General framework

Legislation

What primary and secondary legislation governs immigration in your jurisdiction?

Immigration in Ireland is governed by varying legislation, the most prominent of which are the Employment Permits (Amendment) Act 2014, the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004, and the International Protection Act 2015.

International agreements

Has your jurisdiction concluded any international agreements affecting immigration (eg, free trade agreements or free movement accords)?

Irish and UK nationals are permitted to live and work in each jurisdiction under the Common Travel Area (CTA) agreement. The CTA is a long-standing arrangement formed before either Ireland or the UK joined the EU and is not reliant on membership of the EU. The CTA is rooted in domestic Irish and UK legislation, independent of EU law, and both the Irish and UK governments have committed to maintaining CTA arrangements when the UK leaves the EU.

Regulatory authorities

Which government authorities regulate immigration and what is the extent of their enforcement powers? Can the decisions of these authorities be appealed?

In Ireland, the three government departments with responsibility for immigration are the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI), the Department of Justice and Equality, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The level of discretion afforded varies depending on the particular government department and the constraints of the associated legislation.

Government policy

In broad terms what is your government’s policy towards business immigration?

The Economic Migration Policy Unit in the DBEI creates and implements labour market policies in Ireland. This body leads the development of economic migration and controls access to employment in Ireland.

Ireland’s general policy is to promote the sourcing of labour and skills needs from within the workforce of the European Union and other European Economic Area (EEA) states. However, where specific skills prove difficult to source within the EEA, an employment permit will generally be available to an employer who needs to hire a non-EEA national. Therefore, in times of economic prosperity, the eligible occupation categories for employment permits are generally broadened to provide for an expanding economy, labour market shortages and skills needs. Whereas, during a period of economic decline, the eligible occupation categories are narrowed and other restrictions are applied in line with a decline in employment opportunities and an oversupply of labour. Even during such periods, however, the need to meet certain skills requirements may arise and during such periods, employment permits will still be issued to non-EEA nationals where it can be demonstrated that their expertise is required or would be beneficial to the economy.

In recent years, fundamental changes to the Irish immigration system were introduced, the most significant of which came into effect with the Employment Permits (Amendment) Act 2014. This Act was aimed at providing clarity, transparency and flexibility to potential investors and employers with the creation of nine specific categories of employment permits that will be explored within this chapter. The commencement of the Employment Permit Regulations 2017 (Regulations SI No. 95 of 2017) and the commencement of further regulations in 2018 and 2019 has also provided further clarity and guidance on the applicability of the Employment Permits (Amendment) Act 2014.

Recently, targeting high-growth emerging companies and start-ups has become a priority for creating new job opportunities in Ireland. The recent reforms tend to encourage these companies to establish deep roots in Ireland while contributing to economic growth.

Arising from this, the Trusted Partner scheme was launched in May 2015 (Regulations 2015, SI No. 172 of 2015). This scheme allows companies registering as frequent users of the DBEI employment permits system to access a fast-track route, leading to a streamlined application process while minimising the administrative burden for the applicant. The initiative is open to both existing users and start-up companies that might require employment permits for non-EEA nationals in the future. It should be noted that the scheme is aimed at, and in practice limited to, companies that have or are likely to have a large volume of employment permit applications.

Short-term transfers

Visas

In what circumstances is a visa necessary for short-term travellers? How are short-term visas obtained?

Nationals from certain countries require a visa to travel to Ireland irrespective of the length of time of the proposed visit, the time the applicant intends to remain in the country and the reason for travelling. The Department of Justice and Equality maintains a list of the countries whose nationals do not require a visa to travel to Ireland. This list is reviewed and updated frequently by the Department of Justice. It should be noted that obtaining a visa is a form of pre-entry clearance only, granting permission to the individual to present themselves at the point of entry into Ireland to seek permission to enter the country.

All visa applications must be made using the online visa application facility. Following submission of the online visa application, the individual will be required to print and sign a summary of the application form. The signed summary together with the specific documentation requested must be submitted in respect of the individual to the local Irish embassy, consulate or visa facilitation services office.

Restrictions

What are the main restrictions on a business visitor?

