Overview of Employment Permits in Ireland 

Employment permits in Ireland are processed by the Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation.  The employment permit system was developed to allow non-EU/non‑EEA nationals to work in Ireland in jobs where there is a labour shortage in the market and where an employer cannot find an Irish or EU national to file the role.

The primary legislation governing employment permits are the Employment Permits Act 2003 (as amended), the Employment Permits Act 2006 (as amended), the Employment Permit Regulations 2017 (as amended) the Employment Permit Regulations 2018, and the Employment Permit Regulations 2019.

There are eight different types of employment permits available in Ireland, the most of which are the Critical Skills Employment Permit, the General Employment Permit, and the Intra-Company Transfer Employment Permit.

Under the Employment Permits Acts, it is a criminal offence to work without an employment permit when a person is a non‑EU/non-EEA national Ireland without any other type of lawful immigration permission allowing them to work in Ireland.  Penalties of up to €250,000 can be enforced on parties who breach Employment Permit Regulations.

Non-EEA nationals who are currently in Ireland on a Working Holiday Authorisation or a Van Der Elst Transfer Permission cannot apply for an employment permit from within the State and must therefore leave the State should they wish to apply for a permit.  Similarly non‑EEA nationals who are currently the holders of a Stamp 4 permission to remain, or persons who are resident in the Republic of Ireland without a valid immigration permission cannot apply for an employment permit without either leaving the State and applying from outside, or submitting an application to the Department of Justice seeking a change or regularisation of their immigration permission in order to apply.

Persons resident in the State on a valid Stamp 1,1G, 2, 2A or 3 may apply for an employment permit.

In order for an employment permit to be granted to an Applicant, it is necessary to prove to the Department of Enterprise, Business and Innovation that the Applicant possesses the skills, knowledge and qualifications in order to fulfil the position and that the employer was unable to secure an Irish or EU national to fill the role.

The Government policy is that employment opportunities which arise in the Republic of Ireland should, in the first instance, be offered to Irish or EU nationals.

In certain circumstances, employers are required to carry out what is called a Labour Market Needs Test before applying for an employment permit.

The link to this test is available on the following link: https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Workplace-and-Skills/Employment-Permits/Labour-Market-Needs-Test/.

The Labour Market Needs Test involves the employer advertising the position with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection Employment Services/EURES employment for four weeks, in a national newspaper for three days, and in a local newspaper or employment website for three days. Evidence of the advertisements must be submitted with the application.

In addition, the Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation has published on its website a large list of employments called the ‘Ineligible  List of Occupations for Employment Permits’ and if a role is on this list, then the position is not eligible for an employment permit even where the employer is unable to secure an Irish or EU national to fulfil the position.

The full ineligible list of occupations is available on the following link.

https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Workplace-and-Skills/Employment-Permits/Employment-Permit-Eligibility/Ineligible-Categories-of-Employment/.

Either an employer or an employee can apply for an employment permit as the Applicant and it does not matter who the Applicant is.

A person cannot apply for an employment permit without a job offer and a signed contract of employment which must be submitted in support of the application.

An employment permit will not be granted if it will result in more than 50% of the  employers work force being non-EU/EEA nationals. Exceptions to his rule are where the business is a start-up company within two years of establishment and is supported by the IDA Ireland or Enterprise Ireland.

The employer must be registered with the Revenue Commissioners and have a valid Employer Registered Number (ERN). They must also be registered with the Company Registration Office.

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation charge filing fees in the range of €500 to €1500, depending on the permit being applied for.

An employees passport must be valid for at least six months in order to apply for an employment permit.

Visa required nationals must also apply for an entry visa to the State after the employment permit is granted and this application is submitted separately to the Immigration Service Delivery of the Department of Justice and Equality, who are responsible for processing visa applications.

Non visa required nationals do not require an entry visa but must show the original employment permit to the immigration officer at the port of entry upon arrival.

All employment permit holders must register with their local immigration office within 90 days of entry to the State in order for their passport to be endorsed with a Stamp 1 permission to remain and for their details to be processed for the purpose of issuing them with an Irish Residence Permit (IRP card) which is sent by post a number of weeks after the registration appointment.

Critical Skills Employment Permit

The Critical Skills Employment Permit (CSEP) is the most sought-after employment permit in Ireland.  This permit was created in order to attract highly skilled workers to Ireland with the goal of encouraging them to take up permanent residence in Ireland after two years of employment.

The Critical Skills Employment Permit is particularly focused on roles that are considered by the DBEI to be in short supply and are required for the proper functioning of the Irish economy.

