Free Fees Initiative
The Free Fees Initiative covers the majority of full-time Level 6, 7 & 8 programmes provided by Universities, Institutes of Technology, and qualifying Colleges in Ireland. Click here to view list of eligible institutions.
Please note, students who are eligible for the Free Fees Scheme are required to pay a student contribution charge of €3,000 (2016/17 academic year).
Criteria for Determining Eligibility
Tuition fees may be paid in respect of the full-time students who have been ordinarily resident in an EU/EEA/Swiss State for at least three of the five years preceding their entry to their third-level course and who meet the criteria of the scheme. Eligibility under the scheme is determined at date of entry to the course. Details of the nationality criteria to be applied are listed here.
The scheme is subject to the following conditions:
In order to meet the nationality criteria of the Free Fees Initiative students must meet one of the following:
Since the coming into force in November 2000 of section 3 of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended), refugees [sometimes referred to as Convention refugees, to distinguish them from Programme refugees – see 3(b) below] must, for purpose of the free fees initiative, be treated on the same basis as Irish citizens. This means that a refugee is entitled to be allowed meet the terms of the residency clause in the same manner as an Irish citizen i.e. s/he must have been ordinarily resident in an EU Member State for at least three of the five years preceding his/her entry to the third-level course.
The following points should be noted: -
The two requirements are separate criteria and the time it takes to acquire citizenship/refugee status may be included as part of the residency time period. For example, periods of residency as an applicant for asylum or as a declared refugee prior to the acquisition of citizenship and entry into third level may be taken into account.
Extract from Section 17(1) of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) reads as follows: -
(a) shall…give to the applicant a statement in writing (in this Act referred to as “a declaration”) declaring that the applicant is a refugee…”
Extract from Section 3 (2)(a) of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended), reads as follows: -
3 (2)(a)…”a refugee in relation to whom a declaration is in force-
(i)shall be entitled to seek and enter employment, to carry on any business, trade or profession and to have access to education and training in the State in like manner and to the like extent in all respects as an Irish citizen”
Extract from Section 24 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) reads as follows: -
24.(i) “...a ‘programme refugee’ means a person to whom leave to enter and remain in the State for temporary protection or resettlement as part of a group of persons has been given by the Government... whether or not such person is a refugee within the meaning of the definition of “refugee” in section 2”
24.(ii)“a programme refugee shall, during such period as he or she is entitled to remain in the State…be entitled to the rights and privileges specified in section 3 [of the Act, see above]
Family member of an official refugee
The position is that where the Minister for Justice and Law Reform confirms that a person is a family member, or dependent family member, of a refugee and is allowed to remain in the State under Section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996, such family members may be entitled to free fees once they meet the other criteria of the Free Fees Initiative - as long as the principal refugee is allowed to remain in the State.
Such family members, who have been given permission to enter the State, must present themselves to a Garda Registration Office within 90 days of arriving in the State at which time they will be issued with a GNIB (Garda National Immigration Bureau) registration card.
Each institution should have sight of the following original documentation in order to determine eligibility for free fees for such family members of refugees: original letter from Minister for Justice and Law Reform which confirms family member status under Section 18 of Refugee Act 1996, and GNIB registration card,
Residency, for the purposes of the free fees initiative, commences from the date on the GNIB registration card (date of issue).
Persons who have permission to remain in the state
Persons who have permission to remain in the State as a family member of a Union citizen under the provisions of the EC (Free Movement of Persons) regulations 2006 and 2008 and Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the council.
SI 226/2006, as amended by SI 656/2006 and SI 310/2008, gives effect to Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.
The Regulations apply to:
Therefore both ‘qualifying’ and ‘permitted’ family members of EU migrants who have been granted permission by the Department of Justice and Law Reform to reside in the State are entitled to be considered under the Free Fees Initiative once they meet all other criteria of the scheme (apart from Nationality), at date of entry of their course of study as is the case with all other students, which means that such students must meet the residency requirement of the scheme prior to admission to their course of study.
Where such family members are given permission to reside in the State by the Department of Justice and Law Reform, they would be notified to report to their local immigration officer to have their passport endorsed and will be issued with a residence card bearing the title 4EUFam (i.e wording denotes the person is a family member of an EU citizen).
Therefore institutions should seek sight of the family members’ letter from Department of Justice and Law Reform confirming immigration status, passport and of their Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) Certificate of Residence card, bearing the title 4EUFam.
It should be noted that a ‘stamp 4’ is not sufficient for a student to qualify for free tuition fees. The card must bear the title 4EUFam.
Persons who have been granted Humanitarian Leave to Remain
Persons who have been granted Humanitarian Leave to Remain in the State (prior to the Immigration Act 1999); or persons in respect of whom the Minister for Justice and Law Reform has granted permission to remain following a determination not to make a deportation order under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999
Where a person was granted humanitarian leave to remain in the State prior to the Immigration Act 1999 such persons may be considered for free tuition fees once they meet all other criteria of the scheme.
Upon enactment of the Immigration Act 1999 persons were no longer granted humanitarian leave to remain in the State but may instead be granted permission to remain following a determining by the Minister for Justice and Law Reform not to make a deportation order under section 3 of said Act. Persons with such permission to reside in the State may be considered for free tuition fees once they meet all other criteria of the scheme.
Institutions must have sight of
Persons Granted Subsidiary Protection with Permission to Reside in the State
The European Communities (Eligibility for Protection) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 518 of 2006) provides for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to grant subsidiary protection to certain persons. Such persons are then granted permission to reside in the State – Regulation 4(4). A person in respect of whom a determination under Regulation 4(4) has been made may apply to the Minister for permission to be granted to a member of his or her family to enter and to reside in the State and if the Minister is satisfied that the person who is the subject of the application is a member of the family, or a dependent family member, of the applicant, the Minister may grant permission in writing to the person to enter and reside in the State also – Regulation 16(3)(a) and 16(4)(a).
Change of Nationality
Entitlement to free fees for non-EEA nationals who acquire EEA citizenship during the course of their third level studies and issues surrounding fee status of non-EEA nationals.
A ‘Change of Nationality’ clause forms part of the Free Fees Schemes. As is currently the case students, who do not meet the nationality criteria of the schemes, will continue to be ineligible for free fees, however if such students subsequently acquire EEA citizenship during their third level studies they may be entitled to free tuition fees for the remainder of their course of study as follows:
In order to be eligible under this ‘Change of Nationality’ clause students must have met all other criterion of the Free Fees Schemes, apart from nationality, at date of entry to their course of study.
The policy in relation to non-EEA nationals who are not naturalised is
Institutions to which the Free Fees Initiative applies
Institutes of Technology