Labour migration policies in Ireland

This blog provides an overview of specific national labour migration and work permit policies in Ireland, based on this detailed case study. We also track how single provisions match policy recommendations we developed in our 2021 report on labour migration.


The General Employment Permit

General employment permits are not restricted to any particular nationality, but are only granted for specific occupations. A general employment permit can only be issued when the following three conditions are met:

  • The employer has advertised the position for at least four weeks on official websites and in national newspapers, and has not found any EEA national candidate;
  • The employer must demonstrate that at least 50% of their workforce are EEA nationals (50/50 rule);
  • The minimum annual remuneration amounts to €30,000.

Applications for a General Employment Permit can be submitted by either the worker or the employer to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. When applying for the first time for a permit, the fee is €500 for a permit up to 6 months duration, and €1,000 for a permit up to 24 months duration. The worker must also apply for an entry visa, once they have had confirmation on their work permit.

To change employer, the worker needs to apply for a whole new Employment Permit. This cannot be done in the first year of employment, and the process means paying a new fee of €1,000, a new labour market needs test, compliance with the 50/50 rule and long waiting times. As these requirements can be burdensome and expensive, in practice, it can lead to workers being effectively tied to the same employer for five years, which is the time required before applying for ‘settled status’ or citizenship.

General Employment Permit holders can only apply for family reunification after one year and must meet strict criteria – in particular regarding minimum income, which blocks family reunification for many workers. Family members of workers under this permit cannot work and need to apply for an Employment Permit in their own right.

If workers are made redundant, they can access some form of unemployment benefits, depending on how many contributions the worker accrued with previous work. When workers lose their job through no fault of their own, or when their employer fails to notify the Department when a worker is made redundant, they need to apply for a Reactivation Employment Permit.


The Reactivation Employment Permit

In Ireland, non-EU citizens who held a work permit but became undocumented through “no fault of their own” and have remained in the country can apply for a Reactivation Employment Permit. “No fault of their own” can refer to cases such as labour exploitation and abuse, closure of the workplace without previous notice, being made redundant, or failure of the previous employer to submit the redundancy notification on time.

This scheme is not restricted to any nationality. Undocumented workers who fit the criteria above can apply for this permit based on a formal offer of employment in any job, except for domestic work. It is not necessary to conduct a labour market needs test. The employer can only offer a job to a non-EEA worker when at least half of the employees are EEA nationals. Workers under this permit must earn at least minimum wage (€11.30 per hour in 2023) and work for at least 20 hours a week.

Applications for Reactivation Employment Permits can be submitted by either the worker or the employer. When applying for the first time for a permit up to 6 months, the fee is €500, and €1,000 when the duration is up to 24 months.

The Reactivation Employment Permit follows the same conditions as the General Employment Permit as regards the right to change employer, access to unemployment benefits, and apply for family reunification.

Cover image: Jenifoto – Adobe Stock