In general, non-EEA nationals must have a permit to work in Ireland. EEA and Swiss nationals do not need an employment permit, except for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals – see below. Since 1 February 2007 there are a number of changes in relation to the application and granting of employment permits. Under the Employment Permits Act 2003 and the Employment Permits Act 2006 there are 4 types of employment permits: work permits, Green Card permits, spousal/dependant work permits and intra-company transfer permits. Note: the EEA (European Economic Area) consists of the EU member states together with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
Work permits from 1 February 2007
- Work permits are available for occupations with an annual salary of €30,000 or more.
- They are also available for a very restricted number of occupations with salaries below €30,000.
- Work permits will not be considered for occupations listed as ineligible for work permits - see below.
- The work permit is granted for 2 years initially, and then for a further 3 years.
- A labour market needs test (see below) is required with all work permit applications.
- Other employment permit changes.
- Either the employer or employee can apply for the employment permit, based on an offer of employment
- It will be granted to the employee and will include a statement of the employee's rights and entitlements
- The employer is prohibited from deducting recruitment expenses from the employee's pay or retaining the employee's personal documents
- Once you have been issued with an employment permit you have all the employment rights of Irish or EU citizens for the duration of the employment permit.
Bulgarian and Romanian nationals
Since 1 January 2007 nationals of Romania and Bulgaria are EU nationals but may still be required to have an employment permit for a continuous period of 12 months to work in Ireland. Applications for work permits for them will be given preference over those for non-EEA nationals. Romanian and Bulgarian nationals who have been resident in the State on a valid work permit for a continuous period of 12 months are not required to have employment permits.
Work permits are issued by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Either the employer or the employee can apply for the permit which must be based on an offer of employment – see 'How to apply' below. Applications for work permits fall into 2 categories as follows:
- Jobs with an annual salary of €30,000 or more
- Jobs with an annual salary of less than €30,000 - very limited list of occupations
However applications for jobs in either category will not be considered if they are for occupations listed as ineligible - see list below.
You must have the qualifications, skills and experience required for the job. You must be directly employed and paid by your employer. Work permit applications from recruitment agencies and other intermediaries are not acceptable under the scheme. The employer must be trading in Ireland, registered with the Revenue Commissioners and with the Companies Registration Office. A work permit will not be issued to companies where the granting of the permit would mean that more than 50% of the employees would be non-EEA nationals.
Labour market needs test
A new application for a work permit must be accompanied by documentary evidence that a labour market needs test has been carried out. The test requires that the vacancy must have been advertised with the FÁS/EURES employment network and in local and national newspapers for 3 days. This is to ensure that, in the first instance an EEA or Swiss national or in the second instance, a Bulgarian or Romanian national cannot be found to fill the vacancy. Applicants for spousal/dependant work permits are exempt from the labour market needs test.
Occupations that are ineligible for work permits
Since April 2004 the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, following consultation with FÁS, has announced, on a quarterly basis, occupational sectors that are considered ineligible for work permits. From 1 February 2007 work permits are not available for the following occupations.
- Clerical and administrative staff
- General operatives and labourers
- Operator and production staff
- Retail sales staff, sales representatives and supervisory or specialist sales staff
- Drivers (excluding HGV)
- Nursery/crèche workers, child minders/nannies
- Hotel, tourism and catering staff except chefs
- The following craft workers and apprentice/trainee craft workers: bookbinders, bricklayers, cabinet makers, carpenters/joiners, carton makers, fitters - construction plant, electricians, instrumentation craftspeople, fitters, tilers - floor/wall, mechanics - heavy vehicles, instrumentation craftspersons, metal fabricators, mechanics - motor, originators, painters and decorators, plumbers, printers, engineers - refrigeration, sheet metal workers, tool makers, vehicle body repairers, machinists - wood, plasterers and welders
Renewal of work permits
If you are working on an existing work permit you should continue to work until it expires. When it is to be renewed the new arrangements apply as regards fees and duration of work permit. The list of ineligible categories applies only to new applications for work permits. Either you or your employer can apply for a renewal and a labour market needs test is not required. A work permit is issued first for 2 years and then may be renewed for a further 3 years. After 5 years an application for an unlimited work permit can be made. If you change employment a new application for a work permit must be made together with a labour market needs test. When you have been legally living and working in Ireland for 5 years on a work permit you can apply for long-term residence to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) - see 'Where to apply' below. You may also apply for exemption from the requirement to have an employment permit. If your application is successful you will be granted extended residence permission for a further 5 years and you will not need a work permit to work in Ireland.
If this is your first work permit in Ireland you are expected to stay with your new employer for 12 months (apart from in exceptional circumstances). After that you may move to a new employer provided that a new application for a work permit has been made. If you are moving to a similar job a labour market needs test is not required. If you are changing occupation a labour market needs test must be done.
