Following a review by the Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation of the Employment Permits system and the current skills needs in the labour market, Employment Permits policies have been updated to ensure a balanced and renewed policy rationale for Employment Permits to facilitate access to skilled workers where there are skills shortages in the Irish and EEA labour market.

The primary changes are outlined below and have been made effective for all applications considered from 10th April 2013 onwards. It should be noted that any applications received before 10th April will be processed in line with the revised rules which are inherently designed not to disadvantage such applications.

1. The Highly Skilled Occupations List (previously referred to as ‘eligible occupations list for Green Cards’) has been broadened and updated to correlate with known shortages of key skills in the labour market. Whereas before eligibility in respect of a particular job title was confined to a particular sector, the highly skilled eligible occupations are now permissible across all sectors in recognition that a particular skill in short supply will be experienced across all sectors which require that skill.

2. The labour market needs test i.e. the requirement for advertising with the Department of Social Protection’s employment services (previously referred to as FÁS) has been reduced from 8 weeks to 2 weeks and the requirement to advertise in a national newspaper has been reduced to 3 days. Whereas before there was a further requirement to advertise in a local newspaper there is now an option to advertise in a local newspaper or on a job’s website for 3 days.

3. The Ineligible Categories of Employment for Employment Permits list of occupations has been updated to cater for particular shortages in relation to certain occupations involving the necessity of being able to communicate in a non-European Economic Area language.

4. The employment permits applications forms have been amended to reduce the requirements to submit additional documentation. In tandem with this there will be greater focus on the random checking of employment permits by the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) to ensure adherence to the relevant legislation.

5. An initiative has been taken by the Department  of Enterprise Trade and Innovation and the Department of Justice and Equality to provide a more coherent service across both the Employment Permits regime and the Visa regime. Certain categories of non-EEA immigration permission holders, who have been offered employment in an occupation included in the Highly Skilled Occupations List will now be allowed to apply for an Employment Permit, whilst already legally residing in the State. Also the Department of Justice and Equality (INIS) intends to facilitate job interviews for highly skilled candidates and provide measures to permit persons to be employed in the State on a short term basis i.e. between 14 and 90 calendar days. Further details are available on the Department of Justice and Equality (INIS) website.

6. Current holders of Intra-Corporate Transfer Provider Employment Permits and Contract Service Provider Employment Permits can now apply for other types of Employment Permit subject to the normal criteria.

7. The current employment permits website has been updated to improve information and customer service.

8. For IT graduates of foreign colleges and for technical or sales support roles with non-EEA language requirements, the remuneration threshold is reduced from the current €30k p.a. to €27k p.a. in respect of employment permits applications under the Work Permits category.

9. To assist clarity, income requirements will be based on ‘remuneration’ rather than ‘salary’ for all types of employment permits where items of remuneration are demonstrated on payslips or P60s.

10. The appeals process will be more efficient and transparent and will now, instead of reviewing the application afresh, only reference the stated reasons for a refusal as provided in a decision to refuse.

11. Changes have been made to our internal procedures to reduce the time it takes to process applications with a commitment to speeding up processing by at least 10 days.

12. To facilitate queries in relation to the new procedures, the Employment Permits call centre will extend its normal opening hours.

The Department of Enterprise Trade and Innovation has announced that the  changes mark the beginning of a programme of change now underway. It is intended that over the course of the next 6 months further enhancements will include:

• the use of a single application form which will electronically guide the applicant through the form;

• migration of website information to a new platform and better information linkages with the relevant aspects of the Department of Justice and Equality’s visa regime;

• new Department of Justice and Equality pilot initiatives to be announced in the Summer;

• online querying of an Employment Permit application’s status; and

• expanding the availability of the telephone Call Centre.

In the medium term we are advised that the Department also intends to conduct a Business Process Re-engineering review of its processing system in light of proposed legislative changes and to facilitate the development of an online applications system.

The changes are engineered to ensure that Ireland has an attractive Employment Permits regime for employers and prospective employees to facilitate access to skilled foreign nationals in areas where there are demonstrable skills shortages especially in the ICT sector. The employment permits regime complements other Government initiatives especially in the education sector aimed at increasing the domestic supply of skilled labour and will therefore be adjusted accordingly over time as and when sufficient domestic supply becomes available.

By Sinnott Solicitors