IRELAND: Most Common Work Permit Options… in 5 Minutes

June 4, 2019


With a booming economy and continued access to the European common market post-Brexit, international business should keep an eye on Ireland. Here’s a quick summary of the most common work permission routes you need to know about.

By Jane Pilkington, Managing Director, Ireland, and Kent O’Neil, Global Legal Analyst – Newland Chase

Economy, Labor Market, and Brexit… in one minute

Interest in Ireland as a location for international business is on the rise. Europe’s fastest-growing economy for the last five years, the Irish economy is forecast to post around four percent GDP expansion this year. Employment numbers for the month of May back up this sunny picture – with unemployment falling below five percent, indicating essentially a position of full employment.

In the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index for 2018, Ireland ranked 23rd of 140 countries for its business-friendly climate – placing it around the middle of the rankings among its 28 highly competitive European neighbors. However, where Ireland excels in the rankings is the “Labor Market” pillar – where it ranks 7th in the world, bested in Europe only by Switzerland and Denmark.

Close behind the high marks for labor market efficiency, Ireland ranks 15th in the world on the WEF’s index in the “Skills” pillar. Irish workers are consistently ranked high for graduation rates, years of education, skill-sets of graduates, and vocational training. Employers report relative ease in finding skilled workers. However, the economic growth over recent years is beginning to result in skills shortages in many industry sectors.

Casting a partial shadow over all the sunny news is Brexit. With Ireland having the closest ties to the UK, it also stands to be most affected by a no-deal exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union. While economists see growth for the Irish economy regardless of the final form of the UK’s departure from the EU, they also warn a no-deal Brexit could trim as much as two percentage points off Ireland’s GDP growth over the succeeding two years.

The flip side to those potential negative impacts is the extent to which Brexit might encourage international businesses to expand their presence in Ireland to preserve their free access to Europe, where the UK will soon be outside the EU and Ireland will remain. Where Ireland will remain in the EU and where the Common Travel Area between Ireland and  the UK will continue to exist, Ireland is  a top contender as a location for companies needing employee mobility into both the UK and Europe.

Most Common Work Permissions… in four minutes

Already a popular hub for many multinational corporations operating in Europe, companies considering Ireland as a potential destination for relocation or expansion will need to examine the various Irish work permissions and immigration requirements.. Here’s our quick birds-eye view of what businesses considering Ireland need to know when it comes to non-EEA national work permissions.

European Economic Area (EEA) Nationals – With  Ireland committed to maintaining its membership of the European Union, citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) member states will continue to enjoy freedom of movement to travel, live, and work in Ireland. Likewise, citizens of Ireland have the right to travel, live, and work in any of the EEA countries. EEA member states include the EU-27 nations plus Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. Switzerland, while not an EEA country, likewise extends and enjoys the benefits of the EU freedom of movement principles.

For non-EEA nationals – Ireland has an extensive system of work  permissions  to accommodate companies and their non-EEA national employees. The following are the most applicable to businesses operating in Ireland.

14-Day Temporary Work Permission – Relatively unique in the world of global mobility, Ireland has a 14-day temporary permission to work which can be obtained from immigration control on arrival. However, it can only be utilized once within any 90-day period.

Atypical Working Scheme Permission (AWS) – For assignments over 14 days and up to 90 days, the Atypical Working Scheme (AWS) applies. The AWS covers those short-term work assignments not covered elsewhere in the Irish work permission routes (i.e. Intra-Company Transfer permit holders, Van der Elst eligible applicants, etc.). However, there are limitations on the use of an AWS. To be eligible, the applicant’s occupation may not be listed on the Irish Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation’s (DBEI’s) Ineligible List of Occupations deemed not in demand in Ireland.

Also, under this scheme, be aware that Ireland applies a “50/50 rule” – i.e. there must be 50/50 parity between EEA national employees and non-EEA national employees within a company. If the addition of the non-EEA AWS applicant to the company’s workforce would tip the balance over 50 percent non-EEA – the AWS will not be issued.

Average processing time for AWS applications is currently running around 20 working days.

Van der Elst Permission – The darling of the mobility industry in Europe – the Van der Elst ruling – applies in Ireland, as it does in all EU member states. Non-EEA nationals holding existing (non-intra-company transfer) work permissions issued by other EU member states are permitted to work in Ireland temporarily for up to 12 months – so long as they remain on the payroll of their employer in the sending country.