Critical Skills Employment Permits are valid for two years and will not be granted where the job offer is less than two years in duration.

Criteria for eligibility:

  1. Roles with a minimum annual remuneration of €32,000 where the role is listed on the Critical Skills Occupations List and the employee has at least a relevant degree at level 7 on the NARIC scale – https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Workplace-and-Skills/Employment-Permits/Employment-Permit-Eligibility/Highly-Skilled-Eligible-Occupations-List/
  2. Roles with a minimum annual remuneration of €64,000 where the position is not listed on the ‘Ineligible List of Occupations for Employment Permits’ and is not listed on the ‘Critical Skills  Occupations List’. An applicant does not need to possess a relevant degree qualification but they must prove that they have the necessary level of skills and experience to carry out the role.
  3. A job offer of at least two years – whether the role is on the Critical Skills Occupations list or not.
  4. For nurses or midwives, a third level degree or diploma which is accepted by the Nursing & Midwifery Board of Ireland for registration, will be sufficient to apply for a Critical Skills Employment Permit where the salary is less than €64,000.

In relation to remuneration, amounts can include only base salary and health insurance payments made by the company. An employer is not required to pay health insurance, provided that the base salary meets the required amount. Bonuses are not included in a base salary and the figures are based on a 39-hour work week. Therefore, if applying for an employment permit and working 40 hours per week then slightly higher figures apply if applying based on the minimum salary requirements.

After twenty months of employment in Ireland, eligible Critical Skills Employment Permit holders may apply for a Stamp 4 permission to reside in Ireland.

In addition, all family members, regardless of nationality, can join the employee in Ireland at the start of the employment. Family members include spouses (same or opposite sex) or same-sex civil partners with a civil partnership certificate, children under eighteen or children aged 18 to 23 in full-time study and who are dependant.

Spouses of Critical Skills Employment Permit holders who are granted permission to enter and reside in Ireland are granted a Stamp 1G immigration permission which allows them to work in any employment without the need to obtain an independent employment permit.

General Employment Permit

The General Employment Permit offers more flexible salary requirements than a Critical Skills Employment Permit and is the next option for employees who are ineligible to be apply for a Critical Skills Employment Permit.

In general a Labour Market Needs Test is required for a General Employment Permit unless the job is on the Critical Skills Occupations List, the salary is over €64,000 per annum, or if the role is supported by IDA Ireland or Enterprise Ireland and a letter of support is available from either of these two authorities.

A General Employment Permit will not be granted for positions which are listed on the Ineligible Occupations List regardless of the employee’s education and salary or the fact that an employer is unable to find an EU or Irish national to fill the position.

If the role appears on the Ineligible Occupations List then it is not eligible for an employment permit and no exceptions are made by the DBEI in this regard.

The remuneration requirements for a General Employment Permit are as follows:-

  1. €30,000 for a standard General Employment Permit.
  2. €27,000 for certain individuals who have graduated within the previous twelve months from an Irish third level institution and who have been offered a role which appears on the Critical Skills Occupations List.
  3. €27,000 for certain graduates who have graduated within the previous twelve months from an overseas third level institution, who have been offered a role which is classified as “an ICT professional” job on the Critical Skills Occupations List.
  4. €27,000 if a non-EEA language is required, the position is supported by IDA Ireland or Enterprise Ireland and is a customer service or sales role, or specialist online digital marketing/sales role, or specialist/technical language/sales support role.

The basic salary includes base salary and insurance payments only and figures are based on a 39-hour work week.

General Employment Permits are granted for periods of six months to two years. Renewals are granted for additional periods of six months up to three years.

When a person has completed five years of employment in the State on a General Employment Permit, they are then eligible to be obtain a Stamp 4 permission to remain.

Family reunification is only possible once the principal employment holder has completed at least one year of employment in the State. Family members unlike those of Critical Skills Employment Permit holders are not granted permission to work in Ireland. They are granted a Stamp 3 permission to remain and must secure their own employment permit should they wish to work in Ireland.

Intra Company Transfer Employment Permit

The Intra Company Transfer Employment Permit (ICT) allows companies with overseas offices to transfer senior management, key employees, and trainees to Ireland to a local office in Ireland.

Employees who are transferred pursuant to this permit remain employed by the foreign entity on a foreign contract of employment and remain on the foreign payroll during their time in Ireland.

There is no restriction on the type of occupations which are eligible for an Intra Company Transfer Permit so even positions which are listed on the Ineligible Occupations List may still qualify for an Intra Company Transfer Permit.

