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Critical Skills Employment Permits

The Critical Skills Employment Permit replaces the Green Card type employment permit. The Critical Skills Employment Permit is designed to attract highly skilled people into the labour market with the aim of encouraging them to take up permanent residence in the State.

Eligible occupations under this type of permit are deemed to be critically important to growing Ireland’s economy, are highly demanded and highly skilled, and in significant shortage of supply in our labour market.

Occupations such as ICT professionals, professional engineers and technologists are catered for under this type of employment permit. Eligible occupations are largely determined in line with the regular analyses of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs with regard to the labour market requirements in respect of strategically important skills. The list of eligible occupations is set out in the Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations List.

The Critical Skills Employment Permit is attractive for a number of reasons:

  • Because the skills are identified as being in short supply, a Labour Market Needs Test is not required.
  • Permit holders can apply for immediate family reunification from the Irish Naturalisation & Immigration Service of the Department of Justice and Equality and once their dependants/partners/spouses are resident in the State they are eligible to seek any employment and apply to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation for a Dependant/Partner/Spouse Employment Permit which is currently issued free of charge.
  • Permit holders may apply to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service for permission to reside and work without the requirement for an employment permit upon completion of the Critical Skills Employment Permit’s duration.

Other general features of employment permits also apply. For example, the full rigour of Irish Employment Rights law applies to employment permit holders in employment. Also, the employment permit holder may, after serving one year in employment with the original employer as specified on the employment permit, change employer. This is subject to applying for a new employment permit and which is subject to the policy at that time.

The prospective employee or the employer can apply for a Critical Skills Employment Permit. The employment permit will issue to the prospective employee (a certified copy will issue to the employer). The permit allows the prospective employee to be employed in the State by the named employer and in the occupation and location/s specified on the permit. In support of the objectives of the Critical Skills Employment Permit and its generous ancillary benefits they are only issued in respect of a job offer of 2 years’ duration. For job offers of less than 2 years, a General Employment Permit may be applied for.

While the job offer must be of 2 years’ duration, the foreign national is expected to stay with the initial employer for a minimum period of 12 months. In accordance with s12(1)(e) of the Employment Permits Act 2006 as amended, a new employment permit (for a different employer) cannot be considered if less than 12 months has elapsed since the permit holder first commenced employment in the State pursuant to an employment permit. This refusal reason attempts to strike a reasonable balance between, on the one hand, the employer’s expectations that the foreign national remain in his or her employment for a reasonable period of time given the costs involved in recruiting that foreign national and, on the other hand, not unduly binding the foreign national to the employer.   However, where the following circumstances apply, the Department may permit a Critical Skills Employment holder to change employer:

  • Holder is made redundant;
  • Circumstances (unforeseen at time of application) arise that fundamentally change the employment relationship.

Criteria for Eligibility

The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation examines a number of criteria when assessing Critical Skills Employment Permit applications including a job offer from a bona-fide employer based and trading in Ireland and who is registered with the Revenue Commissioners and, where applicable, the Companies Registration Office/Register of Friendly Societies.

Eligibility for a Critical Skills Employment Permit is largely determined by the type of occupation, and proposed remuneration level. The following are eligible:

  • Occupations with a minimum annual remuneration of €30,000 for a restricted number of strategically important occupations contained in the Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations List. A relevant degree qualification or higher is required.
  • All occupations with a minimum annual remuneration of over €60,000, other than those on the Ineligible Categories of Employment for Employment Permits or which are contrary to the public interest. A non-EEA national who does not have a degree qualification or higher, must have the necessary level of experience.
  • The prospective employee concerned must have secured a 2 year job offer in respect of the eligible occupation from the prospective employer.

Further criteria include:

  • The prospective employee concerned must possess the relevant qualifications, skills and experience that are required for the employment.
  • An employment permit will not be granted to companies unless 50% or more of the employees in the firm are EEA nationals at the time of application. However, this restriction may be waived in respect of start-up companies within 2 years of their establishment (i.e. registered as an employer with Revenue) and which are supported by the enterprise development agencies, Enterprise Ireland or IDA Ireland  (this applies to client companies of Enterprise Ireland or IDA Ireland only).

