On 19 June 2019, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) released a report which examines the effectiveness of Irish policies and practices in respect of non-EEA migrant access to employment in Ireland.

Among the issues examined by the ESRI are the difficulties entering the labour market faced by spouses, partners and dependents (the Family Members) of non-EEA nationals with an employment permit. Such Family Members are generally not permitted to work in Ireland unless they obtain their own employment permit. The ESRI reports that some of the difficulties faced by Family Members are caused by a lack of clarity around their entitlement to work which has caused confusion among jobseekers and employers.

The ESRI however highlights the positive changes which were made in March 2019 to the immigration regime in respect of spouses and partners of Critical Skills Employment Permit (CSEP) holders and researchers under a Hosting Agreement as provided for under the EU Third Country Researchers Directive (Council Directive 2005/71/EC) (the Spouses and Partners) which has removed many of the labour market barriers for this particular group.

Spouses and Partners now have an automatic right to work on arrival in Ireland. This change was implemented to make Ireland more attractive, particularly for investors and international talent, and to streamline existing processes.

One of the key benefits of the CSEP is that it allows CSEP holders to apply for immediate family reunification. This additional positive change for Spouses and Partners will now make it even easier for CSEP holders and their families to live and work in Ireland.

Spouses and Partners who are already in the State may attend their local immigration office with the CSEP holder and a copy of the CSEP to amend their immigration status to grant them an automatic right to work.

The ESRI reports that the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, in conjunction with the Department of Justice and Equality, has engaged in a campaign to raise awareness among CSEP holders and employers of these changes.

In addition, a new pre-clearance policy (the Policy) has been introduced as of 1 April 2019 for De Facto Partners of a CSEP holder (the De Facto Partner). Pre-clearance must be completed prior to the De Facto Partner's arrival in the State and is only necessary where he or she seeks to join the CSEP holder for more than 90 days. The Policy also applies to De Facto Partners of non-EEA Researchers on a Hosting Agreement and will ensure a more efficient immigration process upon entry.

An application with the necessary supporting documentation can be made to the preclearance section of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service before travelling to Ireland. If approved, the applicant will be issued with a letter which must then be presented to an immigration officer upon arrival in order to gain entry into the State.