Permits are granted initially for a period of 91 days to two years and may be renewed for a further period of up to three years.  The maximum amount of time which a person can remain in Ireland on an Intra Company Transfer Permit is five years.  However, for trainees the maximum stay permitted is 12 months on an ICT Permit.

The Irish company must have a physical presence in Ireland, they must be registered with the Office of Revenue Commissioners as well as the Company Registrations Office.

A permit will not be granted if its grant will result in more than 50% of the employees of the Irish entity being non‑EA nationals (unless it is a start-up company within two years of formation and are supported by IDA Ireland or Enterprise Ireland).  The foreign company must be engaged in substantive business operations in their own country and there must be a significant connection between the Irish entity and foreign company. Examples of the connection would be one being a subsidiary of the other or having the same parent company.

Holders of ICT permits are allowed to bring their families to Ireland  immediately however family members are not permitted to work in Ireland and are granted a Stamp 3 permission to remain in order to reside.   Should any family members wish to work in Ireland then they will be required to apply for their own employment permit independently of their family member.

Senior management and key personnel must have worked for the overseas employer for a minimum of six months prior to the transfer whilst trainees are required to have worked with the foreign employer for a minimum of one month prior to the transfer.  The minimum salary requirement for an ICT Permit is €40,000 per annum for key personnel and senior management, and €30,000 for trainees.   These figures can include only base salary, top-up to base salary, health insurance and board and accommodation.   End of year bonuses and relocation expenses may not be included.

The Irish entity or foreign employer must pay health insurance, whether it is included as part of the minimum remuneration package or not.   Amounts are based on a 39-hour week and again slightly higher figures apply to 40-hour work weeks where minimum salary levels are being paid.

Other employment permits

Reactivation Employment Permit

This permit facilitates situations where a non-EU/EEA national who arrived in the State on a valid employment permit but fell out of the scheme through no fault of their own, to work lawfully again. Examples of falling out of the system may be where a person was badly treated or exploited by their employer or was made redundant and could not secure employment within the six-month grace period granted by the DBEI following redundancy.  Candidates must first apply for a temporary Stamp 1 immigration permission to the Immigration Service Delivery and once this is granted, apply for a Reactivation Employment permit to the DBEI.

Contracts for Services Employment Permit

This permit covers situations where a foreign company has entered into a  contract to provide services to an Irish entity. The permit facilitates the transfer of employees of the foreign employer to Ireland to provide the contracted services to the Irish business. The employees  remain employed on a contract outside of the State and on the foreign payroll with the Foreign Employer.

The Foreign employer must be registered with the Company Registration Office and the Revenue Commissioners in Ireland.

Internship Employment Permit

This permit was devised to enable non-EEA national full-time students who are enrolled in an overseas third-level institution to undertake work experience with an employer in the State.

An internship employment permit will only issue for a role on the Highly Skilled Occupations List,  for a maximum of 12 months and is not renewable.

Sport and Cultural Employment Permit

This permit is designed to enable non-EEA nationals to work in the State in roles which will enhance, develop, and promote sporting and cultural activities.

Exchange Agreement

This permit allows non-EEA nationals to work in the State pursuant to prescribed agreements or international agreements to which the Irish State is a party.

Atypical Working Scheme

The Atypical Working Scheme (AWS) was introduced by the Department of Justice and Equality 2013 to facilitate short term work in Ireland which is generally not covered by the Employment Permits legislation.

It offers flexible criteria to allow a non-EEA national employee to enter the State for work assignments which last from 15 to 90 days.

Examples of this are as follows:

  • when a highly skilled worker is required to undertake a short-term project;
  • a skills shortage has been recognised to fill a short-term post;
  • a locum doctor is required on a short-term basis;
  • a researcher who not eligible for an Employment permit or a Hosting Agreement.

Applications for the Atypical Working Scheme must be submitted from outside of the State (the 26 county of the Republic of Ireland) to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service. Applications will not be accepted from persons who are already in the State.

Permission to remain under the Scheme will be granted for a minimum of 15 to a maximum of 90 days under the Scheme. Only one application under the Atypical Working Scheme can be submitted per person in a twelve-month period.

The minimum remuneration required under the scheme is the National Minimum wage and Applicants should always check the current minimum wage rate on the government website before applying in circumstances where this can be subject to change – https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/41a981-the-minimum-wage-in-ireland/

Job roles which are listed on the Ineligible Occupations List for Employment Permits as published by the Department of Business and Enterprise are not eligible for permission under the Scheme and will be refused.

Visa required nationals are required to apply for an entry visa on receipt of a letter of approval from the Department of Justice and Equality.

