217. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the qualification criteria for the immigrant investment programme; the turnaround time and number of applications for participation in the programme which were determined and given approval or refusal within periods (details supplied) in each year since the programme was introduced; the number of staff exclusively dedicated to assessment and decision making in respect of the applications; the Civil Service grade of such persons; the specialist professional expertise and qualifications they hold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12247/19]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP) was introduced by the Government in April 2012 to encourage inward investment for the creation of business and employment opportunities in the State.
The IIP provides non-EEA nationals with a number of options to invest in Ireland, and successful applicants are granted a permission to reside in Ireland for a fixed period. Applicants must be high net worth individuals with a personal wealth of at least €2 million. An investment of €1 million in projects must be made for a minimum of three years, which may be renewable following a review. 
In common with the operating model found across member states; programmes such as the IIP are first and foremost an Immigration matter.  The Immigrant Investor Unit of my Department has eight staff members, comprising of a Principal Officer (who also performs other duties), Assistant Principal Officer,  1.5 Higher Executive Officers, 2 Executive Officers and 3 Clerical Officers.  Additionally, this unit has recourse to additional resources from within the Division to support peak processing.  The composition of the team is multidisciplinary including experienced immigration officials and staff members with a background in finance
It is important to note that applications are assessed by an Evaluation Committee, composed of senior civil and public servants from relevant Irish Government Departments and Irish State Agencies involved in enterprise development in Ireland.  Applications are assessed on the basis of the profile of the applicant, the commercial viability of the project, employment outcomes associated with the proposed investment and the overall benefit to the Irish State. The Evaluation Committee makes recommendations to me on those applications that it decides should be accepted and approved under the Programme.
I am advised that statistics are not compiled in such a way as to provide the specific information requested by the Deputy in respect of time periods. The following table provides details of the outcome of applications processed since the introduction of the programme.

Year  Approved Refused Withdrawn
 2012  5  0 0
 2013  15  0 0
 2014  30  2 1
 2015  65  0 1
 2016  272  53 0
 2017  294  8 1
 2018  45  3 15

It should be noted that a total of 420 applications were received in 2018 of which 357 are  currently being processed.  A decision on a significant number these applications is expected in the coming weeks once processing has been completed.
A major external review of the IIP is underway and a tender process will be launched shortly to select a suitable candidate to undertake an independent evaluation. It is expected that the review will be concluded in the second half of 2019.