New law will reform work permits, attract tech workers

25 Apr 14

IRELAND

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? On April 23, Ireland published the Employment Permits (Amendment) Bill 2014 that will widen its employment permit legislation.

What does the change mean? The law, when enacted, will put all categories of employment permits on a legislative footing, broaden eligibility for highly-skilled occupations, and reduce processing times. The law will make labor market testing mandatory for work permit applications, aside from IDA clients.

  • Implementation timeframe: The law is expected to take effect by summer.
  • Visas/permits affected: Employment permits.
  • Who is affected: Foreign skilled workers, particularly in the technology sectors.
  • Impact on processing times: The bill proposes to reduce processing time for employment permits by 58 percent.
  • Business impact: The law should have a positive impact by increasing the number of employment permits and allowing greater flexibility and better business planning for companies assigning foreign workers in Ireland. It also contains provisions that will benefit startup companies.
  • Next steps: The law has been published and is subject to Houses of the Oireachtas approval.

Background: In an effort to make Ireland the “Internet capital of Europe,” the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, published the Employment Permits (Amendment) Bill.

“The legislation … will make a major contribution to the overall reforms we are delivering in the employment permits area. It codifies and clarifies the law in this area to make the system more transparent and obligations clearer to businesses and other stakeholders,” said Bruton in a statement.

Ireland’s employment permit laws have not been amended since 2006.

The bill legislates for nine categories of employment permits:

  1. Intra-Company Transfer Employment Permit for temporary transfers of foreign affiliates or branches of Irish companies.
  2. Contract for Services Employment Permit for employees of a foreign company that has contracted with an Irish company to work in-country.
  3. General Employment Permit for highly-skilled workers employed under a contract of less than two years.
  4. Critical Skills Employment Permit for foreign workers with skills in shortage industries. This will replace the current “green card.”
  5. Internship Employment Permit for students of a foreign institution to work in-country.
  6. Exchange Agreement Employment Permit for individuals working under a designated exchange agreement.
  7. Sports and Cultural Employment Permit for athletes and artists.
  8. Reactivation Employment Permit for foreign workers whose employment permits lapsed through no fault of their own.
  9. Spouses, Civil Partners and Dependents Employment Permit for family members of foreign critical skills workers and researchers.

The law will also strengthen criteria for obtaining employment permits by:

  1. Extending the requirement for labor market testing. Waivers will be allowed on certain grounds (including IDA-supported companies), and applications for Critical Skills Employment Permits will be exempt from labor market testing.
  2. Enforcing the requirement that employers maintain a labor force of at least 50 percent Irish or EEA nationals. Startups may obtain a waiver for a designated period to allow them to bring in a team from the overseas headquarters to set up the Irish company. A startup company is one that is registered with Irish Revenue within the two years preceding the application.

BAL Analysis: BAL welcomes that this legislation now puts many of the employment permits on a statutory footing. It also supports startup companies in Ireland and will be enormously helpful to employers by offering definitions which previously did not exist.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact uk@balglobal.com.

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