By Aileen Gittens

Substantial Changes Announced To Ireland’s Employment Permit System

Changes To Ireland’s Employment Permit System The Minister for State, Business, Employment and Retail, Mr. Neale Richmond TD, has announced significant changes to Ireland’s employment permit system. 

Salary thresholds for most employment permits have increased for the first time since 2014, and quotas for specific occupations have been updated; both effective 17th January 2024. 

32 occupations have been removed from the “ineligible list of occupations”, deeming them eligible for a general employment permit, and a further 11 occupations have been added to the “critical skills occupations”  list, meaning those occupations are now eligible for a critical skills employment permit. These “role” changes are now effective and have been since 20th December 2023.

These changes will cover new and renewal applications.

Changes in focus
The salary requirement for the majority of general employment permits will rise from €30,000 per annum to €34,000 per annum, based on a 39-hour working week, from 17th January 2023. This date is 28 days from the date the changes were announced, reflecting the need to specify the increased salary requirement in any “labour market needs test” (job advertising) conducted, including “EURES” advertising, which must be live for 28 days before a general employment permit is applied for.

The salary requirement for critical skills employment permits where the proposed employee holds a degree qualification will increase from €32,000 to €38,000 per annum, and the threshold of €64,000 where the proposed employee does not have a degree qualification will remain unchanged.

The salary requirement per annum for the following additional categories of occupations and employment permits will increase as follows:

  • Health care assistants and home carers - from €27,000 to €30,000
  • Horticultural workers and meat processors - from €22,000 to €30,000
  • Gradate positions with a specialist language skill - from €27,000 to €34,000
  • Butchers and boners - from €27,500 to €34,000 per annum
  • Intra-company transfer (trainee) – from €30,000 to €34,000
  • Intra-company transfer – from €40,000 to €46,000
  • Contract for services - from €40,000 to €46,000

A roadmap for increasing salary thresholds was also announced, with the salary thresholds for all permits to range from €32,000 to €64,000 by 2025. In particular, the salary threshold for most general employment permits is currently planned to increase to €39,000 in 2025.

The baseline increase to €30,000 from 17th January 2024 in respect of health care assistants, home carers, horticultural workers and meat processors reflects the sponsorship requirements for non-EEA family reunification. It also reflects the fact that the national minimum wage is increasing to €25,756 in January 2024 and as such, some of the existing salary thresholds would have been overtaken.

The quotas for dairy farm assistants, butchers/deboners, meat processors and horticultural workers will be as follows:

  • 350 general employment permits are available for dairy farm assistants
  • 350 general employment permits are available for butchers/deboners
  • 1,000 general employment permits are available for meat processing operatives
  • 1,000 general employment permits are available for horticultural workers. This is intended to support the sector until the introduction of a “seasonal employment permit”.

In the press release announcing the changes, Minister Richmond stated that the demand on the employment permits system is very high. He noted that permits are issued to workers outside of the EEA who address real skills shortages that are impacting businesses across the country. The Minister stated that that changes will benefit our society greatly, helping to build more homes and infrastructure. He noted that anyone who has benefited from Ireland’s healthcare system knows of how richly we have benefited from non-EEA workers.

The Minister’s statement also pointed out that the salary changes are particularly important to "healthcare assistants and home carers who do such important work in our communities", in light of the fact that they now match family reunification requirements.

The changes are hugely significant. The addition of numerous roles to the employment permit system, and the fact that all salary thresholds will now meet “family reunification” sponsorship requirements, are both aspects to be welcomed. However, the changes do fall short in properly ensuring fair family reunification access to workers on general employment permits, as a non-EEA national working in the State on a general employment permit is required to work in the State for 1 full year before they are permitted to apply for their eligible family members to join them in the State.

Real and meaningful change for these workers would be a change to this policy to allow these workers to bring their eligible family members to the State with them immediately, which is a benefit already afforded to other non-EEA workers such as critical skills employment permit holders.

If you have any questions about the employment permit process, obtaining employment visas, applying for family reunification or registering your permission to reside in the State, we are here to help and please do not hesitate to reach out to us. 

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