Recruiting critical skills from non-EEA countries, excluding the UK, requires an employment permit and a valid visa…Shannon Chamber webinar hears

In response to requests from members for an overview of the Employment Permits System, Shannon Chamber linked up with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Justice to present, via webinar, an overview of why employment permits are required and in what circumstances, and how entry to the State by non-nationals is controlled in such instances.

The very comprehensive presentations were given by Ita Broe, HEO, Employment Permits Section, the Department of Employment, Trade and Employment (Employment Permits), Aonghus O’Connor, principal officer, Department of Justice (Atypical Working Scheme) and Dan Liddy, assistant principal officer, Visa Division, Department of Justice.

Attendees heard that applications for employment permits have remained strong despite the current pandemic. In 2020, there were a total of 16,290 applications for employment permits, a 14% decrease from 2019 (18,940).  At the same time, there was a 12-year high in the number of permits which issued, 16,419, a very slight increase over 2019 (16,383). 

Ireland operates a managed employment permits system maximising the benefits of economic migration and minimising the risk of disrupting Ireland’s labour market. The system is intended to act as a conduit for key skills which are required to develop enterprise in the State for the benefit of our economy, while simultaneously protecting the balance of the labour market. The system is, by design, vacancy led and managed through the operation of the occupation lists namely the Critical Skills List in respect of skills that are in critical shortage in the labour market and the Ineligible List for which a ready source of labour is available from within Ireland and the EU/EEA. Every other job in the labour market, where an employer cannot find a worker, may be eligible for an employment permit.

The employment permits regime is designed to facilitate the entry of appropriately skilled non-EEA nationals to fill skills and/or labour shortages, however, this objective must be balanced by the need to ensure that there are no suitably qualified Irish/EEA nationals available to undertake the work and that the shortage is a genuine one.

There are nine employment permit types to cover a range of employment scenarios. The two main permits are the Critical Skills Employment Permit and the General Employment Permit. 

The Critical Skills Employment Permit (CSEP) is designed to attract highly skilled people into the labour market in roles identified as being in critical short supply with the aim of encouraging them to take up permanent residence and employment in the State. Permit holders can apply to the Department of Justice and Equality for immediate family reunification and for permission to reside and work without the requirement for an employment permit after two years. Eligibility for this permit is largely linked to the critical skills occupation list and remuneration levels.

The General Employment Permit (GEP) is the primary vehicle used by the State to attract third-country nationals for occupations where it can be demonstrated, following the application of a range of criteria including the Labour Market Needs Test (LMNT), that the employer was unable to fill the position from the Irish and EEA labour market and the occupation does not feature on the ineligible list. A GEP can be issued for an initial period of two years and can then be renewed for up to a further three years. After five years, the applicant may apply to the Department of Justice and Equality for long-term residency.

In all cases, employers must adhere to the 50/50 rule; 50% or more of their employees must be EEA nationals.

Companies intending to use the employment permits system on a regular basis can apply for Trusted Partner status, which remains valid for 2 years. Trusted Partner status eases the administrative burden on employers and offers a more streamlined application process with less paperwork to fill out and faster processing times. 

Further details on all aspects of Employment Permits, including checklist documents to assist with applications and the Employment Permits COVID-19 Contingency Plan, are available at the following link –

Companies recruiting personnel to undertake, highly skilled and specialised employment for a fixed period of between 15 and 90 days must obtain an Atypical Working Scheme letter of permission from the Department of Justice. Only one permission can be issued within a 12-month period

As outlined by the Department of Justice’s Aonghus O’Connor, some of the sectors that typically submit applications for an Atypical permission are the engineering and information technology sectors or other sectors where specialised expertise is required for short-term periods.

Permission under the Atypical Working Scheme is not an alternative to the Employment Permit Submissions as Atypical permissions must now be submitted online using the new online application system. If the Atypical application is successful and the applicant is a visa-required national, they must then submit a Visa application. The Atypical Working Scheme is entirely separate to the Visa application process and Employment permit process. If an applicant is eligible for an Employment permit then they will not be eligible for an Atypical permission and the Atypical permission cannot be used as a bridging permission while an applicant awaits the issuing of an employment permit

Permit applicants seeking to reside in the State who come from a visa required country must apply to the Department of Justice for a visa. Required documentation includes a photo, a valid passport and copies of all previous passports, a letter of application, their employment permit and employment contract. They must also supply a letter from their prospective employer in Ireland, including evidence of their qualification and work experience. They must also furnish their financial details. A comprehensive list of the supporting documentation required can be found on the ISD website at

As outlined by Dan Liddy: “Evidence of work experience and qualifications must be factually correct, relevant to the role sought, with qualifications verified by an accredited body.”

Business visas can be issued for short stays of less than 90 days. Such visas allow the applicant to attend meetings, sign contracts or work for a maximum of 14 days. Such applications must, along with other mandatory data, include a letter from the host company in Ireland, a letter from the sending company in the host country, details of previous visa refusals, details of their immigration history and evidence to show that the applicant needs to attend the State at the time outlined.

As stated by Mr Liddy, the Department of Justice liaises with its counterparts in the UK to prevent abuse of the Common Travel Area (CTA).

“If a visa officer suspects that an applicant is attempting to bypass UK immigration via the CTA, the visa may be refused. Other common causes for refusal can include poor quality evidence supplied, immigration history, fraudulent documents or the job and pay offered is at odds with the experience shown.”

Speaking after the webinar, Shannon Chamber CEO thanked the officials from both Departments for their very insightful sharing of information.

“We organised this webinar as our members required clarification on certain aspects of hiring non-nationals to augment their workforces with skills critical to their needs, which cannot be sourced within the EEA.

“It was such an informative event. Hearing it directly from the experts was immensely beneficial and we would advise any company that requires clarification on any point specific to their company to email the contact emails listed in this release.”