The Irish Government, in its Action Plan for Jobs published in February 2013, set out its strategy to make Ireland “the best small country in which to do business and as a consequence, retain and create sustainable jobs”. As part of its Action Plan, the Irish Government is aiming to make Ireland the most attractive location in the world for ICT skills availability thereby ensuring the continued success of the Irish ICT sector. In order to accomplish this, the Government is focusing on ICT education both at secondary and third level. However, the Government has also acknowledged the global shortage of ICT skills professionals stating that according to the European Commission Digital Data, there will be 700,000 ICT vacancies in the European Union by 2015.
Allied to its commitment to develop ICT education, the Government has committed to undertake a series of action points to attract the necessary ICT skills from abroad, all of which relate to increasing the attractiveness of the current employment permits’ system resulting in 700 additional ICT employment permits in 2013. Given that only 5,200 employment permits in total were issued in 2012, the significance of this commitment cannot be overstated.
Action Plan for Jobs - Action Points
The relevant action points are as follows:
- The introduction of a new unified e-form application for employment permits;
- Aligning and updating the system on an ongoing basis with the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs’ findings, industry feedback and labour market trends;
- Updating the application criteria to reduce processing times by one-third;
- Expanding the economic sectors for employment permit applications to allow for ICT professionals in all sectors of the economy rather than in the IT sector only;
- Reducing the wage threshold limit, where appropriate, for Work Permits in key skills areas (e.g. ICT graduates and technical sales with foreign language skills);
- Simplifying the labour market needs test (the requirement to advertise job positions in advance of submitting Work Permit applications);
- Assessing the case for expansion of the eligibility of residency permissions under the employment permit schemes;
- Considering pre-registering prospective employers with a view to speeding up processing and reducing the administrative burden;
- Reviewing the outcome of improvements to the employment permits application system;
- Developing a communications campaign in order to present clear options as the available entry channels to Ireland in terms of employment permits and visas; and
- Enacting employment permits legislation to provide for more flexibility and targeted instruments in support of the economy’s evolving skills needs.
Changes to Employment Permit Policies – 10 April 2013
The Government commenced the introduction of these action points on 10 April 2013 by making changes to Employment Permit Policies with a view to ensuring “a balanced and renewed policy rationale for Employment Permits to facilitate access to skilled workers where there are skills shortages in the Irish and EEA labour market”. The principal changes made on 10 April 2013 are as follows:
- Extension of the Highly Skilled Occupations List for Green Cards: Green Card Employment Permits can be applied for in respect of most job positions where the salary is €60,000 or over and for certain job positions where the salary is between €30,000 and €59,999. The latter job positions are referred to as “the Highly Skilled Occupations List”. This list was previously limited to certain sectors only but has now been extended across all sectors.
- The relevant occupations are those of ICT professionals, health professionals, health associate professionals, professional engineers and technologists, researchers, natural scientists, business/financial professionals and associate professionals. In addition, the job titles within these occupations have been significantly increased. For example, prior to these changes there were only four job titles listed for ICT professionals where a Green Card employment permit could be applied for. Following these changes there are twenty three job titles, to include cloud computing specialists and computer gaming developers.
- Ability to Apply for a Highly Skilled Occupation Job Position While In- Country: Non-EEA national immigration permission holders of GNIB Stamps 1, 1A, 2, 2A and 3 who have been offered employment in an occupation on the Highly Skilled Occupations List will now be allowed to apply for an employment permit whilst already residing in Ireland. As this includes students and temporary visitors, this is a significant change.
- Highly Skilled Job Interview: With effect from 1 July 2013, the Department of Justice and Equality (“INIS”) intends to facilitate job interviews for highly skilled candidates. Successful interviewees may then remain in Ireland whilst applying for an employment permit and awaiting the outcome of that application. This will initially be operated on a pilot basis.
- Atypical Working Scheme: It is envisaged that this Scheme which will operate on a pilot basis with effect from 1 July 2013, will provide measures to permit persons to be employed in Ireland on a short terms basis i.e. between 14 and 90 calendar days (inclusive), non-EEA nationals to be employed on a trial basis (not exceeding 90 days) and will provide for other categories of employment that may not be covered by the Employment Permits Acts.
- Labour Market Needs Test: The requirement to advertise a job position in advance of submitting a Work Permit application has been reduced from 8 weeks to 2 weeks and the requirement to advertise the job position in a national newspaper and local newspaper/job website has been reduced to 3 days.
- Ineligible Categories List: This is a list of job positions where employment permits will not be granted as it is considered that there are sufficient candidates within the EEA to fill these positions. The Ineligible Categories List has been updated by excluding from the List particular sales’ job positions involving the necessity of being able to communicate in a non-EEA language. Now it is possible to apply for an employment permit for sales positions requiring specialist language support and technical/sales support with fluency in a non-EEA language. The relevant company must have formal support from Ireland’s Enterprise Development Agencies and the job position must command an annual remuneration of at least €27,000 p.a.
- Application Forms: Employment permit application forms have been amended to reduce the requirements to submit additional documentation. The application forms have also been slightly amended from a content perspective. There will be a greater focus on random checking of employment permits by National Employment Rights Agency to ensure adherence to employment law legislation.
- Intra-Company Transfer Permits and Contract Service Provider Employment Permits: Current holders of these types of Permits can now apply for other types of employment permits, subject to the normal criteria. In addition, prior to any transfer Intra- Company Transferees now only need to be employed by the foreign transferring entity for six months as opposed to the prevous requirement for twelve months.
- IT Graduates of Foreign Colleges/ Technical or Sales Support Roles with Non-EEA Language Requirements: The remuneration threshold for these candidates has been reduced from €30,000 to €27,000 per annum in respect of employment permit applications under the Work Permit category.
- Income requirements: Income requirements will now be based on “remuneration” rather than “salary” where items of remuneration are demonstrated on payslips or P60s.
- Appeals Process: The Appeals Process will be more efficient and transparent and will now, instead of reviewing the application afresh, only reference the stated reasons for a refusal as provided in the decision to refuse.
- Applications’ Processing Times: The time that it takes to process applications will be reduced by at least 10 days.
- Employment Permits’ Call Centre / Website: To facilitate queries in relation to new procedures, the Employment Permits’ call centre will extend its normal opening hours and the Employment Permits’ website has been updated to improve information and customer service.
The Irish Government has indicated that further changes will be made over the next six months, to include the following:
- The use of a single application e-form which will electronically guide the applicant through the form, roll out of which is expected to be in quarter 3 of 2013.
- Migration of website information to a new platform and better information linkages with the Irish visa regime.
- More detailed information and criteria in respect of the Highly Skilled Job Interview and the Atypical Working Schemes.
- On-line querying of an employment permit application’s status and expanding the availability of the telephone Call Centre.
- Enactment of the Employment Permits Act, 2013 which is currently at draft stage.
It has long been accepted that attracting highly skilled migrants to a country creates positive advantages for that country to include, meeting the demand for skilled workers, contributing towards the innovation of the economy by the transmission of know-how, knowledge and skills and the resulting flow of goods and capital cross borders. The ability of Irish based companies to source and employ highly skilled nationals from outside the EEA is vital, particularly given the recruitment demands of companies that have located and continue to locate to Ireland. The changes introduced by the Irish Government on 10 April 2013 go a long way towards making Ireland a key player in the competition to attract global talent and towards making the Silicon Republic the Internet capital of Europe.