New immigration arrangements have been heralded by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (the Minister) as a "small change" but one which will make a "big difference" in attracting international talent.

The global market place means that Ireland, like many other countries, has to compete to attract highly skilled international talent and their families to work in the state. Approximately 1,000 non-EEA spouses and de facto partners (together Spouses/Partners) relocate to Ireland each year with partners who are, or will be working, under the Critical Skills Employment Permit (CSP). Significantly, the Department for Business Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) has announced a change to the existing "administratively cumbersome" immigration arrangements for such Spouses/Partners wishing to work in Ireland. This change removes the previous requirement for such individuals to obtain an employment permit in their own right in order to take up employment.

The process to date

Until 6 March 2019, Spouses/Partners of CSP holders could enter Ireland under a Stamp 3 visa permission. Crucially, however, they were not entitled to work in Ireland without:

  • a separate Dependent Partner Spouse Employment Permit (DPSEP) and
  • a Stamp 1 visa permission to work and reside in Ireland from the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS).

Spouses/Partners would need to satisfy the following administrative conditions before they could start working in Ireland:

  1. Obtain a job offer for work in Ireland
  2. Apply to the DBEI for the DPSEP
  3. If the DPSEP was approved, apply to INIS to change from a Stamp 3 to Stamp 1

As noted by the Minister, this somewhat unwieldy process was regarded in many cases as creating a "barrier" to individuals and their families in securing work in Ireland.

To remove this administrative barrier, the DBEI has introduced a new system for Spouses/Partners of CSP holders effective from 6 March 2019. This system is intended to "streamline existing processes and result in more attractive offering for both investors and international talent".

So how is the new system different?

  1. Spouses/Partners with a Stamp 3 visa who currently live in Ireland without an employment permit can now attend their local immigration office, with their CSP holding partner, to re-register for a Stamp 1 permission. There is no longer any requirement for Spouses/Partners to apply to the DBEI for DPSEP in order to apply for the Stamp 1permission and start work in Ireland.
  2. Spouses/Partners of CSP holders who have not yet arrived in Ireland will be eligible for the Stamp 1 permission without the need for an employment permit from the DBEI.
  3. From 1 April 2019, a new pre-clearance process will be introduced for Spouses/Partners of CSP holders. The new process will require both visa and non-visa required non-EEA nationals to seek permission to reside in the State as a family member of the CSP holder prior to arriving in the State. While full details of this pre-clearance scheme are not yet available, the process is intended to "reduce processing times and provide clarity to family members" as they embark on the immigration process.

These new immigration arrangements have been described as demonstrating the Irish Government's "commitment to ensuring that the State's migration policies are sufficiently agile to respond to the demands of the labour market". This will be a welcome development for many employers whose continued growth and success depends on their ability to attract international talent to work in Ireland.