The approval letter is valid for a period of 90 days from the date of issue. There is no provision for an extension of the letter so if it is not used within the 90-day timeframe, a new application (along with the non-refundable application fee of €250) will be required.

The Atypical Workers Scheme is an extremely useful arrangement which can be utilised to fill short term labour shortages for employers thereby alleviating the need to apply for employment permits in qualifying situations.

It is not however a means of circumventing employment permit rules and legislation so employers and employees alike should be cognisant of this when submitting applications under the scheme.

Van Der Elst Work Transfer Permission

The Van Der Elst Work Transfer permission arose following a ruling of the European Court of Justice delivered on the 9th of August 1994 in the case of Raymond Vander Elst v Office des Migrations Internationales Case C-43/93.

This case focused on the rights of an EU company to provide services freely throughout the European Economic Area without having to apply for further employment permits in the relevant countries to which they were posting employees.

The case confirmed that non-EEA nationals who are legally employed by a company in an EEA/EU country can provide services on a temporary basis to a company in another EEA/EU country without the need to obtain an additional employment permit.

By way of example, a company based in France with a non-EEA national employee who has been lawfully resident in France on a local contract, could post an employee to Ireland to work on a temporary basis (maximum twelve months) without the need to submit an application for an employment permit.

In order to be eligible for the Van Der Elst Work Transfer the employee must be:

  • lawfully resident in the EU/EEA country in which the employer is established;
  • lawfully employed by the employer in the sending EU/EEA country;
  • on the payroll of the employer in the sending EU/EEA country.

Visa required nationals must apply for a visa to enter the State under the scheme.

Non visa required nationals do not need to apply for a pre-entry visa but should have in their possession appropriate paperwork to present to immigration officials at the port of entry as evidence of their entitlement to enter under this permission.

Both visa and non-visa required nationals should attend their local immigration office for registration within 90 days of entry to the State.

Permission to remain in the State granted under the Van Der Elst Work Transfer Permission will not extend beyond the expiry date of a workers original permission to remain in the sending country, even if this results in a permission to remain of less than twelve months being granted in Ireland.

The employee is not permitted to work in another employment whilst resident in the State and they are not entitled to be accompanied by family members (although family members can still apply for visit visas for short period where applicable).

Should the employee subsequently wish to apply for an Irish employment permit, they are required to leave and submit the application whilst they are outside of the State.

Self-employed individuals or holders of intra company transfer permits to work in the sending EU member state, are not eligible for a Van Der Elst Work Transfer Permission.

Stamp 4 Support Letters

Critical Skills Employment Permits for highly skilled workers in Ireland are issued for a period of two years.

Unlike General Employment Permits where a renewal application must be submitted to the Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) in order to continue in employment, Critical Skills Employment Permits holders are instead entitled to apply for a Stamp 4 permission to remain at the end of the two years.

The Critical Skills Employment Permit holder must apply to the Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation for a Stamp 4 “Support Letter”.

On receipt of this letter the holder should then attend their local Garda Immigration Office in order to apply for a Stamp 4 permission to remain in the State.

When attending the immigration office, the following documentation should be produced:

  • Original passport;
  • Certificate of Registration (IRP card);
  • Critical Skills Employment Permit;
  • Stamp 4 Support Letter from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation confirming continuing employment.

A person applying for a Stamp 4 Support Letter must have completed 21 months of employment in Ireland on a Critical Skills Employment permit before an application can be processed, however they can submit the application once they have completed 20 months of employment in order for the application to take its place in the processing que.

Posted Workers

The European Union (Posting of Workers) Regulations 2016 transposed Directive 96/71/EC and Directive 2014/67/EU, which govern the placement of “Posted Workers”  to host EU member states from other member states.  Directive 96/71/EC took effect from 30 July 2020.

A Posted Worker is either an EU or non-EU national with an employment contract in an EU country who is transferred to another EU country in order to provide services for a temporary and limited period of time.

The Directive sets out a number of employment law related conditions which must be observed by the host member state and creates a framework to facilitate the monitoring of compliance with conditions by the labour authorities which in Ireland is the Workplace Relations Commission.

If a person works in an EU country and is transferred to Ireland on a temporary basis, the Directive is applicable, and it is the duty of the foreign employer to file a declaration with the Workplace Relations Commission before the individual commences employment in Ireland.  The declaration includes information such as name and address of the host Irish company, work location, nationality of employee, job title during assignment, start date, end date, hours of work and salary.  Failure of the employer to file the declaration with the WRC may result in penalties including fines of up to €50,000.

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