Losing your job
If you lose your job through redundancy special conditions apply to work permit holders who have been made redundant. When you find alternative employment you have to apply for a new work permit. Provided that your original work permit remains valid there are no ineligible occupations, your employer does not have to advertise the vacancy with FÁS and your application will be processed as quickly as possible. You may also use certain services for jobseekers in FÁS offices, such as an interview with an employment services officer.
If you are a national who requires a visa, this is still a requirement even if you do not need a work permit. You should obtain a visa before travelling to Ireland. Your nearest Irish embassy or consulate will be able to advise on whether you require a travel visa.
Registration and permission to remain
Non-EEA nationals (with the exception of Switzerland) must register with the Garda Siochána in the area where they intend to live when they arrive in the State. In Dublin the registration is done at the Garda National Immigration Bureau. Outside Dublin you may register at your local Garda District Headquarters. When you have been legally living and working in Ireland for 5 years on a work permit you can apply for long-term residence to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) - see 'Where to apply' below.
You may be able to bring your family to live here after you have been legally working here for a year on a work permit. You also have to be able to show that you will be able to support them. In practice, you need to be earning an income above the limits for Family Income Supplement.You should apply for family reunification to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS). Your spouse and dependants aged under 18 may apply for a spousal/dependant work permit once they are legally resident in Ireland on the basis of being your spouse or dependant. They may require visas to come to Ireland (see 'Visas' above) and there are INIS guidelines about visa requirements for family reunification for workers.
Work permit not necessary
As a foreign national, you do not need a work permit if you are in one of the following categories:
- EEA/Swiss citizen and your spouse (whether he/she is a EEA/Swiss citizen or not) and your dependent children - except Bulgarian and Romanian nationals, see above
- Person who has been granted refugee status - whether through the normal process or as a programme refugee.
- Postgraduate student where the work is an integral part of the course of study being undertaken.
- Person who has been given permission to stay in the country because you are the spouse of an Irish citizen or the parent of an Irish citizen.
- Person who has been refused refugee status but has been granted leave to remain on humanitarian grounds.
Refusal of work permits
You will be refused a work permit where you:
- Entered the state on the basis that you are not taking up employment, for example, as a visitor
- Are in the state illegally or you no longer comply with the conditions under which you were admitted
- Have been asked by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to leave the state
- Are in the process of being deported
- Are seeking employment with a non-European Economic Area/Swiss employer who is operating in the state without business permission from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform
Other categories to note
- It is a primary condition of entry into the state for students that they are in a position to maintain themselves while studying here. From 18 April 2005 new students given permission to remain in Ireland for study will not be given permission to work (defined as up to 20 hours part-time work per week or full-time work during holiday periods) unless they are attending a full-time course of at least a year leading to a recognised qualification. There is a list of recognised courses on the Department of Education's website. Students who had permission to remain on 18 April 2005 can continue to work part-time and study in Ireland for the remaining period of their visa.
- From 10 April 2007 non-EEA students who have graduated on or after 1 January 2007 with a primary, master's or doctorate degree may be permitted to remain in Ireland for 6 months. The degree must be from an Irish third-level educational institution. The Third Level Graduate Scheme (pdf) will allow them to find employment and apply for a work permit or Green Card permit. During this 6-month period they may work full time. They must be legally resident in Ireland and should apply for this extension of their student permission (stamp 2) to their local immigration registration office - see "Registration and permission to remain" above.
- There are special arrangements for work permit applications for sports professionals (players only), nurses and doctors including no requirement for a labour market needs test.
- A very restrictive policy operates regarding the issue of work permits for domestic staff. Applications will be considered only where it has been established that the person has been in employment with a family abroad for at least one year, prior to the date of applying for a work permit. Permits, where issued, are subject to strict conditions.
- From 6 June 2006 a person on a working holiday visa can no longer transfer over to a work permit.
- Apart from some long-standing asylum seekers, people applying for refugee status in Ireland are not entitled to work at all
The fee must be paid by the applicant. In some circumstances, the fee may be waived. Fees for new applications and renewal of work permits from 1 February 2007
Duration of work permit
up to 6 months
6 months to 2 years
2 years to 3 years
unlimited (after 5 years)
How to apply
New applications for work permits can be made by the prospective employer or employee to the Employment Permits Section of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Applications must be made using the new employment permit application form . It must be accompanied by:
- Two recently taken passport-sized photographs of the proposed employee
- Documentary evidence that a labour market needs test has been undertaken
- Documentary evidence of the employee’s certified qualifications.
- The appropriate fee
- If the proposed employee is resident in Ireland, copies of all visas, residency stamps and GNIB Registration Card – see above
- If the proposed employee is not resident in Ireland, then he or she should apply for a visa – see above
Renewal of work permits
Either an employer or an employee can apply for a renewal using the renewal application form. If an employer applies for a work permit in respect of a former employee who has left the state, this will be considered a new application.
You should allow 2 to 3 months for a new application or renewal to be processed.
Where to apply
Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service
13/14 Burgh Quay
Tel:+353 1 616 7700
Local:1890 221 227