An individual travelling to Ireland as a business visitor is entitled to attend business meetings, conferences and orientations, negotiate trade agreements and sign contracts and undertake fact finding missions for example, but is not permitted to undertake productive work in Ireland with the exception of short-term work that does not exceed 14 days. The maximum period of time an individual is permitted to remain in Ireland as a business visitor is 90 days. An individual granted business visitor permission will generally be granted permission to remain in Ireland for the period of time specified on his or her return travel ticket.

The decision to grant entry to Ireland and the period of time for which permission is granted to business visitors is at the sole discretion of the immigration officer on duty at the point of entry into Ireland. Over the past two years, there has been an increase in the number of inspections on employers for individuals who may be carrying out work duties as business visitors. A visa-required national must obtain a business visa prior to travelling to Ireland. Where the individual is not a visa-required national, it is recommended that the individual carry an invite letter from the host body in Ireland confirming details of the business trip.

Short-term training

Is work authorisation or immigration permission needed to give or receive short-term training?

Individuals from certain countries require a visa to travel to Ireland to give or receive short-term training. An application for an employment permit may be necessary where an individual is required to provide training in Ireland and intends to spend more than 90 days in the country. There is a specific type of employment permit called the intra-company transfer (ICT) training permit, which facilitates the transfer of non-EEA trainees from an overseas company of a multinational corporation to a subsidiary or group company in Ireland. The Irish company must have a direct link with the overseas company through common corporate ownership (eg, either one company must own the other, or both must be part of a group of companies controlled by the same parent company).

The DBEI’s preference is that all employment permit holders are to be employed and salaried under an Irish employment contract and, in the case of the intra-company training category, it applies strict criteria in relation to eligibility requirements for employees remaining employed by a foreign-based employer.

An application for an ICT training permit may be considered for a maximum duration of 12 months, provided it is adequately demonstrated that a detailed training programme will be undertaken and all other conditions pertaining to the ICT training permit are satisfied. Trainees must be employed with the overseas organisation for a period of one month prior to the transfer taking place. ICT training permits are restricted to trainees earning a minimum annual remuneration of €30,000, a reduction from the usual minimum €40,000 remuneration threshold that applies to standard ICT permits.

Current holders of an intra-company training employment permit undergoing a one-year training programme in Ireland can apply for a critical skills employment permit or general employment permit from within the state, subject to the normal criteria.

Transit

Are transit visas required to travel through your country? How are these obtained? Are they only required for certain nationals?

Nationals of certain countries are required to be in possession of a valid Irish transit visa when arriving at a port in Ireland for the purpose of passing through the port to travel to another country, as per the provisions of the Immigration Act 2004 (Visas) Order 2014 that came into force in 2014.

If the intention is to enter Ireland for the purpose of passing through in order to travel to another state, the individual must apply for the appropriate visit visa and be in possession of a valid visa when arriving at a port in Ireland.

All transit visa applications must be made using the online visa application facility. Following submission of the online visa application, the individual will be required to print and sign a summary of the application form. The signed summary together with the specific documentation requested must be submitted to the local Irish embassy, consulate or visa facilitation services office. The Department of Justice and Equality maintains a list of countries whose nationals require a visa to transit through Ireland. This list is reviewed and updated frequently by the Department of Justice.

Visa waivers and fast-track entry

Are any visa waiver or fast-track entry programmes available?

Under the short-stay visa waiver programme, nationals of 17 approved countries may be eligible to travel to Ireland for short business or holiday trips without the need to obtain an Irish entry visa, provided they hold an eligible short-stay visa for the UK. In addition, under the British-Irish Visa Scheme, nationals of China and India can travel through the UK and Ireland CTA using a single visa issued by either country.

Long-term transfers

Categories

What are the main work and business permit categories used by companies to transfer skilled staff?

The main type of employment permit used to transfer skilled staff to Ireland is the ICT permit, which facilitates the transfer of senior management, key personnel or trainees from an overseas company of a multinational corporation to a subsidiary or group company in Ireland.

For an individual who will be a local hire in Ireland, the general employment permit or the critical skills employment permit will be the most appropriate, depending on the qualifications of the applicant and the period of employment offered (the permit issued for these employment categories may be valid for up to two years initially).

