Schengen Visa for Ireland Appeal!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

What is the Schengen Visa Zone? & Reasons why Ireland should join the Schengen Visa Zone!

Traveling in Europe has been simplified with the introduction of the Schengen visa. As a visitor to the Schengen area, you will enjoy the many advantages of this unified visa system.

With a Schengen visa, you may enter one country and travel freely throughout the Schengen zone. Internal border controls have disappeared; there are no or few stops and checks. This means that internal air, road and train travel are handled as domestic trips, similar to travel from one US state to another. Those who traveled in Europe before Schengen know the difference. For further details can be found in the "links" section.

This is an appeal to the Irish Government to join the Schengen Visa Zone.

Immigrant workers from Non-EU countries contribute towards Irish Economic Growth in virtually all economic sectors ranging from hospitality to healthcare. These migrant workers are potential European Citizens/ Permanent Residents. They may not have an integrated European Identity which the European Union is striving to achieve because; their visa-free travel is restricted within the Republic of Ireland.

Ireland is the only country in the Euro currency zone which is not a Schengen Visa country.

Joining the Schengen Visa Zone would enable Irish Nationals to travel without their Passports when they are travelling to other European Union Member States.

It would also immensely benefit Ireland, by rise in Non-EU tourists and migration of knowledge based manpower which Ireland requires to sustain its economic growth.

Ireland could also more actively participate in European Integration by helping to integrate its migrant workforce at a European Level.
Copy of Letter sent to the Irish Government and the EU:

Dear Sir/Madame,

I am a Non-EU citizen but a resident of Ireland (third country national by EU definition) with a long term visa (duration of more than three months). I am employed by the Irish Health Service Executive. This is an appeal to the Irish Government to join the Schengen Visa Zone.

Immigrant workers from Non-EU countries contribute towards Irish Economic Growth in virtually all economic sectors ranging from hospitality to healthcare. These migrant workers are potential European Citizens/ Permanent Residents. They may not have an integrated European Identity which the European Union is striving to achieve because; their visa-free travel is restricted within the Republic of Ireland

Ireland is the only country in the Euro currency zone which is not a Schengen Visa country. In the Irish citizen’s information website, it is quoted that,

Ireland is party to the Schengen Agreement, but not for visa purposes. This means that Irish nationals will be required to bring their passports with them when travelling within the Schengen area”.

http://www.oasis.gov.ie/moving_country/moving_abroad/schengen_agreement.html

What it doesn’t tell is,

It also means that all Non-EU nationals legally resident (ordinarily resident or long-term resident) in Ireland, contributing to Irish economic growth in all nearly sectors, will be denied the right for free movement within Europe and other rights such as access to education and vocational training etc, laid out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights by the European Union which are followed by all Schengen Visa countries”.

A Non-EU citizen who lives in a Schengen State with a long-term visa will be entitled to free travel within the Schengen countries up to three months, with a single long-term visa (duration of more than three months). (Link: http://europa.eu/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l23034.htm )

However, this is not the case in Ireland. To quote a report by Irish Human Rights Commission & National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism,

“Of further concern, is the right to freedom of movement The ability of migrant workers (including long-term residents) in Ireland to travel to other EU countries is impaired by the need to obtain visas to travel every time such a visit is made. “

(Page 48 of the report, http://www.nccri.ie/pdf/migrant-rights.pdf )

If a Non-EU citizen legally resident in Ireland wants to go on a holiday in another European Schengen country, she/he has to go the embassy of the first Schengen country of visit, in person and provide documentation relating to the finances, employment, hotel reservation despite having an European Common Format Visa and working in an Eurozone country and paying taxes to the European Union directly. They may receive a visa with a short specified time period which is sometimes limited to 3 to 4 days (depending on the hotel reservation).

All Schengen country embassies insist that irrespective of Irish residence one needs to appear in person for the Visa application. To apply for a Schengen Visit visa one has to take a day off work go to Dublin and apply in person. I do not see the need for a need for a person residing in and working for the European Union, appear in person to apply for the Visa.

If the embassies insist it is a standard Schengen procedure throughout the world, I would say it is not because a person living in Britain could submit a Schengen Visa application in the Austrian Embassy, London if the place of her/his residence is more than 50 miles from Central London.

