Work permits for employees in Ireland: A complete guide for employers

Published

May 25, 2023

Considering hiring in Ireland? Before you embark on the process of onboarding any new employees, you need to be certain that all your team members are actually authorized to work in the captivating Emerald Isle.

Hiring employees who don’t have the proper work authorization is illegal in Ireland, and both you and your new team member will be on the hook in terms of penalties, which include fines and serious prison time (up to 10 years for employers).

The best way to ensure you don’t run afoul of the law is to arm yourself with knowledge. Within this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about work permits for employees in Ireland before you make your first Irish hire.

What is a work permit in Ireland?

The Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment requires foreign nationals who wish to work in Ireland to apply for and obtain a work permit–or employment visa–to legally do so.

In Ireland, it’s necessary to have a job offer before applying for the work permit. Additionally, work permits can only be issued for jobs that meet the following criteria:

  • The job isn’t on the Department’s Ineligible Occupations List*.
  • The annual salary for the position is at least €30,000 (with some exceptions).
  • The number of non-EU and non-EEA (European Economic Area) employees at your company is below 50%.
  • The employee has a bachelor’s degree or higher; if the annual salary for the job is at least €64,000, they can substitute a bachelor’s degree with extensive relevant experience.
  • Work permits can also be issued to foreign nationals who are sponsored by a company registered in Ireland.

Additionally, employers must be able to prove they advertised the position to Irish citizens before deciding to hire a foreign national.

Finally, foreign nationals who wish to work in Ireland need to have a job offer before they can apply for a work permit.

*The government of Ireland wants to ensure Irish citizens are the first choice for open jobs in the country. The Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment identifies which professions are experiencing a shortage in the resident labor force and which aren’t. The latter go on the Ineligible Occupations List, which signals that the job is closed to foreign nationals.

Who needs a work permit in Ireland?

Generally, foreign nationals who are non-EEA citizens must obtain a work permit to be legally employed in Ireland.

There are a few exceptions to this rule, however. Most notably, registered students who are foreign nationals and work no more than 20 hours per week during each term may skip the employment visa application process. Foreign nationals who have been granted permission to remain in Ireland as the parent, spouse/partner, or dependent of an Irish or EEA citizen can skip it as well.

Employees who have successfully applied for and renewed their work permits continuously for at least five years may be eligible to apply for Stamp 4 immigration status. These are under the purview of the Department of Justice and, if granted, allow the permit holder to work in Ireland without an employment visa.

When you send an offer letter to a new hire in Ireland, it should state that the offer is conditional on their being eligible to work in Ireland legally. 

How long does it take to get a work permit in Ireland?

According to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, work permits in Ireland are processed in about 13 weeks.

Types of work permits in Ireland

There are two main types of work permits in Ireland:

  • Critical Skills Employment Permits. The Critical Skills Employment Permit is for employees whose skills are in short supply in Ireland. The Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment maintains a Critical Skills Occupations List to help you and your employee determine whether their job falls into this category.

    To be eligible for a Critical Skills Employment Permit, the duration of the employment contract must be two years or more. Additionally, the position must either be on the Critical Skills Occupations List and offer an annual salary of €32,000 or more OR have an annual salary of €64,000 or more and not be on the Ineligible Occupations List. Furthermore, the employee must be qualified for the job; i.e. they either need a degree or equivalent work experience.
  • General Employment Permits. The General Employment Permit is open to anyone applying for a job that isn’t on the Ineligible Occupations List and pays at least €30,000 per year.

    Before you open up the position to foreign nationals who would apply for the General Employment Permit, your company needs to be registered with Revenue and the Companies Registration Office and already be doing business in Ireland.

    Furthermore, you’re required to conduct a Labour Market Needs Test and provide proof to the employee for their General Employment Permit application. Remember: To hire a foreign national with this type of employment visa, the number of non-EU and non-EEA (European Economic Area) employees at your company must be below 50%.

Application process for Irish employment visas

Both the Critical Skills Employment Permit and the General Employment Permit can be applied for using the Employment Permits Online System (EPOS).

All applications require the following:

  • Employer details, such as your company name, Employer Registered Number, Company Name Registered Number, the numbers of EEA and non-EEA workers you’re currently employing, and the information for a contact person at your company (to name a few).
  • Employee details, such as the employee’s name and passport number. They must also provide proof of their qualifications for the role and details if they were previously employed in Ireland.
  • Details of employment, including information on the job duties and responsibilities, the location of employment, and, importantly, what qualifications and skills are necessary for the role and information on the employee’s employment and educational histories. The length of employment must also be stated here (remember: if the application is for a Critical Skills Employment Permit, the employment contract should last two years or more).
  • Pay details, including the annual salary, the number of hours worked each week, and information on whether any deductions are being taken out and, if so, what they’re for. The employee should confirm whether or not healthcare is being deducted from their paycheck here.
  • A copy of the employee’s passport and one passport photo
  • A statement from Revenue on your company’s monthly statutory return for the last three months
  • A signed copy of the contract of employment
  • Proof a Labour Market Needs Test was conducted (if applying for a General Employment Permit)
  • Registration/pin or license number (if the employee has a job that requires them to be registered with a regulatory agency or with the government)

The application must be signed by both you and the employee before it can be submitted.