The critical skills employment permit will be available for non-EEA nationals intending to work in Ireland in sectors where a shortage of skilled workers exists (the job category must be listed on the highly skilled occupations list). Where all the conditions for a critical skills employment permit are not met, a general employment permit might then be considered, as the eligibility criteria and the access to this employment category are slightly less restrictive. A general employment permit application can be submitted if the job category is not on the ineligible occupations list. A labour market test will be required for general employment permit applications, unless exempted.

Contract for services employment permits are available for individuals assigned to work at a client site in Ireland for at least 90 days, where the assignee will remain on home entity payroll and the overseas entity has a contract for services with the Irish entity. Unless the position is on the highly skilled occupation list or the salary is above €60,000, the position needs to be advertised before an application for a permit can be filed.

Procedures

What are the procedures for obtaining these permissions? At what stage can work begin?

An application for an employment permit must be submitted to the DBEI. The application process consists of the following:

  • completion of the appropriate online application form. The employee and the employer will normally be required to sign the application form (where the employer is registered as a Trusted Partner, only the employee is required to sign the application form) and upload it to the online system; and
  • provision of supporting documents. If the original documentation is not in English, a certified translation must be submitted with the application.

Assuming the application is accepted and all documentation is in order, the DBEI will process the application and issue the original employment permit to the employee and issue a certified copy to the employer. Processing times vary depending on the volume of applications pending within the DBEI at any given time. Trusted Partner applications are prioritised.

An individual is not entitled to commence working in Ireland until the employment permit has been issued and the individual has obtained an employment visa, if applicable. The individual cannot commence working in Ireland prior to the start date stated on the employment permit.

Once the employment permit has been granted and the individual has entered Ireland, the permit holder must register at the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) or local registration office to obtain an Irish residence permit within the time frame noted in the stamp endorsed in the passport by the relevant authorities at the port of entry. This step is mandatory for compliance with immigration rules and failure to complete this process or to notify any change of address could lead to penalties and sanctions.

Period of stay

What are the general maximum (and minimum) periods of stay granted under the main categories for company transfers?

ICT

An ICT permit may be granted for an initial period of between three months and two years, with a possible extension for a further three years (maximum stay of five years). After a five-year period as an ICT permit holder, the individual must either leave Ireland or seek alternative immigration permission (eg, a critical skills employment permit or a general employment permit).

Critical skills employment permit

Critical skills employment permits are issued for a period of two years. However, an Irish residence permit is generally only issued for a 12-month period and will need to be renewed annually (although upon discretion of authorities, the card might be issued for up to two years). After the initial two-year validity of the critical skills employment permit, the individual may be eligible to apply for a Stamp 4 immigration permission that will allow the individual to work in Ireland without the need to obtain a further employment permit. In order to obtain Stamp 4 immigration permission, a critical skills employment permit holder must first obtain authorisation from the DBEI that all conditions of the employment permit have been met before attending the GNIB to seek Stamp 4 permission.

General employment permit

A general employment permit can be obtained for an initial period of from three months to two years and may be further extended up to a maximum period of five years. After this initial five-year period, the individual can seek permission to remain in Ireland without the requirement to hold a further employment permit.

Residence permission

If a non-EEA national intends to spend more than 90 days in Ireland, he or she is required to obtain permission to reside legally in Ireland from the Minister for Justice and Equality. This must be done by attending at the local garda (police) station, if residing outside Dublin, or at the GNIB, if residing in Dublin and obtaining an Irish residence permit.

Processing time

How long does it typically take to process the main categories?

The current processing time for employment permits is approximately four weeks for those filed under Trusted Partner status and 12 weeks for those filed under the standard route. Note that the processing times can vary depending on the time of year, staffing levels and holiday periods. The DBEI continues to strive to reduce processing times to three weeks for all employment permit applications.

Staff benefits

Is it necessary to obtain any benefits or facilities for staff to secure a work permit?

It is not necessary to have any benefits or facilities in place to secure an employment permit.

Assessment criteria

Do the immigration authorities follow objective criteria, or do they exercise discretion according to subjective criteria?

In Ireland, there are three different government departments with responsibility for immigration (DBEI, Department of Justice and Equality and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade). The level of discretion afforded varies depending on the particular government department.

While the DBEI follows set procedures for processing employment permits, some flexibility may be allowed (eg, in the case of a start-up).

