Ireland: Changes To Employment Permit System Implemented; Further Immigration Law Changes Forthcoming

Last Updated: 29 August 2019
Article by Fragomen  

At a Glance

  • Most importantly, starting January 1, 2020, the minimum annual salary for Critical Skills Employment Permits will rise to EUR 32,000 for roles requiring a degree on the Critical Skills Occupation List, and EUR 64,000 in any other case where the applicant has relevant experience and the role is not in the ineligible list of occupations.
  • Also starting January 1, 2020, longer labour market test advertising periods will be introduced for some General Employment Permits. Affected employers will need to advertise roles for 28 days which will increase lead times.
  • The Irish government has also reduced passport validity requirements for Employment Permit applications and increased quotas for Employment Permits in the meat and dairy farm industries.

The situation

The Irish government has made significant changes to the Employment Permit Regulations, some of which are effective immediately. Further changes to Critical Skills Employment Permits and General Employment Permits are forthcoming in 2020.

A closer look – changes already in effect

Effective immediately, the Irish government has introduced the following requirements:

  • Reduced passport validity changes. For applications for employment permits, a foreign national's passport must now have six months' validity remaining from the date of application, whereas previously validity of at least 12 months was required. Visa nationals outside Ireland will still require a minimum 12-month passport validity at the entry visa application stage in order to enter the country.
    • Impact. This will allow more flexibility and increase the speed of the process for some applicants, who would otherwise need to renew their passports before applying.
  • Increased quotas for Employment Permits in meat and dairy farm industries. The maximum limit of General Employment Permits which can be granted to non-European Economic Area (EEA) in the meat and dairy farm industries has been increased.
    • Impact. The higher quota will assist employers to fill roles and address labour market needs in the meat and dairy farm industry, which have faced significant labor shortages in Ireland.

A closer look – changes forthcoming in 2020

Starting January 1, 2020, the following significant changes to the Irish Employment permit system will come into effect:

  • Higher Salary Thresholds for Critical Skills Employment Permits. The minimum annual salary for Critical Skills Employment Permits will rise to EUR 32,000 (up from EUR 30,000) for roles requiring a degree on the Critical Skills Occupation List, and EUR 64,000 (up from EUR 60,000) in any other case where the applicant has relevant experience and the role is not in the ineligible list of occupations.
    • Impact. Sponsors will have to consider this significant increase (6.7%) when budgeting for 2020. Current Employment Permit holders remain unaffected. General Employment Permits and Intra-Company Transfer Employment Permits will not be affected.
  • Changes to the Labor Market Needs Test process. A Labor Market Test is required for some General Employment Permit and Contract for Services Employment Permit applications. Where required, vacancies will need to be advertised on the website hosted by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for 28 days, whereas currently it must be advertised for 14 days.
    • Impact. Affected employers will need to advertise roles for a longer period which will increase lead times by approximately two weeks. However, this only applies in a very limited number of cases and does not affect Critical Skills Employment Permits. Therefore, the impact overall will be minimal.


The new rules reflect the Irish government's constant monitoring of labor market needs. In particular, the salary threshold increase for Critical Skills Employment Permits is a consequence of the recommendations made in the Review of Economic Migration Policy Report published by the government in September 2018. The increase is aimed at a closer alignment with average annual earnings in Ireland and to recognize this permit type's premium value over and above all other permit types as it encourages skilled foreign nationals to settle in Ireland. Most of the other changes brought by these Regulations reflect the increasingly business-friendly approach of the system.

Looking ahead

Employers considering 2020 budgets should take account of the increased salary thresholds.

As Ireland's economy reaches full employment and labour shortage continues to grow particularly in the construction, finance and farming industries, Fragomen expects the government to continue its efforts to streamline existing immigration processes to make Ireland a more attractive destination for foreign talent. Fragomen will report on further relevant updates.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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