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General Employment Permit

The General Employment Permit replaces the old Work Permit Employment Permit. General Employment Permits are the primary vehicle used by the State to attract 3rd country nationals for occupations which are experiencing a labour or skills shortage.

Unlike Critical Skills Employment Permits where the State specifies eligible occupations, General Employment Permits assume all occupations to be eligible unless otherwise specified. Therefore, all occupations are eligible unless excluded under the list of Ineligible Categories of Employment for Employment Permits. The main attraction of the General Employment Permit for prospective candidates is that it permits a broader range of occupations than the other classes of employment permit and may be obtained in respect of a 12 month contract of employment. All occupations under the Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations List are deemed eligible.

Either the foreign national or the prospective employer can apply for a General Employment Permit and the permit is issued to the foreign national, and a certified copy sent to the employer, which permits his or her employment in the State by the employer in the occupation and location/s specified on the permit.

A General Employment Permit can be issued for an initial period of two years and can then be renewed for up to a further three years. After five years, the applicant may apply to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) for long term residency.

Criteria for Eligibility

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation examine a number of criteria when assessing employment permit applications.

As with most employment permits the issue of a General Employment Permit is contingent on a job offer from a bona fide employer registered with the Revenue Commissioners and, if applicable, with the Companies Registration Office/Registry of Friendly Societies, and is trading in Ireland. Full details of what is required are set out on the relevant application form and include:

  • A full description of the proposed employment
  • The employment named is not in an excluded job category under the Ineligible Categories of Employment for Employment Permits
  • Information in respect of the qualifications skills or experience required for the employment.
  • Minimum annual remuneration - is generally €30,000. However, it is:

    • €27,000 in respect of a non-EEA student – who has graduated in the last 12 months, from an Irish third level institution, and has been offered a graduate position from the Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations List;  the minimum annual remuneration must be €30,000 at renewal stage;
    • €27,000 in respect of a non-EEA student – who has graduated in the last 12 months, from an overseas third level institution, and has been offered a graduate position as an ICT professional from the Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations List; in such cases the minimum annual remuneration must be €30,000 at renewal stage;
    • €27,000 in respect of an employment which requires a person fluent in the official language of a state which is not a Member State of the EEA, where the employment is supported by an enterprise development agency and the employment is in:
      • a customer service and sales role with relevant product knowledge,
      • a specialist online digital marketing and sales role, or
      • a specialist language support and technical sales support role, and
    • €27,500 in respect of an employment as a boner (meat).

See further information on remuneration at “Remuneration Criteria” below.

Employer Criteria

The normal criteria for employers apply, which seek to ensure that the employer is a genuine and legal employer, so as to give a level of reassurance that the employment rights of employees will be adhered to. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation examines a number of criteria when assessing employers including:

  • Applications will only be accepted from employers that are registered with the Revenue Commissioners and with the Companies Registration Office/Registry of Friendly Societies, if applicable, and which are currently trading in the State.
  • That an employer – employee relationship will exist in that the prospective employee concerned will be employed, salaried and paid directly by the employer.
  • An employment permit will not issue unless at the time of application at least 50% of the employees in a firm are EEA nationals (50:50 rule).
  • The 50:50 rule is waived in certain circumstances:
    • Start-up companies - the employer must be registered with Revenue as an employer within last two years, and the employer must have a letter of support from either Enterprise Ireland or IDA Ireland (this applies to client companies of Enterprise Ireland or IDA Ireland only). Renewals of employment permits will require the employer to have met 50:50 rule. If not, then a one year employment permit may be provided in circumstances where the employer can demonstrate significant progress towards achieving 50% (this reduces the prospect of a company having to let people go to meet 50:50 target at early stage of company’s business). Such renewals must also have a letter of support from Enterprise Ireland or the IDA. The 50:50 rule will have to be achieved at the end of that one year renewal period;
    • Employment permits in force at time of commencement of the 2014 Act;
    • Where on the day on which the application is made the employer has no employees; the foreign national will be the sole employee; and the Minister is satisfied that having regard to the employment in respect of which the application is made, the foreign national concerned will be the sole employee of the employer. The exception to the 50:50 Rule will also apply at renewal provided the permit holder remains a sole employee.

