Shatter announces two new initiatives: Immigrant Investor Programme and Start-up Entrepreneur Scheme

The Minister for Justice, Equality & Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, TD, today announced that he had secured Government approval for the introduction of two major new immigration initiatives aimed at facilitating (non EEA) migrant entrepreneurs and investors who, in return for permission to reside in the State, are prepared to invest here for the purpose of saving or creating jobs.

The new initiatives will be known as:

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".

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The Immigrant Investor Programme:

Approved participants in the Investor Programmes and their immediate family members will be allowed enter the State on multi-entry visas and to remain here for a defined period. Ordinarily this will be for a period of 5 years - reviewable after 2 years. 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 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 €500,000 for endowment-related investments to €2 million in the new Immigrant Investor low-interest bearing Government Bond to be devised by NTMA in conjunction with the Immigration authorities. The funds in this Bond will be held by 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 €1 million and the Department will be guided by and reliant upon the advice and expertise of IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland in assessing individual proposals.

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The Start-up Entrepreneur Programme:

Turning to the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme, the Minister 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. The Minister 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 €70k can be given residency in this State for the purposes of developing their business (this compares with a previous minimum funding requirement of €300k). No initial job creation targets will be set as it is recognised 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.

All applications for both programmes will be considered by an Evaluation Committee comprised of representatives of IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, the following Government Departments; Finance; Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Foreign Affairs and Trade; Health; other Government Departments as the need arises and the Minister’s own Department of Justice. The input of the State Agencies and other Government Departments – bringing with them their economic expertise - will be crucial in deciding which applications are recommended for approval. Applicants must be of good character and be able to support themselves while in Ireland. Applicants will be required to attest to their bona fides on affidavit sworn here. False, misleading or incomplete information submitted can lead to removal from the State as well as revocation of the immigration permissions. An Annual Report will be published on the operation of the Programmes and they will also be reviewed to ensure that they continue to meet their objectives. The Programmes offer no special access to Irish citizenship. Beneficiaries will be subject to the same rules as other migrants in that regard – i.e. generally residence in the State for at least 5 years.

Minister Shatter stated "These two initiatives are about protecting existing jobs and creating new opportunities. Ireland clearly needs investmentáand 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.

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Next Steps

Formal rules and official launch

The Minister indicated that he hoped 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.

The Minister was not prepared to offer a projection as regards the likely uptake. "I am not going to make any predictions on this", he said. "it would be unwise to do so in any case. We are in new territory so let’s wait and see. The relevant State Agencies fully support these initiatives; they are about jobs – whether creating new opportunities or saving existing jobs and my Department looks forward to working closely with them in a positive "Team Ireland" approach in operating these Programmes"

Minister Shatter 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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Notes for Editors

Immigration Scheme for Investors and Entrepreneurs

Background

The current ‘business permission’ scheme for migrant investors, requires the applicant to have a minimum of €300,000 to invest in an Irish business project. The investment must create at least two full time jobs for EEA nationals in a new project or maintain employment levels in an existing business. This scheme has been in place for some time and is largely inadequate for the purposes of (i) attracting high potential innovation start-ups or for (ii) tapping into the potential pool of international investors.

To avail of the potential opportunities for attracting job creating investments into Ireland, the Government have approved two new immigration schemes.

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Start-up Entrepreneur Programme.

This entrepreneurial start up scheme recognises the need to foster start-up enterprises in priority innovation sectors of the economy. The existing business permission scheme is insufficient to support such business proposals and a more flexible approach has been developed in consultation with Enterprise Ireland, who have extensive experience of such schemes in other jurisdictions.

To qualify an applicant must:

  • Have some form of financial backing of not less that €75,000 through business angels, venture capital providers or a financial institution regulated by the Financial Regulator. Personal funding transferred to the State or a grant from a relevant State agency would also be acceptable.
  • The business proposal must have a strong innovation component.
  • The applicant must not be a drain on public funds.

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Immigrant Investor Programme

The investor scheme is designed to attract individuals with a successful background in business to invest in and relocate to the State. A range of investment options are provided for with different thresholds applied depending on the nature of the investment:

  • A once off endowment of a minimum of €500,000 to a public project benefiting the arts, sports, health or education.
  • A minimum €2,000,000 investment in a low interest immigrant investor bond. The investment is to be held for a minimum of five years. The details of the investment will be finalised with the National Treasury Management Agency in the coming weeks. The bond will be offered exclusively to participants in this scheme and will not be tradable on any market.
  • A minimum €1,000,000 venture capital funding into an Irish business for a minimum of three years. An investment into an Irish publicly quoted company could be considered but the investment level would have to be much higher.
  • A minimum €1,000,000 mixed investment in 50% property and 50% in Government securities. Special consideration could be given to those purchasing property, in the State, which have been enforced by NAMA. In such cases a single €1m investment in property might be sufficient.á(N.B. the minimum investment threshold for mixed investments will be dependent on the type of investments proposed and will be determined on a pro rata basis)

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Evaluation of Applications

Applications will be on a prescribed form and will be accompanied by a fee to offset the administrative costs of the schemes. Admission to both schemes will be subject to the approval of an Evaluation Committee composed of suitably qualified and experienced people from relevant State Agencies or elsewhere.

The Evaluation Committee will be formed from senior management representatives from the Departments of Justice and Equality, Finance, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation as well as Enterprise Ireland and the IDA. A suitable qualified independent member will also be appointed.

The first order of business for the Committee will be the adoption of a code of practice for the operation of the schemes. The code will be published and will articulate the integrity and transparency of the evaluation process.

All communication between the Committee and applicants for the schemes will be directed to the applicant or their nominated legal or financial representative. No other third party or agency communications will be accepted or considered.

The Evaluation Committee will co-opt expertise from relevant Government Departments or State Agencies where the nature of the investment proposal requires such input.

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Immigration Permissions

Successful applicants will be granted a residence permission for two years which will be renewable thereafter provided the business is still operational and the applicant is earning a living without being a burden on the State.

No employment requirement will exist for the first two years and neither will the business be required to be profitable at renewal stage.

Family reunification will be permitted for spouse/partner and children provided that family needs are met from the resources of the entrepreneur/investor or other private means. No access to State benefits will be permitted during this period.

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Naturalisation options

The two schemes offer interested parties the potential for residence in the State and not Irish Citizenship. Successful applicants will only be able to apply for naturalisation under the terms of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts 1956-2004, in the same way and under the same conditions as all other non-Irish nationals.