EUR1m and the Department will be guided by and reliant upon the advice and expertise of IDA Ireland (responsible for attracting foreign direct investment to Ireland) and Enterprise Ireland (esponsible for supporting Irish businesses in the manufacturing and internationally traded services) in assessing individual proposals.

Of the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme, Shatter said: "We need to do more to tap into the entrepreneurial potential that exists among migrants".

The Department of Justice has operated a business permission scheme for a number of years, but the conditions were considered to be too onerous. Shatter continued: "Our existing business permission lacked the sort of flexibility needed to attract start-ups. We have been looking at this issue for a while and have had very useful input from state agencies and other government departments in drawing up the proposals".

The Start-up Entrepreneur Programme provides that migrants with a good business idea in the innovation economy and funding of EUR70,000 can be given residency in Ireland for the purposes of developing their business. This compares with a previous minimum funding requirement of EUR300,000. No initial job creation targets will be set as it is recognized that such businesses can take some time to get off the ground. Projects will be evaluated by an Evaluation Committee with state agencies playing a key role in "picking winners" or those who demonstrate a good idea or the potential to be a winner.

Minister Shatter stressed: "These two initiatives are about protecting existing jobs and creating new opportunities. Ireland clearly needs investment and there is considerable potential out there. However we don’t have the field to ourselves. We are in competition with other countries who are already operating in this space". This was a reference to the existence of investor schemes in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand amongst others.

Shatter hopes to have the new schemes formally launched by mid-March, when the detailed rules governing the Programmes which are being worked upon by officials in the Department of Justice will be published. He said no new legislation is required as the pre-existing legislative powers of Ministerial discretion are sufficient to enable the programmes to operate in a flexible manner. He concluded: "Immigration systems are often associated with border control but that is only one part of the picture. Immigration systems can assist in job creation and we need to think of migrants not just as workers but as people who can create employment for others".

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