Mobility of key staff is a significant issue for multi-national employers, especially with the uncertainty relating to Brexit. A striking feature of the 2017 Workplace Relations Commission’s (“WRC”) Annual Report is the growing importance of corporate immigration.

During 2017, 37% or 20,000 calls to the WRC Infoline related to employment permit queries. Of the 4,747 inspections carried out by the WRC, employment permit irregularities made up 17% of the total number of breaches identified. Of particular significance to employers is that from the 93 prosecutions resulting in convictions in 2017, 60 related to breaches of the Employment Permits Acts. Offences under the Employment Permits Acts, on conviction on indictment, attract a maximum fine of €250,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or both.

There have been a number of recent developments in the area of corporate immigration that are of practical significance for employers.

1. Employment Permit Processing Times

Due to the high volume of permits submitted to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, it is currently taking 14 weeks to process standard permit applications. Permit applications submitted Trusted Partner applicants, are currently taking 6 weeks to process. Employers will need to factor these processing times into their recruitment process.

2. GNIB cards have been replaced by the Irish Residence Permit

The new Irish Residence Permit (“IRP”) has replaced the 'GNIB card'. The IRP is a registration certificate which indicates that an individual’s immigration permission to stay in Ireland has been registered and their type of immigration permission (i.e. stamp number).

The new IRP has exactly the same legal status as the old GNIB card and will be issued to individuals who register with immigration in Ireland post 11 December 2017. Current holders of a GNIB card are not required to apply for a new IRP until their GNIB card expires, or is lost or stolen.

3. Employment Permits (Amendment) Regulations 2018 S.I. No. 70 of 2018

The Employment Permit (Amendment) Regulations 2018 commenced on 26 March 2018 and amend the Employment Permits Regulations 2017. The main changes under the Regulations are as follows:

  • The Ineligible Categories of Employment List and the Highly Skills Eligible Occupations List have been updated;
  • The Ineligible Categories of Employment List no longer applies to Intra-Company Transfer employment permits; and
  • A copy of the signed contract of employment must be submitted with all new and renewal employment permit applications. Employers should therefore ensure that employment contracts are carefully drafted and include the successful application for an employment permit as a pre-condition to employment.

4. Atypical Working Scheme

The Atypical Working Scheme (“AWS”) is a streamlined mechanism administered by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (“INIS”) to deal with atypical, short term employment or certain other employment situations between 14 and 90 days which are not governed by the Employment Permits Acts.

The INIS has recently issued a notice which provides that a Letter of Approval issued under the AWS will remain valid for 90 days from date of issue. If not used within that time, a fresh application will be required under this scheme and a new application fee will apply. As visa required nationals are required to submit a copy of their Letter of Approval when applying for an entry visa, this will cause such applicants particular difficulties as the processing time in some countries for entry visas for Ireland is longer than 90 days.

5. Update to visa required nationals list

From 31 January 2018, nationals of the United Arab Emirates no longer require a visa to travel to Ireland.