High net worth individuals and investors

Is there a special route for high net worth individuals or investors?

There are two schemes in operation - the immigrant investor programme and the start-up entrepreneur programme - with the purpose of enabling non-EEA nationals and their families, who commit to an approved investment in Ireland, to acquire residency status.

Irish residence permission for successful applicants, and their dependent family members, will be granted initially for two years and may subsequently be renewed for a further three years subject to the applicant continuing to meet the conditions of the relevant scheme. The programmes also facilitate a pathway to long-term residence for successful applicants following the initial five years of residence in Ireland.

Key conditions of both programmes are outlined below and the qualifying criteria have been relaxed to attract more key investors to Ireland.

The immigrant investor programme

This is intended for successful business people wishing to invest in and relocate to Ireland. Their investment choices are:

  • €500,000 philanthropic endowment to a public project;
  • €1 million investment into a new or existing Irish business (or spread over several existing businesses) for three years;
  • €2 million investment in an Irish real estate investment trust that is listed on the Irish Stock Exchange; or
  • €1 million minimum investment in an approved fund that will invest in Irish business and projects.
The start-up entrepreneur programme

This is intended for entrepreneurs with business proposals for a high potential start-up in the innovation economy. The entrepreneur must:

  • have at least €50,000 in financial backing for the initial founder. This is reduced to €30,000 for any subsequent founder (from one or a combination of his or her own resources, a business loan, business angel or venture capital funding);
  • have a robust, detailed and innovative business proposal; and
  • not be a drain on public funds.

Is there a special route (including fast track) for high net worth individuals for a residence permission route into your jurisdiction?

No.

Highly skilled individuals

Is there a special route for highly skilled individuals?

The critical skills employment permit is typically granted to non-EEA nationals intending to work in Ireland in sectors where a shortage of skilled workers exists. A minimum salary requirement of €60,000 gross per annum (excluding allowances) on local payroll must be met, unless the position is listed as strategically important on the highly skilled occupations list, in which case the minimum salary threshold is reduced to €30,000. The salary thresholds will increase in January 2020.

Ancestry and descent

Is there a special route for foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?

No; however, individuals of Irish descent or Irish associations may be eligible for Irish citizenship.

Minimum salary

Is there a minimum salary requirement for the main categories for company transfers?

There is a minimum salary requirement of €40,000 for an ICT permit and a contract for services employment permit. For ICT training permit purposes, the minimum annual remuneration is reduced to €30,000. The minimum salary requirement for a general employment permit is €30,000 per annum. For critical skills employment permits, a minimum salary requirement of €60,000 applies, except for positions on the highly skilled occupations list, for which a minimum annual salary of €30,000 must be met. The salary thresholds will increase to €64,000 and €32,000, respectively, from January 2020.

Resident labour market test

Is there a quota system or resident labour market test?

Ireland does not operate an employment permit quota system with the exception of some occupations for which an annual quota has been introduced (certain chefs, horticultural workers, meat processing operatives and farm assistants). However, Irish employers seeking general employment permits or contract for services employment permits for non-EEA nationals are required to advertise the position with the Department of Social Protection Employment Services and the European Employment Services Network employment networks for a minimum period of two weeks and in a national newspaper and either a local newspaper or jobs website for three days, unless exempted. This is to ensure that the vacancy has been advertised in the local and wider EEA labour market and that, in the first instance, a national of the EU or Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland cannot be found to fill the vacancy. Evidence that this has been done must be included with the employment permit application and the advertisements must include all information as set out in the regulations. The advertising period is set to increase to 28 days (from the current 14 days) from January 2020.

There is no advertising requirement for a critical skills employment permit or ICT employment permit application.

For all employment permits, the ratio of EEA nationals employed must be maintained at a minimum of 50 per cent of the total workforce although exceptions might be recognised in some cases, such as for start-up companies and employers with a sole employee.

Shortage occupations

Is there a special route for shortage occupations?

A critical skills employment permit can be applied for in respect of occupations included on the DBEI’s Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations List. A reduced salary threshold of €30,000 (increasing to €32,000 from January 2020) applies to these occupations for which there is deemed to be insufficiently skilled resources within the EEA to meet the skills shortages.

