• Employment Permit Reforms Take Effect in September; Trusted Employer Pilot Program Launches in December
  • August 11, 2014
  • Law Firm: Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen Loewy LLP - New York Office
  • Ireland recently enacted the Employment Permits (Amendment) Act 2014, which will take effect in September 2014. The new law largely codifies and clarifies existing administrative rules, but it will also broaden eligibility criteria for highly skilled employment permits and change eligibility criteria for some permits.

    The act should give Ireland greater flexibility to deal with changing labor market conditions and work patterns, allowing the government to better meet economic and development needs. The act will give employers and investors greater clarity and certainty, enabling better business planning and HR decision-making.

    In December, Ireland will pilot a new Trusted Partner Scheme that will shorten permit processing times, ease supporting documentation requirements and waive labor market testing requirements for accredited employers.

    New Employment Permit Classification Structure and Other Changes

    Under the act, there will be nine distinct types of employment permits. The change codifies current practices and will give permit applicants and their sponsors greater clarity regarding the eligibility and parameters of each permit classification. The new permit categories are as follows:

    1. Critical Skills Employment Permit will replace the current Green Card program and is designed to address critical shortages of skills. Holders of this permit will be able to be accompanied or immediately joined by dependent family members. It will also have a fast track to long-term residency. This permit will be exempt from labor market testing requirements.
    2. Dependent/ Partner/ Spouse Employment Permit will be for family members of Critical Skills Employment Permit holders and Third Country Researchers and will allow holders to work in Ireland.
    3. General Employment Permit will be for foreign nationals hired locally pursuant to an employment contract in a designated highly skilled occupation. This permit will be valid for up to two years. Certain occupations will be ineligible for this permit category.
    4. Intra-Company Transfer Employment Permit will be for the temporary transfer of employees between affiliated foreign and Irish companies.
    5. Reactivation Employment Permit will allow individuals who have lapses in employment permit validity through no fault of their own to return to a work authorized status.
    6. Contract for Services Employment Permit will allow employees of a foreign company entering Ireland to provide services to an Irish entity pursuant to a service contract with their employer abroad.
    7. Exchange Agreement Employment Permit will allow individuals to work in Ireland under a government-approved exchange agreement.
    8. Sports and Cultural Employment Permit will be for individuals with sporting or cultural expertise.
    9. Internship Employment Permit will allow students of foreign universities to work in Ireland, if the work is a key component of their coursework.

    The General Employment Permit and the Contract for Services Employment Permit will be subject to labor market testing. However, there will be limited waivers available, including for applications supported by an enterprise development agency such as IDA Ireland, where a foreign national’s remuneration will be over a certain threshold, and for specified shortage occupations.

    The act codifies requirements concerning the ratio of Irish workers to foreign workers an employer must maintain in order to be able to sponsor individuals for employment permits. At least 50% of an entity’s workforce must be made up of Irish or EEA nationals if it seeks to sponsor individuals for new employment permits. This requirement will be waived for enterprise start-ups for a designated period.

    The act will also clarify pay slip requirements for employers that increase salary payments to foreign nationals whose home country salaries are below Ireland’s minimum wage.

    Trusted Partner Pilot Program

    In December 2014, Ireland will begin piloting the Trusted Partner Scheme, an accreditation program for sponsoring employers. Participants in the program are expected to benefit from shorter permit processing times, eased supporting documentation requirements and a waiver of labor market testing requirements. To participate in the program, employers will be required to obtain the approval of either IDA Ireland or Enterprise Ireland. Further details about the pilot program are expected to be released later this year. Fragomen is closely following the development of the Trusted Partner Scheme and will release additional updates as necessary.