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May 2022
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Global Mobility Basics
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Team Localyze

The essential guide to Irish employment permits

Some of the world’s fastest-growing businesses—including companies like CRH, Ryanair, Facebook and Apple—have headquarters in Ireland. Fortunately for them, the Irish economy currently has one of the fastest growth—and lowest unemployment—rates in the European Union. 

To keep pace with this growth, Irish employers can look beyond their borders and recruit skilled workers from abroad. And the numbers suggest that many companies are already doing just that. Based on data from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, international employment permit applications reached an 11 year record-high in 2021.

In order to legally work in Ireland, however, many candidates will need to apply for an Irish work permit. In particular, anyone who isn’t a citizen of the European Economic Association (EEA), Switzerland or the United Kingdom.

In this short primer, we'll provide an overview of the nine main employment permits in Ireland and the process of applying for them. 

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Table of contents: 

  1. Who needs an employment permit in Ireland?
  2. General criteria for employers
  3. The main Irish work permits
  4. How does one apply for an employment permit in Ireland?
  5. Who should submit the application?
  6. FAQs
  7. The bottom line

Who needs an employment permit in Ireland?

Citizens of the European Economic Association (EU member states plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein), Switzerland and the UK can live and work in Ireland without an employment permit.

Anyone who is a foreign national of a country outside of the EEA, Switzerland and the UK, needs permission from the Irish immigration Service to live and work in Ireland.

Obtaining permission is a two-part process. First, applicants must apply for an Irish employment permit. To do so, a job offer from a prospective Irish employer is required. Then, once an employment permit has been granted, it is possible to apply for an entry visa. 

Note: this article does not cover the kinds of entry visas available in Ireland, nor the application process. 

General criteria for employers

As mentioned, in order to apply for an employment permit, applicants must have a job offer from an Irish employer. Additionally, the following criteria generally apply to all employers that wish to hire non-EEA nationals: 

  • Applications will only be accepted from employers that are registered with the Revenue Commissioners and where applicable, with the Companies Registration Office/Registry of Friendly Societies and which are currently trading in Ireland. 
  • The prospective employee concerned will be employed, salaried and paid directly by the employer.
  • At least 50% of workers in a company must be Irish or other EEA nationals. 
  • Employers must pass the Labour Markets Needs Test to ensure that no suitable EEA nationals could be found to do the job. However, there are a few exceptions.

The main Irish work permits

There are nine main work permits available to those who need permission to live and work in Ireland:

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  • Critical Skills Employment Permit
  • General Employment Permit
  • Dependant/Partner/Spouse Employment Permit
  • Intra-Company Transfer Employment Permit
  • Contract for Services Employment Permit
  • Reactivation Employment Permit
  • Internship Employment Permit
  • Sport and Cultural Employment Permit
  • Exchange Agreement Employment Permit

Critical Skills Employment Permit

The Critical Skills Employment Permit is available to highly-skilled workers in professions where there’s a shortage of skills in Ireland. A full list of these occupations can be found on the Critical Skills Occupation List. 

Applicants or their potential employers can apply for a Critical Skills Employment permit if the applicant has a job offer that has either: 

Additionally, the job offer must be for two or more years.

These are the main qualifications for the Critical Skills Employment Permit: 

  • Applicants must have the qualifications, skills and experience needed for the job.
  • For eligible jobs that require a salary of €32,000 or higher, applicants must hold a degree or higher qualification.
  • For eligible jobs that require a salary of €64,000 or higher, applicants must have a degree or equivalent experience.

A Labour Market Needs Test is not required for a Critical Skills Employment Permit. 

In most cases, it is not possible to get a permit to work for a company where more than 50% of the employees are non-EEA nationals. However, this restriction may be waived for start-up companies that are within the first two years of operation and supported by Enterprise Ireland or IDA Ireland.

The Critical Skills Employment Permit is issued for a period of two years. Thereafter, applicants can get permission to live and work in Ireland without an employment permit.

Applying for a Critical Skills Employment Permit? Check out our checklist that provides an overview of the application process.