(Link: http://www.bmaa.gv.at/view.php3?r_id=2251&LNG=en&version= )

Because of restricted travel rights, migrant workers in Ireland are denied the opportunity to integrate at a European Level.

If I may give my own example, I possess diplomas issued by the Alliance Française de Paris (Diplôme de Langue Française), Chambre de Commerce et d' Industrie de Paris (Diplôme de Français des affaires, 1er degré) and Goethe Institut, Germany (Zentrale Mittelstufenprüfung) which are recognised by the European Union for language competency in French and German.

I would love if I were able to travel freely to all European countries where they speak French and German. I may be an exception, but I am ordinarily resident in the European Union and I am just expecting the right European Union has granted to its Schengen residents with Non-EU nationality, not a favour. I would like to integrate more.

I have given a list to show Ireland’s possible reasons why it is not a part of the Schengen Zone. Possible solutions are given for every possible reason.

Ireland’s Reason 1:

Ireland has a “Common Travel Area” with the United Kingdom

Possible Solution:

To quote the Irish Government’s own words

“There is no formal agreement between Ireland and UK regarding the common travel area and it is not provided for in legislation”

Link:

http://www.oasis.gov.ie/moving_country/moving_abroad/common_travel_area_between_ireland_and_the_UK.html

Unlike the Schengen Zone, The Common Travel Area is only a common travel area for British and Irish Nationals and not for residents with Non-EU nationality living in both countries.

A Non-EU national living in Ireland would require both a multiple entry Irish visa and a British Visa if she/he were travelling to Northern Ireland and back. So the borders are closed to residents with Non-EU nationalities, anyway.

Link: http://www.justice.ie/80256E01003A21A5/vWeb/flJUSQ6LZJGG-en/$File/ReEntryVisaFeb06.pdf (Page 1)

Britain does not recognise Irish Work Visas for transiting purposes. British Embassy, Dublin advises travellers transiting in Britain to Ireland to get a British Visiting Visa.

So the countries in the Common Travel Area do not recognise each other’s visas.

I believe Ireland is not a part of United Kingdom anymore, it is a republic state.

It follows European Union rules and has even the Euro currency.

The decision to join the Schengen Visa Zone could be taken by a Republic Nation and I hope Ireland does not quote the Common Travel Area as a reason, which does not exist in a formal agreement.

Reason 2:

Ireland has the sea as a natural frontier.

Possible Solution:

Iceland also has the sea as a natural frontier; it is a part of the Schengen Visa Zone.

Reason 3:

By joining the Schengen Zone Ireland may have radical civil liberties implications because of the need to introduce Identity cards and “Stop and Search”

by the police, limited by the habeas corpus.

Possible Solution:

The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in Ireland is planning to introduce Identity Cards for Non-EU Foreign Nationals resident in Ireland.

(25 Aug’06 Irish Independent Newspaper, later confirmed by The Department of Justice; Link: http://www.justice.ie/80256E01003A02CF/vWeb/pcJUSQ6TEJ7G-en )

If Non-EU nationals could carry Identity cards, and if the whole of European Citizens and Residents of Schengen States could carry Identity Cards, why can’t Irish Nationals carry Identity Cards?

Irish People normally carry their driving licence and credit card most of the times. Most of the Irish Pubs could ask someone for an Identity Card to serve alcohol. The Smoking ban introduced in Ireland in 2004 did not have radical civil liberty implications as predicted. The Irish are generally law-abiding citizens. They may not resist carrying an Identity Card as a requirement of Schengen Participation.

Reason 4:

There are Security Implications for both Ireland and Schengen countries

Possible Solution:

Switzerland and Liechtenstein allow Non-EU Nationals resident in Ireland with a long-term Irish Visa (more than three months) to travel to Switzerland for a short term (up to three months). Why can’t Schengen Countries take the example set by them and recognise Irish Visas for Visa-free travel?

Link: http://www.eda.admin.ch/dublin_emb/e/home/visa/visame.html

Currently Non-EU national spouses of EEA nationals can enter Ireland and the UK without an Irish Visa or a European Passport. Why can’t it be applied to legal residents with Non-EU Nationality?