Other eligibility requirements

Are there any other main eligibility requirements to qualify for work permission in your jurisdiction?

In order to be eligible for an ICT permit, the individual must have been employed by the overseas sending organisation for a minimum period of six months prior to being assigned to Ireland (reduced to one month for trainees).

In the case of an application for a contract for services employment permit, the individual must have been employed by the sending organisation for a minimum period of six months immediately preceding the employment permit application.

Third-party contractors

What is the process for third-party contractors to obtain work permission?

The contract for services employment permit is designed for situations where a foreign undertaking (contractor) has a contract to provide services to an Irish entity on a contract for services basis and facilitates the transfer of non-EEA employees to work on the contract in Ireland.

The contract involved must be a one-to-one contract with an Irish entity - documentary evidence of this contract may be requested. Employment permits will not be considered in instances where work is being subcontracted to a third party. Permits can only be considered for the term of the contract. Applications may be granted for a maximum period of up to 24 months in the first instance and may be extended upon application to a maximum stay of five years.

Where an employee is required to work in Ireland for between 15 and 90 days under a contract for services arrangement, the atypical working scheme applies (see question 39).

Recognition of foreign qualifications

Is an equivalency assessment or recognition of skills and qualifications required to obtain immigration permission?

The foreign national concerned must possess the relevant qualifications, skills or experience required for the particular role or job.

For critical skills employment permit applications where the salary level is between €30,000 to €60,000 the individual must possess a minimum degree level qualification relevant to the role. Critical skills employment permit applications on behalf of accountants must be accompanied by evidence that the relevant qualification is recognised by the appropriate body in Ireland. Similarly, evidence of registration or recognition by the relevant body must be provided in the case of lawyers and architects wishing to practice in Ireland.

Extensions and variations

Short-term to long-term status

Can a short-term visa be converted in-country into longer-term authorisations? If so, what is the process?

It is generally not possible to extend a short-term visa while the individual is in Ireland. In addition, it is not possible for an individual to convert a business visa to an employment visa while the individual is residing in Ireland. The individual must leave Ireland and apply for the relevant employment visa in his or her country of normal residence in order to re-enter Ireland as an employment permit holder. However, a non-EEA national who has been granted permission to enter Ireland to attend an interview under the highly skilled job interview programme, and who is subsequently successful at interview, may apply for an employment permit without the requirement to leave Ireland.

Long-term extension

Can long-term immigration permission be extended?

Critical skills employment permit holders

A feature of the critical skills employment permit is that holders whose employment permit and immigration registration card are about to expire will not be required to apply for a renewal permit through the DBEI. Instead, critical skills employment permit holders can apply for a support letter from the DBEI and then present themselves for registration renewal at the GNIB with this support letter, their existing critical skills employment permit, passport and their GNIB card. Upon successful application, the stamp on the Irish residence permit will change from a Stamp 1 to a Stamp 4, which means the card holder can work in Ireland without an employment permit.

ICT permit holders

An ICT permit can be issued for a period of up to two years initially and can subsequently be extended for a further three years only (maximum stay in Ireland of five years) after which time the individual must either leave Ireland or seek alternative immigration permission.

Contract for services employment permit holders

A contract for services employment permit can be issued for a period of up to two years initially and can subsequently be extended for a further three years only (maximum stay in Ireland of five years) after which time the individual must either leave Ireland or seek alternative immigration permission.

General employment permit holders

A general employment permit can be issued for a period of from three months to two years initially and can subsequently be extended for a further three years. After five years, immigration permission can be obtained from the Department of Justice and Equality for the holder to reside and work in Ireland without the requirement to hold a further employment permit. This arrangement applies both to individuals still in employment and to those made redundant after five years employed on a work permit.

Exit and re-entry

What are the rules on and implications of exit and re-entry for work permits?

An individual who holds an employment permit is expected to work in Ireland for the duration of the employment permit. An individual may leave Ireland for short periods of time; for example, to go on business trips or holidays.

The requirement for a visa-required national to hold a re-entry visa was abolished in May 2019. A valid Irish residence permit is now sufficient evidence of an individual’s right to re-entry to Ireland.

Permanent residency and citizenship

How can immigrants qualify for permanent residency or citizenship?

