Ciarán Ahern & Patrick O’Neill: Positive changes to Irish immigration rules and regulations
Associate Ciarán Ahern and solicitor Patrick O’Neill in the employment, pensions and incentives team at A&L Goodbody examine recent changes to the Irish immigration regime.
There have been a number of recent developments in Ireland which further facilitate Irish employers in recruiting skilled employees from outside the EEA. These changes allow for additional types of roles to be recruited from outside the EEA and are also aimed at improving the living arrangements of employment permit holders and their spouses/partners when they move to Ireland.
The three key changes in this area relate to:
- enactment of new employment permit regulations
- spouses and partners of CSEP holders
- re-entry visas
Employment Permit (Amendment) Regulations 2019
The Employment Permit (Amendment) Regulations 2019 were enacted on 22 April 2019. The Irish government periodically reviews the skills needs of the Irish market. The most recent regulations have added a number of occupations across the construction sector, sports and fitness industry and the health industry to the Critical Skills Occupations List. In general, in order to be eligible for a Critical Skills Employment Permit (CSEP) a particular role must have a basic salary of at least €60,000. The benefit of inclusion on the Critical Skills Occupations List is that a role may be eligible for a CSEP with a lower salary threshold of between €30,000 - 60,000.
In particular, the following occupations have been added to the Critical Skills Occupations List:
- civil engineers
- mechanical engineers
- electrical engineers
- design and development engineers
- production and processing engineers
A number of trade and semi-skilled occupations are to be removed from the Ineligible Occupations List so that individuals with such skills can apply for a General Employment Permit (GEP). Previously they would not have been eligible due to a perceived over-supply in the Irish market. However, a labour market needs test must still be carried out prior to the permit application in respect of these occupations.
The following occupations have been removed from the list:
- sheet metal workers
- air-conditioning & refrigeration engineers
- crane drivers
- transport and distribution clerk/assistant (subject to a general quota of 300 GEP)
- plasterers (subject to a general quota of 300 GEP)
- bricklayers (subject to a general quota of 300 GEP)
Spouses and partners of CSEP holders
New immigration arrangements enacted on 6 March 2019 permit spouses/partners of CSEP holders to access the Irish labour market without the need to obtain an employment permit. Previously a spouse/partner of a CSEP-holder could apply for a separate spousal/partner work permit once they had secured a job offer in Ireland. This permit would allow a spouse to work in any role in Ireland, not just particularly highly skilled roles. This system proved to be unsatisfactory as the prospect of a long delay in processing the spousal permit application (up to 12 weeks in recent times) deterred many employers and proved to be a barrier to entry to the workforce for spouses of CSEP holders.
Under the new regime, spouses/partners (who would have been on Stamp 3 permission before now) who currently live in Ireland and who do not possess an employment permit can make an appointment with their local immigration office and attend with their CSEP-holding partner / spouse to register for Stamp 1 permission. This will provide the spouse with immediate and full access to the Irish labour market without the need for an employment permit.
Spouses/partners of CSEP holders who have not yet arrived in Ireland will be eligible for Stamp 1 permission without the need for an employment permit from the DBEI.
As of 1 April 2019, a new pre-clearance process has been put in place for spouses/partners of CSEP holders. Pre-clearance for spouses/partners requires all non-EEA nationals to apply for a pre-clearance letter of approval (a PLOA) seeking permission to reside in the State as a family member of the CSEP holder prior to arriving in the State. Non-EEA nationals will not be allowed to enter the State until the PLOA has been processed. It is currently taking approximately eight weeks from the date of submission of the application, to have a determination on a PLOA application.
The result of this change is that a spouse/partner will no longer be able to come to Ireland immediately with a permit holder. They must now get a PLOA after the relevant permit has issued prior to travelling to Ireland.
From 13 May 2019 visa required nationals who hold a valid Irish Residence Permit (IRP) card (formally a GNIB card) will no longer need a re-entry visa to travel in and out of Ireland. Their IRP/GNIB card and passport will be sufficient. Visa required nationals who do not hold a IRP/GNIB card will continue to require a valid visa.