Note that post-Brexit, holders of work permits issued by the UK will no longer qualify under the Van der Elst ruling. Once the UK leaves the EU, EU laws will no longer govern UK citizens and residents.  

Employment Permits generally – For local employment of 90 days up to two years, the  Employment Permit applies. All Employment Permit types are both employer and occupation specific – designated for work with a specific employer and a specific position. Note that again, the 50/50 rule applies, requiring parity between the number of EEA and non-EEA employees in a company.

Average processing time for Employment Permit applications generally is currently running around 11 weeks through the standard queue and three weeks through a Trusted Partner Status queue for companies regularly sponsoring foreign employees.

General Employment Permit (GEP)  –  A Labor Market Needs Test is generally required, unless one of the  exemptions applies. The LMNT essentially mandates advertising the position for two weeks through the government employment network and three days in a national and in a local newspaper or jobs website. It is possible to apply for a GEP for a period of up to two years and it is less limited in terms of the types of position that can be applied for.

Critical Skills Employment Permit (CSEP) – For highly-skilled employees employed locally for longer than 90 days, the Critical Skills Employment Permit (CSEP) is the designated route.  The position must appear on the Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations List where the salary is less than €60k. Where the salary is more than €60k, an application can be submitted for all positions unless the position falls on the Ineligible List of Occupations. No Labor Market Needs Test is required and the job offer must be for a minimum period of two years.

Intra-Company Transfer Permit (ICT) – For multinational companies transferring employees temporarily to Ireland, there is the Intra-Company Transfer Permit (ICT). Similar to ICT permits found in other nations, Ireland’s version applies to “key personnel”, “senior management”, and “trainees” that remain on the sending company’s payroll. It also requires a corporate relationship between the sending and hosting entities and, generally, six months of previous employment with the sending entity. For the ICT, neither the Ineligible List of Occupations, nor the 50/50 rule applies.

That’s Five Minutes… Need More?

Well, that is just the quick rundown of the basics on the most common work authorizations for Ireland that we can fit into a five minute read. (Spoiler alert: there are actually nine types of Irish employment permits.) For more on the immigration and tax implications for business travelers and corporate assignees in Ireland – check out the on-demand recording of our recent webinar Doing Business in Ireland: Immigration and Tax Issues for Foreign Business Travelers and Corporate Assignees.

There are clearly attractive opportunities for international business in Ireland right now… and this blog only scratches the surface of Irish immigration and work permissions. If you are considering the opportunities for your company in Ireland, let’s start with a conversation.  Co-author of this week’s blog, Jane Pilkington, our Managing Director for Ireland, has been assisting companies in Ireland with their Irish business immigration needs for almost 20 years. You can reach her at our Dublin office at [email protected].

For more on visas and immigration and office contact information, readers are also directed to our Newland Chase Ireland country page, and the CIBTvisas Ireland page. There you will find more information on our capabilities in Ireland and a useful online self-assessment tool directing you to the appropriate visa for your next business trip to Ireland.

Newland Chase, a wholly owned subsidiary of CIBT, is the leading global provider of immigration and visa services for corporations and individuals with over 1,700 expert immigration and visa professionals, attorneys and qualified migration consultants located in over 70 offices in 25 countries.

Jane Pilkington is Newland Chase’s Managing Director for Ireland where she leads a team that is responsible for providing strategic immigration advisory services to multinational and national companies. Jane is one of the world’s foremost immigration lawyers and advisors – both in Ireland and globally. She has been assisting clients – ranging from the world’s largest multinational corporations to SMEs and start-ups – on all aspects of Irish business and private client immigration for almost 20 years. Jane is a graduate of the Law School of the Law Society of Ireland and the University College Dublin with a Bachelor in Political Science and Philosophy.

Kent O’Neil is a Global Legal Analyst and frequent writer and speaker on international business and global corporate mobility for Newland Chase. Kent received his Juris Doctor from Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law and a Bachelor in Economics from Clarion University. Prior to joining Newland Chase, he worked in both private practice and in-house for a multinational corporation operating across North America, Europe, Asia, and the APAC region. Now based in the U.S., Kent has lived and worked as an expat in Pakistan and the Philippines.

This publication is not intended as a substitute for legal advice.  Readers are reminded that immigration laws are subject to change. We are not responsible for any loss arising from reliance on this publication. Please contact Newland Chase should you require any additional clarification or case specific advice.