A Labour Market Needs Test is required in most cases, other than:

  • Where the job is an occupation included on the Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations List,
  • Where the job offer is in respect of an eligible employment with a minimum annual remuneration of €60,000. Employment permits cannot be issued in respect of employments, irrespective of remuneration, on the Ineligible Categories of Employment for an Employment Permit List.
  • Where a recommendation from Enterprise Ireland or IDA Ireland has been made in relation to the job offer (this applies to client companies of Enterprise Ireland or IDA Ireland only).
  • Where the job offer is for a Carer of a person with exceptional medical needs and the non-EEA national has been providing care to the person before the application was made and that person has developed a high level of dependence on that non-EEA national.
  • Where the job is offered to a non-EEA national who held a General Employment Permit or a Work Permit Employment Permit and who, on a date after 1st October 2014, was made redundant and the redundancy occurred within the previous 6 months. This waiver only applies where the Department has been notified of the redundancy within four weeks of the date of dismissal.

To fulfil the Labour Market Needs Test the employer must advertise the position on DSP Employment Services/EURES employment network and in newspapers. Full details are available on our Labour Market Needs Test page.

Employee Criteria

The main criteria applied in these cases are:

  • Minimum annual remuneration (generally above €30,000) - see “Remuneration Criteria” below;
  • the employment named is not in an excluded job category under the Ineligible Categories of Employment for Employment Permits;
  • the prospective employee must possess the relevant qualifications, skills or experience that are required for the employment.

Spouses, dependants or partners of General Employment Permit holders are not eligible for a Dependant/Partner/Spouse Employment Permit and must apply for a separate employment permit in their own right.

If the foreign national is granted an employment permit for the first time in the State then he / she is expected to stay with the initial employer for a period of 12 months. In accordance with section 12(1)(e) of the Employment Permits Act 2006 as amended, a new employment permit (for a different employer) cannot be considered if fewer 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 General Employment Permit holder to change employer:

  • Medical doctors on 6 month rotations;
  • Permit holder is made redundant;
  • Circumstances (unforeseen at time of application) arise that fundamentally change the employment relationship.

Apart from the exceptional circumstances set out above, after 12 months the permit holder may move employer provided that a new application for a General Employment Permit is made following the normal criteria.

Remuneration Criteria

In order to achieve the minimum remuneration threshold of €30,000, €27,000 or €27,500 for a General 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 s14 Health Insurance Act, 1994.

The Process

An application can be made online on the Employment Permits Online System. There is a User Guide available on the online system which guides the applicant through the process and details the documentary requirements for each employment permit type.

There are up to three stages in the passage of an employment permit application:

  1. Application Received (Awaiting Processing): Once an application is submitted and the associated fees, if appropriate, are recorded the application is then placed in the relevant processing queue depending on the Employer type i.e. Trusted Partner or Standard.  Please note that applications are processed strictly in date order by Employer Type and applicants can keep track of our current processing dates.  They can also check the progress of their specific application online on our new Online Status Update Enquiry facility.  
  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. Review: Where an applicant wishes a refusal decision to be reviewed then he/she may do so within 28 days on the prescribed Submission of a Decision for Review Form. The review will be considered by a separate and more senior official. The confirmation of a refusal decision on review does not preclude the applicant from submitting a new application following all of the relevant procedures for the specific employment permit type.

The processing fee for a new General Employment Permit is

  • €500 for an employment permit of 6 months or less duration or
  • €1,000 for an employment permit from 6 months up to 24 months duration.

The processing fee for renewal of a permit is

  • €750 - for an employment permit of 6 months or less duration or
  • €1,500 - for an employment permit from six months, up to 36 months duration.