General Employment Permit

The General Employment Permit allows for work in occupations where there is a labour shortage in Ireland. It’s less restrictive than the Critical Skills Employment Permit, however, as it grants permission to work in any job that is not listed on the Ineligible List of Occupations for Employment Permits.

Applicants or their potential employers can apply for a General Employment Permit if the applicant is offered a job that: 

  • Pays at least €30,000 per year
  • Is not on the Ineligible List of Occupations

A Labour Market Needs Test is usually required for the General Employment Permit, except for when:

  • The job is an occupation included on the Critical Skills Occupations List.
  • The annual salary for the position in question amounts to €64,000 or more.
  • The application is submitted with a recommendation from the Enterprise Development Agencies.
  • The job offer is for a carer of a person with exceptional medical needs that has developed a high level of dependence on the non-EEA national/applicant.
  • The job in question is offered to a non-EEA national/applicant who held a General Employment Permit or a Work Permit Employment Permit and was made redundant any time after 1 October 2014. 

General Employment Permits are issued for a maximum period of two years, and can be renewed for a maximum period of three years.

After applicants have held the General Employment Permit for five years, they can apply for permission to work in Ireland without an employment permit.

Dependant/Partner/Spouse Employment Permit

The Dependant/Partner/Spouse Employment Permit is available to the dependants, recognised partners, civil partners and spouses of Critical Skills Employment Permit holders and of Researchers on Hosting Agreements that wish to apply for an employment permit in Ireland.

The main criteria for the Dependant/Partner/Spouse Employment Permit are:

  • A valid job offer
  • Remuneration must be national minimum wage or higher

All occupations are eligible with the exception of domestic jobs. A Labour Market Needs Test is not required.

The duration of the Dependant/Partner/Spouse Employment Permit is determined according to: 

  • The duration of the primary permit holder’s employment permit
  • The duration of the primary researcher’s immigration stamp

The durations above are subject to a maximum period of two years.

Intra-Company Transfer Employment Permit

The Intra-Company Transfer Employment Permit is open to individuals who work for a multinational company that wants to transfer them to an Irish branch. It is intended for:

  • Senior managers that earn at least €40,000 per year
  • Key personnel with specialist knowledge that earn at least €40,000 per year
  • Trainees that earn at least €30,000 per year

Senior managers and key personnel must have worked for the company for at least six months prior to the planned transfer. Trainees must have worked for the company for at least one month.

The Intra-Company Transfer Employment Permit can be issued for a maximum period of up to two years, and may be extended for a maximum period of up to five years.

Contract for Service Employment Permit

The Contract for Service Employment Permit is available to individuals working for companies that have a contract with an Irish business or entity to carry out work in Ireland. Employers should apply on behalf of their employees.

The following requirements apply:

  • Applicants must have been employed with their company for at least six months
  • The minimum pay rate must be €40,000 per year.
  • The contractor needs to be registered with Revenue Commissioners as an employer; if applicable, with the Companies Registration Office.
  • At least half of the employees of the contractor or the Irish company/entity that the contract is with must be EEA citizens.

A Labour Market Needs Test is usually needed, except for when: 

  • The application is for an occupation on the Critical Skills Occupations List.
  • The annual salary for the position in question amounts to €64,000 or more.
  • The application is submitted with a recommendation from the Enterprise Development Agencies (this applies to client companies of Enterprise Ireland or IDA Ireland only).

The Permit is valid for the duration of the work contract between the applicant’s company and an Irish business or entity. Applicants cannot stay in Ireland for more than five years on a Contract for Service Employment Permit. 

Reactivation Employment Permit

The Reactivation Employment Permit is available to individuals who were working in Ireland with a valid employment permit, and could not renew it through no fault of their own, or because they were mistreated by their employer.

The main criteria for Reactivation Employment Permits are:

  • A valid job offer
  • Remuneration must be national minimum wage or higher
  • Applicants must possess the relevant qualifications, skills or experience required for the employment.

All occupations, including home carer positions are permitted, with the exception of domestic jobs. A Labour Market Needs Test is not required.

Reactivation Employment Permits are issued for a maximum of two years and can be renewed for a maximum of three years.