Not sure what type of visa your employee would need? We offer immigration services backed by top tier immigration advisers, and sponsor work visas in many countries. Inquire for more information.

Frequently asked questions about work permits for employees in Ireland

What is a Labour Market Needs Test?

Employers in Ireland cannot simply offer a job to a foreign national. First, they must try to fill the vacancy with either an Irish or an EEA citizen via a Labour Market Needs Test.

This test requires employers to advertise an open position via specific channels and for predetermined periods of time. If they do wind up hiring a foreign national, employers must give the new employee evidence they conducted the Labour Market Needs Test for the work permit application.

How does the Labour Market Needs Test work?

To conduct a Labour Market Needs Test, you need to write a job advertisement that includes all of the following:

  • A description of the role and its duties
  • The company name
  • The annual salary
  • The location of the job
  • The number of hours the employee will work each week

Then, you need to advertise the job in the following places:

  • A national newspaper (for at least three days)
  • On the Department of Social Protection (DSP) and European Employment Services (EURES) websites (for at least four weeks)
  • Either a local newspaper or on a job-hunting website* (for at least three days)

If you hire a foreign national, they’ll need proof from you that this test was conducted before they can apply for the work permit. The Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment isn’t overly picky about what they mean by “proof,” but it’s better to provide too much evidence than too little.

*If you choose not to advertise in the local newspaper and instead opt for a job search engine, be aware that the Irish government wants you to advertise on the DSP and EURES sites AND a third job search engine.

Is a Labour Market Needs Test Always Required?

No. A Labour Market Needs Test isn’t necessary if:

  • The job is on the Critical Skills Occupations List.
  • The annual salary is over €64,000.
  • Either Enterprise Ireland* or IDA Ireland** recommended the job.
  • The employee had a work permit but was made redundant and notified the Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment.
  • The employee has been acting as a caregiver for an individual with exceptional medical needs who is now dependent on them.

If these criteria are met, employers do not need to provide evidence of a Labour Market Needs Test for a visa application to be submitted.
*Enterprise Ireland oversees the growth and development of Irish businesses, both at home and abroad.
**IDA Ireland is the agency responsible for ensuring foreign direct investment in Ireland.

Do US and Canadian citizens need an employment visa to work in Ireland?

The short answer is, yes. Only EEA citizens can work in Ireland without an employment visa.

What documents are required to apply for an Irish work permit?

All applications require the following:

  • Employer details, such as your company name, Employer Registered Number, Company Name Registered Number, the numbers of EEA and non-EEA workers you’re currently employing, and the information for a contact person at your company (to name a few).
  • Employee details, such as the employee’s name and passport number. They must also provide proof of their qualifications for the role and details if they were previously employed in Ireland.
  • Details of employment, including information on the job duties and responsibilities, the location of employment, and, importantly, what qualifications and skills are necessary for the role and information on the employee’s employment and educational histories. The length of employment must also be stated here (remember: if the application is for a Critical Skills Employment Permit, the employment contract should last two years or more).
  • Pay details, including the annual salary, the number of hours worked each week, and information on whether any deductions are being taken out and, if so, what they’re for. The employee should confirm whether or not healthcare is being deducted from their paycheck here.
  • A copy of the employee’s passport and one passport photo
  • A statement from Revenue on your company’s monthly statutory return for the last three months
  • A signed copy of the contract of employment
  • Proof a Labour Market Needs Test was conducted (if applying for a General Employment Permit)
  • Registration/pin or license number (if the employee has a job that requires them to be registered with a regulatory agency or with the government

The Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment has created a Critical Skills Employment Permit application checklist and one for the General Employment Permit as well. Make sure to keep these checklists handy during the process.

What’s the fastest way to get a work permit in Ireland?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to speed up the 13-week processing time. All you can do is ensure your application is complete so there are no avoidable delays once you submit it.

How much does it cost to get an Irish work permit?

Generally, regardless of the work permit type, the application fee is €1,000.

Are family members included in employment visa applications in Ireland?

No. Family members (meaning your spouse/partner and your children, if you have any) aren’t included in employment visa applications. They’ll need to apply for their own residence permit if they wish to join you in Ireland (and their own employment visa if they wish to work as well).

Additionally, unless you have the Critical Skills Employment Permit, your family members must wait one year before they can apply to join you.

How do you renew your Irish work permit?

Your employees can easily renew their work permit online. Their renewal application must be submitted before their current permit expires but no more than four months in advance. As long as they get the application in during this time frame, they should be legally able to continue working even if their current permit expires before they receive the new one.

When they apply, you’ll need to provide evidence you not only still employ the individual, but that you’re also willing to keep them on.

Run your global workforce with Rippling

Rippling can connect you with immigration services to help you sponsor work visas around the world; enquire for more information.

Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, accounting or legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.

last edited: August 21, 2023

The Author

Carrie Stemke

A freelance writer and editor based in New York City, Carrie writes about HR trends and global workforce management and is the Rippling content team’s expert on hiring know-how in Western Europe.

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