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Your right to education and healthcare as a young migrant in Ireland

Learn more about the services that you are entitled to as a young migrant or refugee in Ireland


Written by Children's Rights Alliance and posted in life


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This factsheet is an extract from the publication Know Your Rights: The Rights of Children and Young People published by the Children's Rights Alliance. It is reproduced here with their kind permission. Know Your Rights is a public information project designed to inform everyone, in plain language, of the rights and entitlements children have in Ireland and where to go when they are not respected.

If you move to Ireland while under the age of 18, you will be entitled to access certain services depending on your own citizenship, parent's citizenship or immigration status. Read our article on Registering your Immigration Status to learn more about the immigration process in Ireland. 

What services can I access as a young migrant or refugee in Ireland?

Do I have the same right to access primary or secondary education as an Irish citizen?

Almost all migrant and refugee children have the same right to access primary and secondary education as Irish children.

The only exception is the children of international students from outside the European Union. If your parents are in Ireland to study, they may have to prove that they have enough money to provide for you.

They will have to get permission from the Department of Education and Skills before you can attend a non-fee-paying school. They may also have to pay an immigration levy (a special tax) for you to attend a non-fee-paying school. The Department of Education and Skills has not finalised the rules on this or decided the amount of the levy.

Can I access the Free Fees Scheme for third-level education in the same way as an Irish citizen?

To be eligible for the Free Fees Scheme or to apply for a Student Universal Support Ireland grant, you must have spent three out of the last five years living in:

  • the EU
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway or
  • Switzerland

You must also be an EU citizen or a citizen of:

  • Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland
  • have refugee status
  • be a family member of a recognised refugee or
  • have been granted leave to remain

If you become an EU citizen during your time studying, you will not have to pay third-level fees for the remaining time you are studying.

If you are not an EU citizen, you may have to pay international student fee rates to access third level education. These rates are significantly higher than those for EU citizens. This will depend on what type of immigration status you have. If you are in the asylum process you must pay the international student fee rate. However, there are a number of schemes that might be able to help you cover the cost of attending third-level education like the Universities of Sanctuary.

For more information and advice on how to access these schemes contact the Irish Refugee Council. You can check with the institution where you wish to study to find out if you are entitled to the Free Fees Scheme. Information is also available on the Student Finance website.

Do I have the same right to access healthcare services?

Every child has the same right to access healthcare. However, if you are over the age of six your right to a medical card for free healthcare will depend on the immigration status of your parent or parents. If you are under the age of six you will qualify for a GP Card. This allows you to visit the GP (family doctor) for free. In order to get a GP Card you will need to have a PPS number. 

Your parents must be EU citizens for you to get a medical card. They may need to have private health insurance. However, your parents may be entitled to a medical card for you if you or your parents have applied for asylum or been granted:

  • refugee status
  • subsidiary protection
  • permission to stay in Ireland

There are special rules and income limits for this. For more information contact your local Citizens Information Centre.

Need more information?

We are here to answer your questions and talk through your options. Our online chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm. Chat to us now about your situation.

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Published June 2nd2020
Last updated Octo­ber 28th2020
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