After applicants have held the Reactivation Employment Permit for five years, they can apply for permission to work in Ireland without an employment permit. 

Internship Employment Permit

The Internship Employment Permit is open to full-time college students from outside of the EEA that would like to get work experience in Ireland. Either the applicant or their potential employer can apply for an Internship Employment Permit. 

The main criteria for the Internship Employment Permit are:

  • The pay rate of the internship must be the national minimum wage or higher.
  • The work experience gained through the internship has to be a requirement of the applicant’s course.
  • The internship must be in an occupation on the Critical Skills Occupations List.

The Permit is issued for a maximum period of twelve months. When the Permit is finished, the applicant must leave Ireland.

Sport and Cultural Employment Permit

The Sport and Cultural Employment Permit is open to qualified individuals that wish to work in the sport and cultural sectors in Ireland. Either the applicant or their potential employer can apply for the Permit.

The main criteria for the Sport and Cultural Employment Permit are:

  • To obtain a position in the sport and cultural sectors, applicants must have the specific skills and relevant qualifications. These will be assessed, according to a number of criteria, by The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
  • The minimum pay rate for positions must be the national minimum wage or higher. 

The Labour Market Needs Test is required.

The Sport and Cultural Employment Permit can be issued for a maximum period of two years, and renewed for a maximum of three years.

After applicants have held the Permit for five years, they can apply to work in Ireland without an employment permit. 

Exchange Agreement Employment Permit

The Exchange Agreement Employment Permit is available to individuals coming to Ireland through one of the following programmes:

  • AIESEC
  • The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE)
  • The Fulbright Programme
  • The Bord Bia exchange agreement between St Joseph’s University, Philadelphia and UCC for food marketing students
  • Vulcanus in Europe Programme

The main criteria for the Exchange Agreement Employment Permit are:

  • The minimum pay rate must be the national minimum wage or higher.
  • Applicants must possess the relevant qualifications, skills, knowledge or experience for the occupation.
  • The exchange or international agreement must apply to the applicant concerned and the application must be supported by a letter from the exchange organisation.

A Labour Market Needs Test is not required for an Exchange Agreement Employment Permit.

The Permit is issued for a maximum period of twelve months and cannot be renewed.

How does one apply for an employment permit in Ireland?

Applications for Irish employment permits can be submitted online through EPOS, the Employment Permits Online System.

Who should submit the application?

Either applicants or their potential employer can submit the application for an Irish work permit. Additionally, the application process can be done with the help of an experienced employee relocation service provider.

FAQs

Here are some commonly asked questions and answers on permits and working in Ireland that non-EU employers and nationals should be aware of:

How do you change or renew an employment permit in Ireland?

Most employment permits are issued for 24 months, and you can renew them (through EPOS) for up to five years.  After this period, you're free to apply for permanent residency in Ireland.

What happens if you’re caught working without a permit?

It's illegal to get employed in Ireland without a valid work permit. If a foreign employer is found with workers who don't have permits, they risk being jailed for up to ten years and receiving a fine of €250,000. 

What happens if your application for an employment permit is denied?

If your application for a work permit is denied, the visa office will give you specific reasons why it was refused and offer further information on how you can appeal the decision. You'll have 28 days to appeal, and only then will your application be reconsidered. 

What happens if you lose your job?

If you lose your job in Ireland, you may qualify for an unemployment social welfare payment. If you don't have enough PRSI contributions, you may be entitled to Jobseeker's Allowance. This is a means-tested payment to unemployed individuals searching for a job. 

On the other hand, individuals with enough social insurance contributions may qualify for Jobseeker's Benefit. Depending on your type of permit and circumstances, you may be entitled to a GP visit card, a medical card, and other secondary benefits like Rent Supplement through the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme. 

The bottom line

Recruiting internationally is a perfect way for Irish employers to find the workers they need to keep pace with the rapidly growing economy. And with the variety of employment permits available, there are several options when it comes to hiring and relocating talent from abroad to Ireland. 

If you’re an Irish employer and plan on relocating a highly-skilled worker from outside the EEA, check out our Critical Skills Employment Permit checklist for employers!

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