Permanent or long-term residency

In order to be lawfully resident in Ireland, there is a requirement to register with the GNIB as soon as possible after arrival in Ireland, as otherwise this could have an adverse effect on any application for long-term residency or citizenship.

Individuals who have been resident and employed in Ireland for 21 months as the holder of a critical skills employment permit can apply for Stamp 4 immigration permission (see question 27). Individuals who have been legally resident in Ireland for a minimum of five years (ie, 60 months) on the basis of general employment permit conditions may apply to the immigration authorities for permission to remain in Ireland without being subject to employment permit conditions (Stamp 4 permission). This permission is generally granted for a 12-month period and will need to be renewed annually.

A general employment permit holder may also apply for long-term residency after five consecutive years of holding valid employment permits (reduced to two years for critical skills employment permit holders). Long-term residency, once granted, is valid for an initial five-year period and may be renewed thereafter. Periods of time for which an individual has not been legally resident in the state (ie, does not have an up-to-date endorsement on the passport) cannot be counted towards an application for long-term residency.

Citizenship

A non-Irish national can apply to become an Irish citizen through naturalisation. Applications for citizenship are decided by the Minister for Justice and Equality, who has absolute discretion whether to grant citizenship, even where the applicant meets certain conditions set out in the legislation. The main conditions for naturalisation are that the individual must:

  • be 18 years or older (or married, if younger than 18);
  • be of good character;
  • have had a period of one year’s continuous reckonable residence in Ireland immediately preceding the date of the application and, during the eight years preceding that, have had a total reckonable residence in Ireland amounting to four years;
  • intend in good faith to continue to reside in the state after naturalisation; and
  • make a declaration of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the state.
End of employment

Must immigration permission be cancelled at the end of employment in your jurisdiction?

Where a non-EEA national holding a valid employment permit ceases to be employed by the employer stated on the permit, for any reason, the employment permit (employee and employer’s certified copy) must be returned to the immigration authorities for cancellation within four weeks of the individual ceasing employment. The permits will subsequently be cancelled and will no longer be valid for the purpose of employment. Irish residence permit cards should be returned for cancellation within 90 days of an individual leaving Ireland.

An individual who has held an employment permit for less than five years and has been made redundant is permitted to remain in Ireland for a period of six months from the date of redundancy in order to seek further employment.

Employee restrictions

Are there any specific restrictions on a holder of employment permission?

Any change in the circumstances of the individual or the employment must be notified to the immigration authorities. An individual who holds an employment permit is only permitted to work for the employer and in the employment stated on the employment permit.

The holder of an employment permit must be employed on a full-time basis with the employer stated on the employment permit and is therefore not permitted to attend a full-time educational course (student permission required). However, part-time evening study is permitted.

If the individual is on his or her first employment permit in Ireland, then the individual is not permitted to change employment within the first 12 months (except in exceptional circumstances) of the start date of the employment permit. After 12 months, the individual is free to move employer; however, a new employment permit application must be submitted in respect of the new employment. This also applies for critical skills employment permits and the individual would thus be allowed to apply for a position with a different employer after the first 12 months of validity. The change of employer would require a new application and Irish authorities’ decision on this would be subject to the policy at the time. Only in exceptional circumstances (holder of the permit is made redundant or unforeseen circumstances that change the employment relationship), can a change of employer be considered before the end of the 12-month period.

An individual who has held a critical skills employment permit for two years may subsequently work without an employment permit subject to obtaining Stamp 4 immigration permission.

Dependants

Eligibility

Who qualifies as a dependant?

The following individuals may qualify as a dependant:

  • non-EEA spouse;
  • non-EEA partner of an Irish citizen in a long-term bona-fide relationship akin to marriage. Partners that are also parents of children with the main applicant can also apply for family reunification directly;
  • non-EEA partner of an EU citizen, in a long-term bona-fide relationship akin to marriage;
  • non-EEA partner of a person with an employment permit or person granted long-term residence, in a long-term bona-fide relationship akin to marriage;
  • non-EEA civil partner who has contracted a registered partnership, or is a party to a class of legal relationship specified in the Civil Partnership (Recognition of Registered Foreign Relationships) Order 2010 as entitled to be recognised as a civil partnership; and
  • non-EEA child under 18 years of age (under 21 years if a child of an EU spouse).
Conditions and restrictions

Are dependants automatically allowed to work or attend school?

