The Employment Permits (Amendment) Bill 2014 came into force on 1st October 2014 implementing significant changes to the employment permit regime in Ireland. Full details can be viewed the Department’s website which has now been updated to reflect the changes and this blog highlights some of the key changes.
General Employment Permit
The General Employment Permit has been introduced and essentially replaces the previous Work Permit Employment Permit. There are three notable changes to this permit.
Firstly the ineligible categories for employment permit list has been substantively amended. This list specifies occupations that are not eligible for a permit, in circumstances where the salary is under €60,000. The list is both more specific and expansive than the previous list and specifically names a broad range of occupations for which a work permit will not be available. Managers in a range of sectors including hospitality, health and retail are included together with a number of positions in financial administration. Several new occupations are included including legal associate professionals, estate agent and auctioneers and a range of technicians in the area of planning, architecture and engineering. A major change is the inclusion of chefs on this ineligibility list which covers chefs, butchers, fishmongers and bakers but makes an exception for executive chefs, head chefs, sous chefs and specialist chefs specialising in cuisine originating from a non-EEA state. This much expanded list is likely to have a wide ranging impact on potential applicants who may find that their occupation renders them ineligible for a work permit under the new provisions.
A further change referred to in our previous blog post is the re-introduction of the 50:50 rule. In the guidelines the Department states that an employment permit will not issue unless at the time of application at least 50% of the employees in a firm are EEA nationals. The 50:50 rule is waived in the following circumstances: A start up company where the employer has been registered with the Revenue as an employer within the last two years and the employer has a letter of support from either Enterprise Ireland or IDA Ireland; an employment permit in force at the time of commencement of the 2014 Act i.e. the Act does have retrospective effect; where on the day of the application the employer has no employees and the foreign national would be the sole employee;
The final notable change is the re-introduction of the Labour Market Needs Test that it appears must be satisfied for all applications, although this is not expressly spelt out in the guidelines. We are seeking clarification on this point from the Department. The Labour Market Needs Test requires an employer to advertise the position for a specific period in order to establish that there are no Irish or EEA nationals available to take up the position. There are limited circumstances where the test need not be satisfied that are set out in the guidelines.
Critical Skills Employment Permit
The Green Card has now been replaced by a Critical Skills Employment Permit. There have not been significant amendments to the eligibility criteria, however, the highly skilled eligible occupations list has been amended. There is again more precision and detail in the eligible occupations. It is still a requirement that when the annual remuneration is between €30,000 and €60,000 an applicant’s proposed occupation must be contained in the highly skilled eligible occupation’s list. Where the annual remuneration is over €60,000 the specific occupation is not relevant provided it is not included on the ineligible categories of employment list.
Of note is the fact that an employment permit will not be granted to companies unless 50% or more of employees in the firm are EEA nationals at the time of application. There is again an exemption with respect of start up companies within three years of their establishment and which are supported by the Enterprise Development Agencies, Enterprise Ireland or IDA Ireland.
The new regime creates a number of new permits including a Sport and Cultural Employment Permit, an Exchange Agreement Employment Permit and an Internship Employment Permit. The system retains the dependence/partner/spouse Employment Permit, Intra-Company Transfer Permit and Contract for Services Permit and there is a specific Reactivation Permit, which is designed for situations where a foreign national, who entered the State on a valid employment permit but who fell out of the system through no fault of their own, can work legally again.
It is now a requirement that business users make payments by electronic funds transfer but individuals can still make paper-based payments i.e. by cheque, bank draft or postal order. There are no notable changes in the fee structure.
We will follow with interest how the new system operates in practice and provide further updates on our blog.