The full details of what is required are set out on the prescribed application form and include:

  • A full description of the proposed employment,
  • Starting date,
  • Annual remuneration excluding bonuses, and
  • Information in respect of the qualifications, skills or experience required for the employment.

Remuneration Criteria

In order to achieve the minimum remuneration threshold of €30k or €60k for a Critical Skills Employment Permit the following components are deemed to be remuneration:

  • Basic salary to achieve at least National Minimum Wage or a rate of pay fixed under or pursuant to any enactment, as the first component of the remuneration package and
  • Health insurance payments made to a health insurer registered with the Health Insurance Authority on its Register of Health Benefits Undertakings under Section 14 Health Insurance Act, 1994 or what the Minister is satisfied is the equivalent.

The Process

An application must be made on the official form available on the Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation website. There are up to three stages in the passage of an employment permit application:

  1. Pre-check Stage. This stage prepares the application for consideration by a decision maker. A variety of basic checks are carried out in order to maximise the efficiency of the next stage, the Processing Stage. If an application is found to be wanting (e.g. application does not include required documentation) then the application is ‘rejected’ as incomplete. This is not a refusal – it merely requests the applicant to make the necessary changes to complete the application. The applicant can resubmit the corrected application. Once the application passes the Pre-Check Stage and when the associated cheques/EFT payments are recorded it is then placed in the processing queue.
  2. Processing Stage: This stage is where the application is considered by a decision maker, an official with decision making authority. The processor may request additional information, if required, which should be returned within 28 days.   The processor will then either grant an application or refuse it for specific reasons.
  3. Appeal: Where an applicant wishes to appeal a refusal decision then he/she may do so within 28 days on the prescribed Submission of a Decision for Review Form. The appeal will be considered by a separate and more senior official. The refusal of an application on appeal does not preclude the submission of a new application.

The processing fee for a Critical Skills Employment Permit is €1,000. If an application is unsuccessful then 90% of the fee will be refunded. While the fee may be paid by a third party, current policy restricts refunds to applicants only (e.g. if the applicant was an employee and the employer paid the fee, then the refund will still issue to the employee). Detailed information on fee requirements and certain waivers can be found on our Fees for Employment Permits page.

Where the employer is the applicant, in accordance with section 23 of the Employment Permits Act 2006, the employer may not make any deductions from the remuneration of, or seek to recover from, the holder of the employment permit concerned any charge, fee or expense related to the application.

Residency

Following a successful application for an employment permit, and if visa required, an applicant should apply to his/her local Irish Embassy/Consulate for an entry Visa. An online visa application form may be found at www.inis.gov.ie. Contact details for Irish Embassies/Consulates and a list of visa required countries may be found on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade at www.dfa.ie.

Any persons wishing to enter the State, whether visa required or not, are subject to the usual immigration controls at the port of entry. Therefore, all relevant and supporting documentation, including the original employment permit, must be available for inspection by an Immigration Officer. Entry to the State is always at the discretion of the Immigration Officer.

An employment permit is not a Residence Permission. In order to be lawfully resident in the State, it is a requirement that all non-EEA nationals in possession of an employment permit must register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau. It is in the best interest of the persons concerned to register as soon as possible following arrival. Delay in registering with Garda National Immigration Bureau could affect applications in the granting of long term residency and/or citizenship. Immigration permission to remain should, where applicable, be renewed at least one month before the expiry date in order to avoid unlawful presence in the State.

In certain circumstances, an employment permit may issue to persons already lawfully residing in the State on another immigration permission, who are the holders of valid Garda National Immigration Bureau cards, and who have been offered employment in an eligible occupation. In this instance, on receipt of the employment permit, the persons concerned must register their change of status with the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

Renewals

This policy applies to the holders of Critical Skills Employment Permits and current holders of Green Card Employment Permits which issued before the 1 October 2014.

A feature of the Critical Skills Employment Permit and the Green Card Employment Permit is that holders whose employment permit and immigration registration card are due to expire will not be required to apply for a renewal permit through the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. Instead Critical Skills Employment Permit and Green Card Employment Permit holders can apply for a support letter from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and then present themselves for registration renewal at the Garda National Immigration Bureau with this support letter, their existing Critical Skills Employment Permit or Green Card Employment Permit, passport and their Garda Naturalisation Immigration Bureau card. The support letter can be applied for using the following form: Request for Support Letter for Green Card/Critical Skills Employment Permit Holders seeking a “Stamp 4”.

