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Declan Groarke

20 May 2024 / employment Print

OPINION: Immigration reform will attract talent

Measures aimed at strengthening Ireland’s appeal as a top destination for skilled international workers have been approved. Further changes with the same purpose may also be in the pipeline writes Declan Groarke, senior associate at Lewis Silkin Ireland LLP.

Single application procedure

In 2022, an inter-department working group (IDG) was set up to consider a single application procedure for both employment and residence permits, with a view to Ireland opting into the EU’s recast Single Permit Directive.

The IDG has now concluded its work, and approval to opt-in has recently been confirmed by Justice Minister Helen McEntee.

Ireland’s current multiple-application process involves layers of cost and complexity that reduce its appeal in comparison to the many EU countries that already operate a single application procedure.

Ireland adopting this procedure is therefore welcome news. The IDG’s implementation report is currently being finalised for Government.

It will be interesting to see what considerations or recommendations the IDG makes, and which departments will assume responsibility for its administration.

Although Britain is no longer an EU member state, there is every chance the IDG has taken inspiration from our nearest neighbour’s single application procedure.

If it did, the Department of Justice’s immigration service-delivery operations may be combined with the employment-permits section of the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment to create a single body responsible for immigration control in Ireland.

We could also potentially see an application procedure more like Britain’s (minus the certificate of sponsorship step – who knows!) whereby an online application is made for a Critical Skills Employment Permit (CSEP) and then the applicant is required to submit their biometric information at a visa application centre or via an app.

While existing visa-required nationals relocating to or visiting Ireland are familiar with attending a biometric appointment to surrender their passport and provide supporting documentation for their visa application, non-visa required nationals are not.

Currently, they can relocate to Ireland as soon as their employment permit is granted and obtain their visa at the port of entry or get a visitor visa there.

And so, while a single application procedure might remove a significant bureaucratic barrier for visa-required nationals, it may be introducing a smaller one for non-visa required nationals.


In tandem, ministers have confirmed that, from 15 May, spouses and partners of general employment permit and intra-company-transfer employment permit holders, who have been granted family reunification, will be registered on Stamp 1G permission granting them permission to work in Ireland, rather than Stamp 3 permission, which is only a residency permission.

Due to skills shortages in Ireland, employers have in recent years been searching the international market to recruit talent.

Since 2019, spouses and partners of critical skills employment permit holders have been granted permission to work in Ireland on Stamp 1G conditions.

However, the spouses and partners of general employment permit and intra-company-transfer employment permit holders have remained prohibited from working unless they have their own employment permit.

The announced change acknowledges that a single income may not be sufficient to support a household in Ireland.

It also provides greater recognition of the contribution general employment permit and intra-company-transfer employment permit holders make when coming to work in Ireland.

It is expected that relocation to Ireland will now become much more viable for workers in these cohorts who have families, and therefore easier for Ireland Inc to attract them.

Earlier family reunification

This step may only be the first of a series of changes to be announced to inflate the appeal of Ireland Inc.

Under the current Non-EEA Family Reunification Policy, general employment permit holders must complete 12 months’ employment in Ireland before they can sponsor their spouse or partner and children for family reunification.

These restrictions do not apply to critical skills employment permit and intra-company-transfer employment permit holders, who can sponsor their family members for immediate family reunification.

Along with the reforms, Minister McEntee has said that the non-EEA family-reunification policy is being reviewed.

As part of this, the general employment-permit category may be made more appealing through a reduction or an elimination of the wait time before a holder can achieve family reunification.

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