The Irish justice minister Dermot Ahern has tabled amendments to give civil partners equal treatment in Ireland’s immigration laws.

The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill is currently at Committee stage in the Dáil.

Civil partnerships were signed into law by president Mary McAleese in July.

However, gay couples will not be able to have civil partnerships until January, as tax and social welfare changes have to be made by the departments of Finance and Social Protection.

According to gay group GLEN, inclusion of civil partners in immigration law will build on progress already made in providing recognition for same-sex couples in immigration regulations.

In provisions for people in de facto relationships, non EU same-sex partners of Irish or EU nationals are now entitled to apply for permission to remain in the state on the basis of their relationship.

GLEN director of policy change Eoin Collins said: “This is a very important advance and will help deliver greater security for same-sex couples worried about separation due to immigration difficulties.”

Mr Collins also thanked Alan Shatter and Lucinda Creighton of Fine Gael who tabled similar amendments.

In August, up to 3,000 people protested in Dublin to call for gay marriage, instead of civil partnerships.