Immigration is a major talking point in the US and the UK and will feature as a significant element of the upcoming Brexit negotiations. The position of Irish citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the Ireland will need to be addressed, as will the continuation of the Common Travel Area, which allows easy movement of labour between the two countries.
In Ireland, corporate immigration is an area of significant growth. In ByrneWallace, we are dealing with immigration in the context of UK companies considering moving employees to Ireland as part of their contingency planning. Also, while there are concerns about the long term effect of Brexit, the Irish economy is in the midst of a period of growth. The unemployment rate fell to 6.6% in February 2017 (the lowest rate since July 2008), and immigrants are required to fill skills gaps in the economy.
This e-bulletin provides an update on recent developments in corporate immigration in Ireland dealing with employment permits, visas, passport applications and other ways of gaining residency in Ireland.
Workers from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) must have a valid entitlement to work in Ireland. In most cases, this will involve an application for an employment permit to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. The Department has recently taken the following steps to streamline the employment permit process and to make it more business friendly:
- Employment Permit Regulations: The Regulations have now been consolidated into a single set of Regulations for ease of use, with some minor changes to employment identified as “critical” to the economy. The consolidated Regulations came into force on 3 April 2017.
- Trusted Partner Initiative: This initiative, introduced in 2015, allows employers to apply for “Trusted Partner” status which allows them to use shorter, simplified application forms. These forms remove the requirement to replicate the same employer information in respect of each permit application or renewal and speed up the application process.
- EPOS System: In September 2016, the Department also set up an Employment Permits Online System (EPOS). The system allows applicants to submit their applications and supporting documents through EPOS and provides for the secure payment of fees by credit/debit card.
While the Trusted Partner initiative has improved waiting period for those employers with Trusted Partner status (now processed in one to two weeks), other employment permit applications are still taking a significant amount of time (approximately eight weeks).
Many non-EEA nationals (for example, Indian, Chinese and Russian nationals) will also need a valid visa to enter Ireland. The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) has re-affirmed its commitment to maintain and enhance the Common Travel Area between the UK and Ireland and the following measures will assist in this regard:
- Irish Short-stay Visa Waiver Programme: This programme recognises certain short stay visas issued by immigration authorities in the UK for the purposes of onward travel to Ireland. The programme has recently been extended to October 2021.
- British Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS): This scheme allows short stay visa holders from China and India to enter either Ireland or the UK using a single visa, and allows free travel between both countries. Recent statistics from the INIS show that 18,635 of the visas issued in 2016 were “BIVS endorsed”.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade recently confirmed that following the Brexit referendum result last June there was a surge in passport applications from Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The figures for 2016, when compared with those for 2015, show an increase of 26.5% (to 67,972) for applicants from Northern Ireland and an increase of 40.6% (to 64,996) for applications from Great Britain.
Investor and Entrepreneur Schemes
The INIS recently released an update on two schemes which allow non-EEA nationals to invest, or start a business, in Ireland, and obtain residency rights for them and their families. These programmes could be attractive to high net worth non-EEA nationals post Brexit:
- Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP): Under the IIP, non-EEA nationals who invest a minimum of €1 million in an approved investment in Ireland and have a proven net worth of at least €2 million per investor can benefit from rights of residence for the applicant investor and their immediate family members.
- Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP): The STEP enables non-EEA nationals who commit to a high potential start up business in Ireland to acquire a secure residency status in Ireland for themselves and their immediate family members. STEP applications have a minimum funds requirement of €50,000, for the first founder and €30,000 for any subsequent founder and include a detailed and robust business plan.
Detailed information on the application process is provided on the INIS website. Applications under both programmes are only accepted during specific periods: 20 March to 13 April; 22 May to 16 June; 14 August to 8 September; and 16 October to 10 November for 2017.