Minister Humphreys announces changes to the employment permits system for workers from outside the European Economic Area< back to news

Minister Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation has today announced changes to the Employment Permits System following a comprehensive review.

Ireland operates a managed employment permit system through occupation lists, namely the Critical Skills and Ineligible Lists of Occupations, which are reviewed twice a year. This is an evidence-based process that takes account of labour market conditions and submissions from sectors and other stakeholders, together with contextual factors such as Brexit. The purpose of the system is to maximise the benefits of economic migration while minimising the risk of disrupting the Irish labour market.

Following the first bi-annual review of 2019, Minister Humphreys has announced the following changes:

Addition of certain occupations to the Critical Skills List of Occupations, which means they will qualify for a Critical Skills Employment Permit:

  • Civil engineers
  • Quantity surveyors
  • Construction project managers
  • Mechanical and electrical engineers with BIM capabilities
  • High Performance Directors and Coaches for high-level sports organisations

Removal of certain occupations from the Ineligible List of Occupations, which means they will qualify for a General Employment Permit:
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Welding trades
  • Pipefitters
  • Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Engineers       
  • Shuttering Carpenters
  • Glaziers, window fabricators & fitters
  • Scaffolders, stagers & riggers
  • Crane drivers
  • Career guidance teachers (secondary schools) 

Removal of the additional occupations from the Ineligible List of Occupations by quota, which means they will qualify for a General Employment Permit:
  • Transport and Distribution Clerks and Assistants (Freight Forwarders; Cargo & Freight Agents; Brokerage Clerks) subject to a quota of 300,
  • Plasterers subject to a quota of 250
  • Bricklayers subject to a quota of 250

Commenting on the changes, Minister Humphreys said: Our economic migration policy accommodates the arrival of non-EEA nationals to fill capacity gaps in the domestic economy in the short to medium term, while still prioritising, wherever possible, Irish and EEA nationals in the awarding of contracts of employment. The changes I have announced today demonstrate that the employment permit system is sufficiently agile and flexible to respond to the evolving needs of the labour market.”

Turning to the changes she is introducing for the construction sector, the Minister continued:

“Construction in Ireland is an important economic sector, which is broadly based across the country, supporting employment in all regions.During the recent economic downturn, it suffered more than most and many skilled workers left Ireland to find opportunities abroad.  I am aware that the sector is actively seeking to encourage many of these workers back to take up jobs in Ireland but despite those efforts, there is still a significant supply gap and companies are experiencing real skills shortagesThese changes, combined with the many training courses and apprenticeships available to train up workers in the domestic economy, will help to ease pressure on the sector.

Moving to the sports sector, the Minister said that the addition of High Performance Coaches and Directors to the Critical Skills Occupations List will facilitate the recruitment of people with the skills and international experience needed to compete on the world stage, something that is key to delivering Ireland’s National Sports Policy 2018-2027. While the Policy provides for a new coaching plan and workforce development strategy to support the efforts of sports bodies to continue developing talent domestically, in the short to medium term, the recruitment of non-EEA nationals will remain an aspect of the system.

She explained:“Olympic and Paralympic sports operate in a global labour market where it is necessary to recruit and retain highly-skilled candidates. This change will make it easier for Ireland’s sporting bodies to attract and recruit coaches and directors with international experience, particularly when it comes to training up the next generation of Irish sports stars.

“Currently most coaches, apart from those at the top level, come in under the Sports and Cultural Employment Permit, which doesn’t allow them immediate family reunification and access to the labour market for their spouses and partners or to fast-track to permanent residency after 2 years.  All of this will be available as they will now be able to access the Critical Skills Employment Permit.”

In the context of Brexit, the Minister also explained that she is making allowances for an extra 300 workers to come to Ireland to fill positions in the area of customs duties and controls.“Currently there are no labour shortages for transport and distribution clerks or other logistics personnel. However, the evidence suggests that in the event of Brexit, managed or otherwise, there will be a sharp increase in demand for these skills. For this reason, as part of the Government’s overall contingency planning, I believe that it is prudent to make these extra allowances now.”

A number of additional technical changes were also approved to provide for the introduction of the Revenue Commissioners PAYE Modernisation Initiative, amendments to the criteria for Chef Employment Permits and the exemption of Career Guidance Teachers from the Ineligible Occupations List.

The changes made to the occupations lists will come into effect on 22nd April 2019.