Ayesha Tariq is used to employers losing interest in her CV upon hearing the name of her immigration stamp.

Sometimes, she says, they quickly end the conversation and hang up the phone after she mentions it.

“They wouldn’t listen, they just say we’re not looking at CVs which are Stamp 1G,” said Tariq, last week.

In 2017, Tariq left a well-paid marketing job in Dubai to accompany her husband to Ireland where he had found work in tech and was after a while granted a Stamp 4.

She was on Stamp 3, granting her the right to stay in Ireland as her husband’s dependent, but making it hard for her to get a job.

In March 2019,a law changed. Partners of skilled workers, as Tariq is, got full working rights without having to go through the laborious process of applying for a work permit.

Rather than a Stamp 3, they were moved onto a Stamp 1G. It was a change that on paper made it easier for them to work but, in reality, created another barrier.

There are two categories of people who are on 1Gs: non-EEA students, who can temporarily work post-graduation and spouses, like Tariq, of skilled workers who can work longer term.

Because both categories have the same stamp, but differing rights, employers are confused, says Tariq.

It means they withdraw job offers, opt not to offer permanent positions, or bin CVs that mention the stamp, they say, assuming that they’re of the student variety, with a shorter-term permission that will run out and require a work permit.

Those on Stamp 1G aren’t the only ones finding that their stamp status confuses potential employees.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said it “strives to provide immigration-related information in a manner that is as clear and easy to understand as possible”.

There are no current plans to change immigration stamp names, they said. “However, the Department continues to engage with employers on immigration-related matters.”

Conflating Names

Tariq says she was hopeful of resurrecting a successful career when partners of skilled workers won the right to work.

“But they pulled us from one grave and put it in another one,” said Tariq, gently banging her hand on the table in front of her.

Some job application forms come with a limited menu of stamp names, she says.

They might only list Stamp 4, which doesn’t require applying for a work permit, as an option. Employers may list a Stamp 1G, says Tariq, but assume that the applicant is a fresh graduate and so ignore them, trying to avoid having to sponsor a future work permit.

“I have cleared interviews with really good companies, big, big names,” she says as her phone rings. “And the moment I say I’m on Stamp 1G, they say, sorry, we need Stamp 4.”

They wouldn’t put it in writing though, says Tariq, and with some companies, no amount of explaining is enough. “They’re just not interested.”

Among those affected by the confusion around stamps – albeit this time around Stamp 1s – is a large group of students from Venezuela who couldn’t return after finishing their studies because the country’s situation worsened, says Siobhán Conlon, founder and human rights solicitor at the law firm Siobhán Conlon Solicitors.

“In fairness to the minister and to the residence division, they took a very pragmatic approach, in my view,” she says.

The Department of Justice let them stay, agreeing that they needed protection, she says. “They granted them a Stamp 1 without the need for an employment permit and that was great.”

A Stamp 1 is different to a Stamp 1G.

It is granted when a non-EEA worker gets a work permit for the first time and tethers workers to one employer becauseif they quit they have to jump through the hoops of finding another employer willing to sponsor another work permit – until they can move on to the more secure Stamp 4.

Conl o n and her colleagues at her firm are flooded with messages from clients who are on Stamp 1 and don’t need a work permit but are finding employers have little appetite to hire them due to the stamp name.

“Sometimes in big multinational companies or smaller European companies, the employer would appear to be telling them that we only accept a Stamp 1G or a Stamp 4,” Conlon says.

A recent job ad for a role that requires fluency in the Russian language from multinational IT consulting company Accenture says: “EU citizen or Stamp4/1G only to apply(no sponsorship).”

Said Conlon: “Multiples of clients came and said that this is what employers accept or want.”

Of the several employers contacted, only two responded to queries, including how the government could make the stamp system easier to navigate. “Unfortunately this is not something which Google Ireland would comment on,” said a spokesperson.

“At this time we are unable to provide a comment in response to your questions,” said a spokesperson for Viagogo, a ticket swap and resale company, often hiring workers with specific languages for its customer-care service.

Unequal in Name

The spokesperson for the Department of Justice said that it gives a detailed breakdown of different stamps and conditions on its immigration website.

Stamp 1 means permission to work subject to conditions, the website says. To get a Stamp 1, the person needs to get an employment permit or a letter saying one is exempt, it says.

Conlon, the solicitor, says what’s on the website seems to be unclear for employers. “Maybe they just don’t have the familiarity or understanding.”

It’s especially unreasonable to expect small employers to navigate the stamp system without clear and direct communication from the government, she says.

“It must be very difficult for an employer to understand them all and to ensure that they’re abiding by the law and doing the right thing, you know,” Conlon said.

Helen Moakley, immigration solicitor at the law firm Thomas Coughlan and Co., says she wrote to a company when a recent client with a type of Stamp 1 that didn’t require a work permit was refused employment.

Moakley also complained to the Department of Justice, she says. “And asked for Stamp 4 so that she would not have issues when seeking employment.”

The Justice Department then wrote to her client to say her Stamp 1 “mirrors that of a Stamp 4 in terms of having permission to seek employment”, said Moakley quoting from the letter.

Says Moakley: “One would wonder why a Stamp 4 could not be granted if it mirrors the Stamp 1.”

The immigration system is complex enough to navigate, she says, and confusion around stamp names creates unnecessary hurdles along the way.

Tariq, the woman on a Stamp 1G, says she envisions an Ireland where all migrants with full working rights have Stamp 4.

She even made a Facebook page trying to advocate for that, she says. “I wanted to run an initiative. I titled it One Stamp Ireland.”

“Why so many stamps? I don’t understand,” says Tariq.

Conlon says some Stamp 4 permissions can differ from other permissions with unlimited working rights, when it comes to other issues such as the explicit right to family reunification.

Tariq now works in customer service, starting at the bottom. She had started out in customer service back in Dubai, she said.

She has worked manual-labour jobs too while pregnant, she said, because Stamp 1G holders don’t get to choose their careers.

These days, she is depressed and on antidepressants, she said. “Who’s going to pay for that? Nobody’s going to cover that,” said Tariq, banging on the table.

She tries to summon her old confident self for job interviews, hoping to shine. But it hasn’t been easy.

“I’m not the same person I was two years ago,” she said last week, wrapping her right hand around a takeaway coffee. “Nobody can return that to me.”

“I was in Dubai and I had a good job and I had confidence, all of that is gone,” she said.

Stamp inequality has affected her beyond employment, she says.

When she and her husband recently applied for a mortgage, one of the banks said that because she was on a Stamp 1G, it couldn’t give her one, said Tariq.

But her Stamp 4 husband, who has the same employment rights, is eligible, she said.

“It’s like we’re handcuffed for no reason.”

Shamim Malekmian covers the immigration beat for Dublin Inquirer. Reach her at shamim@dublininquirer.com

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