- Many business visitors and holders of legitimate work permits were affected by the recent confusion at airports around the world (including in Ireland) due to the troubled implementation of President Trump's travel ban.
- That experience demonstrates the need for a well-managed and streamlined approach to immigration administration.
- Irish authorities have recently implemented some changes to our own corporate immigration regime and this update examines whether these changes are having the desired effect in making Ireland a great country in which to do business.
- Work permit applications can now be made online and "Trusted Partner" status speeds up processing.
- Work Permit holders can now book appointments to register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau and so the notorious queues for this service have disappeared.
- January 2017 saw chaotic scenes at many airports around the world when individuals from seven countries were refused entry to the US following the implementation of President Trump's controversial travel ban.
- Holders of valid visas and green cards for the US were affected by the ban and the successful legal challenges that followed were largely brought by such visa holders. In light of this, President Trump has now decided that those with "significant business or professional obligations" should not be captured by his revised travel ban.
- Among many lessons learned, a key learning point is the need for a well-managed and streamlined approach to immigration administration. While Ireland, like most countries, has sometimes struggled with implementing a clear and swift immigration system, progress has been made towards a more user friendly and predictable immigration system.
What's happening in Ireland?
Last year some small but significant reforms were made to the Irish corporate immigration system:
- work permit applications may now be submitted online to the Department of Jobs;
- the notoriously long queues at the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service have been eliminated due to a new online system for booking appointments.
Work Permit Applications
- The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (DJEI) sets strict, but clear criteria for work permits based on the need for particular skills and experience in Ireland as well as a company’s capacity to grow its business and employ additional Irish/EEA nationals. When companies work closely with IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland and where a potential employee is sufficiently senior and/or highly skilled a work permit will generally issue from the DJEI.
- A new online applications portal was launched recently by the DJEI and this has made the application process more streamlined and straight forward. There has been some slippage in processing times since the commencement of online applications, but once the new system beds down processing times should decrease again.
- When a company registers as a Trusted Partner of the DJEI this generally decreases the waiting time for permit applications and the DJEI's stated aim is to process such applications within two days.
- Certain nationalities including Russia, India and China (after securing a work permit) must also apply for an employment visa which is done online via their local Irish embassy or consulate prior to travelling to Ireland.
- This additional step, which is administered separately by the Department of Justice and Equality (DOJ), inevitably leads to delays and although efforts are being made to facilitate investors from China in particular, a little more joined-up thinking between the DJEI and DOJ would be welcome.
- Other nationalities may travel to Ireland without a visa and will meet an immigration officer and receive a stamp on their passport at their port of entry, which will generally allow for a 90-day stay in Ireland.
- Having secured a work permit (and, if applicable, a long-stay visa), a non-EEA national wishing to reside in Ireland for more than 90 days must finally register with the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS).
- Those who are required to register with INIS include workers of all levels of seniority, students, adoptees, spouses / de facto partners of Irish nationals, and asylum seekers. A registration card (GNIB Card) is issued which must be renewed, in person, every year.
- Until recently it was simply not possible to book an appointment with INIS in advance; one had to attempt to be seen on a first come first served basis. This resulted in notoriously lengthy early-morning queues outside INIS's offices on Burgh Quay, and there was no guarantee of securing an appointment that day. This was clearly not a particularly business-friendly aspect of our immigration system and work permit holders in Dublin were generally not overjoyed to join a queue on a poorly lit street in a slightly neglected part of the city centre at 4am in order to register; though at least for some it gave them something to do as jet lag set in.
- However, in September 2016, a new online appointment system for registrations was launched meaning registration appointments with INIS can be reserved in advance and individuals no longer need to allocate whole days to an administrative formality which at its worst was a humiliating experience and at best a waste of time for all subjected to it. 25,000 appointments were booked through the new system by the end of 2016 and as a result the infamous queues have been consigned to history.
Coupled with an increasingly efficient work permit application process, the administrative improvements at INIS are another welcome change to an Irish corporate immigration system that is increasingly sophisticated and in tune with Ireland's business friendly brand.
Ireland remains an enthusiastic recipient of global talent and the removal of some layers of bureaucracy by the DJEI and DOJ is positively impacting on companies who want to locate non-EEA personnel in Ireland, as well as making life easier for those employees moving to Ireland.