A foreign national is usually expected to take up employment within 3 months of the date of issue of the employment permit. Circumstances may arise where this is not possible due to matters beyond the applicant’s control.  Where this delay has not been caused through any fault on the part of the foreign national this will be considered on a case by case basis as appropriate.  Details should be forwarded for the Department’s consideration when applying for the support letter.

Stamp 4

Subject to their having complied with their previous immigration and employment permit conditions and being of good character, they will be issued with an immigration permission which allows them to reside and work in the State without the need for a further employment permit. The Immigration permission granted by the Garda National Immigration Bureau will be for two years, which is then renewable subject to the persons concerned meeting all relevant criteria as stated on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service. On achieving 60 months residency permission, Critical Skills Employment Permit or Green Card Employment Permit holders will then be permitted to make an application for long term residence, details of which are available on www.inis.gov.ie.

If you do not satisfy the qualifying criteria you will be issued with a Stamp 1 by the Garda National Immigration Bureau and you will still be required to hold an employment permit in order to work in the State.

Change of Circumstances

This policy applies to the holders of Critical Skills Employment Permits and current holders of Green Card Employment Permits which issued before 1 October 2014.

It is recognised that circumstances may change through no fault of the employee which renders them unemployed.

Those made redundant after the coming into operation of the new legislation.

If an employee is made redundant while they are a Critical Skills or Green Card Employment Permit holder they are required to notify the Employment Permits Section of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation of the redundancy on the prescribed Notification of Redundancy Form within four weeks of the date of dismissal. Such an employment permit holder will have up to six months from the date of dismissal by reason of redundancy to seek alternative employment.

A new Critical Skills Employment Permit will be issued in accordance with the Critical Skills Employment Permit scheme remuneration requirement and for a job where there is a strategic skills shortage. Where a Critical Skills Employment Permit or a Green Card Employment Permit holder who has notified the Department of their redundancy, and has been made redundant in a job title that is subsequently not eligible for a Critical Skills Employment Permit, should they obtain a subsequent two year job offer with same job title, then a Critical Skills Employment Permit application will still be considered.

If the non-EEA national cannot acquire another job within six months of being made redundant they must contact the immigration authorities to establish their immigration status beyond that period. Should the non-EEA national opt to leave the country, and are later successful in getting another job offer in Ireland, they may apply for a new employment permit subject to the policy at that time.

Those made redundant before the coming into operation of the new legislation.

Such non-EEA nationals may, subject to normal requirements, make an application for a different class of employment permit.

Transfer of Undertakings

This policy applies to the holders of Critical Skills Employment Permits and holders of valid Green Card Employment Permits which issued before 1 October 2014.

Critical Skills Employment Permit holders or current Green Card Employment Permit holders can change employers where a transfer of employment has taken place under the European Communities (Protection of Employees on Transfer of Undertakings) Regulations 2003 (S.I. No. 131 of 2003).

Where, pursuant to a transfer of undertaking, there is a change of name in the employer, the employer (whose name is on the Critical Skills Employment Permit or Green Card Employment Permit) must complete and send in to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the prescribed Transfer of Undertaking Form.

Where the change of name is pursuant to a transfer of undertaking, and it is confirmed that the terms, conditions, description and location/s of employment as specified on the existing employment permit remain the same, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation will issue a new permit to the permit holder/s and certified copy/ies to the new employer.

Cancellation of Employment Permits

This policy applies to the holders of Critical Skills Employment Permits and holders of valid Green Card Employment Permits which issued before 1 October 2014.

In accordance with section 24(1) of the Employment Permits Act 2006 as amended should a non-EEA national, for whatever reason, cease to be employed by the employer during the period of the Critical Skills or Green Card Employment Permit’s validity, the permit and the employer’s certified copy must be returned to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation within four weeks from the date of termination or cessation. A permit holder or an employer who fails to comply with this subsection is guilty of an offence. All such permits which are returned to the Employment Permits Section in line with this will be changed to a Cancelled status on the Employment Permits Management System and these permits will no longer be valid.

12 February 2016

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