European Issues to be clarified:

Common Format EU Visa:

My Irish Driving Licence is valid throughout Europe; My European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued in Ireland is valid throughout Europe. Why is my Common Format EU Visa issued by Ireland is not valid in the rest of European Union?

Garda Registration card & Cost of a Local Election Vote:

Ireland has recently started charging €100 for the registration of Non-EU nationals resident in Ireland with the Police Immigration Bureau (Garda National Immigration Bureau - GNIB). There is also a separate fee of €100 Euro for the Re-Entry Visa.

Link: http://www.justice.ie/80256E010039E882/vWeb/flJUSQ6PVM6V-en/$File/SI253of2006.pdf

The GNIB card is given after every registration and renewal of visa with the local police station. The issue of the registration card (Garda National Immigration Bureau Card or GNIB card) was free of charge until May 2006. The reason to introduce a fee is not explained. When the GNIB Office in Dublin was contacted by me, they said it is new procedure but said they do not know the reason.

It is stated in the card that it is not an Identity Card. However, it was used as a Identity Card for Irish resident migrant workers in the last 2004 Local Elections.

Link: http://www.nccri.ie/election-regulations.html

If a migrant worker wants to vote in the next local election to be held in 2009,

she/he has to pay €100 to make themselves eligible to vote.

€100? Is this the fee to vote in a local election held in Europe? Is it the same in all Schengen countries?

Education grants:

Migrant workers are not entitled to local county council grants for third level education and are charged Non-EU fee for certain courses even if they are tax payers and long-term residents.

(Page 49 of Document in link: http://www.nccri.ie/pdf/migrant-rights.pdf)

Visa fee:

Because of the integration of Common Format EU Visa system throughout Europe, is the Visa fee same or nearly same throughout the Euro currency Zone countries? Is it fair to charge the same European visa fee or more, for an Irish Visa which does not provide the same mobility as a long term Schengen Visa?

Long term Residency:

According to the European Union,

“Member State will have to recognise long-term resident status after five years' continuous legal residence.”

“Long-term residents will receive a resident permit that is standard for all Member States, valid for ten years and renewable automatically.”

Link: http://europa.eu/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l23034.htm

In Ireland, the Long Term Residency Permit is valid only for five years. Why?

Page 4 of Document in Link: http://www.immigrantcouncil.ie/factsheets/en/res.pdf

Right of Residence for European Permanent Residents in other member states:

A long-term resident may exercise the right of residence, for a period exceeding three months, in a Member State other than the one which granted him the status of permanent residence, subject to compliance with certain conditions laid down in this proposal, including:

  • exercise of an economic activity in an employed or self-employed capacity; or
  • pursuit of studies or vocational training; or
  • other purposes.”

http://europa.eu/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l23034.htm

I believe this rule does not apply to Migrants workers in Ireland who are European Permanent Residents. It requires full participation of Ireland in the Schengen Acquis for Visa purposes.

Conclusion:

These questions are raised objectively by a tax-payer who is a resident of Ireland and the EU, to seek clarification; they are not intended to be offensive or cynical towards any policy maker.

In the future Switzerland and new accession states like Poland, Latvia etc will have to join the schengen zone and the whole of Europe except the British Isles Nations (Ireland and UK) will be restraining their migrant workers

As a taxpayer and a resident of Ireland, I appeal to both the Irish Government and the European Union to reconsider their decision and integrate into the Schengen Visa Zone.

Joining the Schengen Visa Zone would enable Irish Nationals to travel without their Passports when they are travelling to other European Union Member States.

It would also immensely benefit Ireland, by rise in Non-EU tourists and migration of knowledge based manpower which Ireland requires to sustain its economic growth.

Ireland could also more actively participate in European Integration by helping to integrate its migrant workforce at a European Level.

The current Irish position on Schengen Visas reminds me a line in George Orwell’s Animal Farm,

All Animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.

I hope Ireland and the European Union work together to negate this, by participating fully in the Schengen Agreement and standardising Irish visa procedures in line with European Schengen Standards.

Yours sincerely,

Muthu

28/09/06