Dependants are not automatically entitled to work. However, since March 2019, dependent spouses of critical skills employment permit holders may register with the immigration authorities in Ireland and obtain Stamp 1G permission, which allows them to work in Ireland without the requirement to obtain an employment permit. Other dependents of critical skills employment permit holders who are not eligible for 1G permission continue to require an employment permit to work in Ireland. Such individuals may qualify for a dependant/partner employment permit.

Dependant/partner/spouse employment permit

The following individuals do not qualify for this permit:

  • non-EEA spouse, dependants or civil partner of an Irish national;
  • non-EEA civil partner who has contracted a registered partnership, or is a party to a class of legal relationship specified in the Civil Partnership (Recognition of Registered Foreign Relationships) Order 2010 as entitled to be recognised as a civil partnership;
  • non-EEA partner who has obtained permission from the Department of Justice and Equality to reside in Ireland on the basis of a de facto relationship;
  • non-EEA child under 18 years of age who is resident in Ireland as a family member of the employment permit holder;
  • non-EEA dependants, civil partners or spouses of EU nationals; and
  • non-EEA dependants, civil partners or spouses of non-EEA nationals who hold other classes of employment permits (ie, general employment permit holders and ICT permit holders).

A non-EEA dependant of an individual who holds one of the employment permits listed below, and who is not eligible for 1G dependant permission, may apply for a dependant/partner/spouse employment permit:

  • a valid critical skills employment permit;
  • valid Stamp 4 immigration permission granted where the primary person held a previous critical skills permit, green card permit or hosting agreement; and
  • a valid employment permit or hosting agreement in respect of a third-country researcher position.

An application may be made in respect of all occupations, including certain carers in the home, and excluding all other occupations in a domestic setting and with a remuneration of less than €30,000 per annum (but not less than the national minimum wage).

Under this scheme, dependants have greater ease of access to employment in Ireland as they are permitted to apply for an employment permit in respect of most occupations. In addition, the prospective employer is not required to advertise the position and the government processing fee is waived.

All other dependants who do not qualify for a dependant/partner/spouse employment permit must satisfy the criteria applicable to the relevant employment permits in their own right.

Non-EEA nationals who have held valid dependant, partner or spouse employment permits for a consecutive period of five years or more and who have been working lawfully during that time may not require an employment permit to work in the state.

If an applicant does not satisfy the qualifying criteria, he or she is still required to hold an employment permit to work in the state. If he or she has been in continuous employment with his or her current employer for five years or more, he or she may apply for a renewal of the employment permit for an unlimited duration. If, however, he or she has not been with the same employer for five years or more, he or she may apply for a renewal of the employment permit for a maximum duration of three years and the applicable fee for the specific permit type applies.

Access to social benefits

What social benefits are dependants entitled to?

The main entitlement to social benefits is linked to the social welfare contribution (PRSI) class and length of time paying social security in Ireland. Certain minimum PRSI contribution conditions must be satisfied in order to be entitled to the main social benefits in Ireland. Child benefit entitlements are linked to habitual residence.

Other requirements, restrictions and penalties

Criminal convictions

Are prior criminal convictions a barrier to obtaining immigration permission?

Prior criminal convictions can be a barrier and the immigration authorities may refuse to grant an employment permit or visa in such cases. Police clearance certificates are required to support visa applications from certain nationalities.

Penalties for non-compliance

What are the penalties for companies and individuals for non-compliance with immigration law? How are these applied in practice?

Penalties for breach of Irish immigration rules for employing a non-EEA national without an appropriate employment permit can lead to fines of up to €3,000 or imprisonment of the non-compliant employer (upon summary conviction). Upon conviction or indictment, employers might be liable to fines of up to €250,000 and imprisonment for a term of up to 10 years.

Inspectors from the Workplace Relations Commission carry out employment permit compliance checks as part of their routine inspections.

Language requirements

Are there any minimum language requirements for migrants?

No.

Medical screening

Is medical screening required to obtain immigration permission?

No.

Secondment

Is there a specific procedure for employees on secondment to a client site in your jurisdiction?