Detailed information on fee requirements and certain waivers can be found on our Fees for Employment Permits page.

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).

Where the employer is the applicant, in accordance with section 23 of the Employment Permits Act 2006, the employer or an agent acting on their behalf 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.

Renewals

This policy applies to the holders of General Employment Permits and holders of current Work Permit Employment Permits which issued before the 1 October 2014.

An application in respect of the renewal of a permit can be made online on the Employment Permits Online System within 16 weeks prior to the expiry of the existing permit, on the relevant form and supplying the information and documentation requested thereon.

The duration of a General Employment Permit is for the defined period requested.

Applications may be granted for a maximum period of up to 24 months in the first instance and may be extended upon application by a further 3 years after which it is envisaged that a holder would apply for long-term residency from the Department of Justice and Equality.

A foreign national is usually expected to take up employment within 3 months of the date of issue of the original 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 a renewal employment permit.

Holders of Work Permit Employment Permits or General Employment Permits for 5 years or more

This policy applies to the holders of General Employment Permits and holders of current Work Permit Employment Permits which issued before the 1 October 2014.

Non-EEA nationals who have held valid Work Permit Employment Permits or General Employment Permits for 5 years or more consecutively and have been working lawfully during that time may not require an Employment Permit to work in the State. In these circumstances the proposed employee may not be required to apply for a new General Employment Permit or a renewal of their existing employment permit and should contact the Department of Justice and Equality to apply for a temporary Stamp 4.

If an applicant does not satisfy the qualifying criteria they are still required to hold an employment permit to work in the State. If he/she have been in continuous employment with his/her current employer for 5 years or more he/she may apply for a Renewal Employment Permit for an unlimited duration, in this case no fee will apply. If, however, he/she has not been with the same employer for 5 years or more he/she may apply for a Renewal Employment Permit for a maximum duration of 3 years and the applicable fee for the specific permit type applies.

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.

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 be issued to persons already lawfully residing in the State on another immigration permission 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.

Change of Circumstances

This policy applies to the holders of General Employment Permits and holders of current Work Permit Employment Permits which issued before the 1 October 2014.

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

If a Work Permit Employment Permit or a General Employment Permit holder has been placed on short-time working or there has been a change to any of the terms and conditions applying in respect of the employment permit in force, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation must be notified, as failure to do so will impact on future applications for the renewal of such employment permits.

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

This policy applies to the holders of General Employment Permits and holders of current Work Permit Employment Permits which issued before the 1 October 2014.

If an employee is made redundant while they are a General Employment Permit or Work Permit Employment Permit holder they are required to notify the Employment Permit Section of the Department of Business, 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.

Where a General Employment Permit or a Work 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 General Employment Permit, should they obtain a subsequent job offer with same job title, then a General Employment Permit application will still be considered and the Labour Market Needs Test will not be required.

A new General Employment Permit will be issued in accordance with the General Employment Permit scheme remuneration requirement.

If the foreign 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 foreign 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 foreign nationals may, subject to normal requirements, make an application for a different class of employment permit.

Transfer of Undertakings

The holders of General Employment Permits 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 in name of the employer, the employer (whose name is on the existing Employment Permit) must complete and send into the Department of Business, 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 Business, Enterprise and Innovation will issue a new permit to the permit holder/s and certified copy/ies to the new employer. Failure to notify the Department of a Transfer of Undertaking could affect the application for renewal.

Cancellation of Employment Permits

This policy applies to the holders of General Employment Permits and holders of current Work Permit Employment Permits which issued before the 1 October 2014.

In accordance with section 24(1) of the Employment Permits Act 2006 should a non-EEA national, for whatever reason, cease to be employed by the employer during the period of the Work Permit Employment Permit or the General Employment Permit’s validity the permit and the employer’s certified copy must be returned to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation within 4 weeks from the date of termination or cessation. An employer or a permit holder 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.

2 September 2017

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