Foreign employers requiring an employment permit for employees who will be based at a client site in Ireland may apply for a contract for services employment permit, subject to satisfying all the qualifying criteria.

Non-EEA nationals who are legally residing and employed in another EU member state may apply for permission to work at a client site in Ireland under the Van der Elst ruling. This allows the individual to carry out short-term project work for a maximum period of 12 months on behalf of his or her EU employer, provided he or she has appropriate permission to return to work and reside in the EU member state upon completion of the project in Ireland. It remains to be seen whether the Van Der Elst ruling will continue to apply in respect of third-country nationals resident in the UK once the UK leaves the EU.

The atypical working scheme applies to non-EEA nationals who, in certain circumstances, are required by a company or organisation based in Ireland to undertake short-term contract work of between 15 and 90 days. An individual will be considered for this scheme in the following circumstances:

  • where a skill shortage has been identified;
  • to provide a specialised or high skill to an industry, business or academic institution; and
  • to facilitate waged short-term employment, internship or job placement where beneficial or integral to the course being studied in respect of tertiary level students studying outside the state in approved or accredited institutions (medical and unwaged internships are excluded).

Update and trends

Key developments of the past year

Are there any emerging trends or hot topics in corporate immigration regulation in your jurisdiction?

Key developments of the past year40 Are there any emerging trends or hot topics in corporate immigration regulation in your jurisdiction?

In response to changing labour market needs, and the commitment to maintaining Ireland’s attractiveness for highly skilled migrants, a number of positive changes have been implemented since the start of 2019. One of the most notable and welcome changes has been the abolition of the requirement for spouses of critical skills employment permit holders to obtain an employment permit. Effective since March 2019, this has seen spouses of critical skills employment permit holders registering with the immigration authorities and obtaining Stamp 1G permission following arrival in Ireland, or converting to Stamp 1G permission for those already in the country. This move offers much more flexibility to spouses in terms of employment options and, indeed, their ability to access the labour market immediately upon relocating to Ireland. It also brings Ireland in line with many other territories competing for similarly skilled migrants. The introduction of pre-clearance schemes for de-facto partners of Irish nationals and critical skills employment permit holders has provided more clarity and certainty to those categories of individuals looking to relocate to Ireland with their partners.

Further changes to employment permit regulations announced during 2019, with phased implementation, include increasing the salary thresholds for some employment permits, increasing the time frame for labour market needs testing and reducing passport validity requirements. These changes reflect not only the government’s eagerness to further streamline the employment permit processes, but more importantly, the willingness of the authorities to engage with users of the employment permit system and the wider labour market.

In a move towards cross-departmental digitisation, and in response to a commitment to improve the overall user experience, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) commenced the first of many moves to an online registration system with student registrations moving online in August 2019. The Atypical Working Scheme is expected to follow suit in quarter four of 2019. The move to an overall online system for INIS will continue into 2020 with a view to designing an online portal for individuals who can log in and view their prior immigration history, if applicable. This will no doubt be welcomed by users of the system. While there is no definite date of completion, and implementation may not be seamless, it is a move in the right direction and is certainly in line with the ever-evolving online world.

The hot topic of Brexit is very much back in the spotlight with the 31 October deadline looming large once again. While companies continue to plan and consider the immigration implications Brexit may have on mobile employees, a degree of uncertainty around some immigration schemes and policies remains. The issue of non-EEA spouses of UK nationals seeking permission to reside in Ireland under the provision of EU Treaty Rights, and the current provision for third-country nationals working in the UK to work temporarily in Ireland under the Van Der Elst ruling, once the UK leaves the EU remain unclear. While the CTA will be maintained under domestic Irish and UK legislation, both EU Treaty Rights and Van Der Elst are enshrined in EU directives and as such are dependent on UK membership of the EU in order to apply.

Citizenship has certainly been a hot topic in the Irish media in recent times. An unexpected High Court decision, which ruled that anybody applying for citizenship through naturalisation must not leave Ireland in the year immediately preceding their application, not even for one day, caused widespread panic and confusion. The authorities are actively working to find and implement a solution as a matter of priority; however, as legislative amendments are likely to be required, this matter will not be resolved overnight. It remains to be seen what the impact on current applications will be; however, at the very least, lengthy processing delays are likely.