If you don’t qualify to live and work in Ireland by birthright, family relationship or as a national of an EU or EEA country, obtaining a work permit may be difficult or even impossible.
Work permits aren’t required by nationals of an EEA country, although they need to apply at their local Garda (police) station for a residence permit if they plan to stay longer than three months. A work permit isn’t required to buy property, make an investment, start an Irish company or register a foreign company in Ireland, although the person in Ireland who’s responsible for a company’s activities must have a work permit, as must anyone visiting Ireland in connection with an Irish business.
Non-EEA nationals who carry out any activity for monetary gain in Ireland require a work permit as well as a residence permit (issued simultaneously for the same duration) unless they:
- are dependent relatives of EEA nationals residing in Ireland;
- are spouses or parents of Irish nationals;
- have been posted to Ireland for a maximum of four years by a company or group of companies which has operations in more than one EU state;
- have been posted to Ireland for a maximum of three years for company training.
- have been granted refugee status in Ireland or temporary permission to remain while an asylum application is being processed;
Applications for work permits must be made by a prospective employer to the Work Permits Section of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) in Dublin (Tel. 01-661 4444 ext. 3076) and must be submitted before your arrival in Ireland or you may be refused entry (it’s advisable to obtain the work permit before you arrive, in case the application is denied!).
Some companies are under the impression that their employees need to apply for their own permits, so they may need reminding that this isn’t the case. Indeed, it’s important to note that work permits are specific not only to one company, but also to a particular position within that company. If you wish to move to another company or even obtain promotion within a company, you’ll need to apply for a new work permit and there’s no guarantee that it will be granted. Ideally, applications should be made at least six weeks before employment is due to start or before a current permit expires; the current processing time for applications is four weeks.
To obtain a residence permit to be self-employed in Ireland, non-EU nationals require business permission. To obtain this you must be able to demonstrate that your business will fulfil a need and that it won’t displace an indigenous business. In other words, you’ll need to have a USP (unique selling point) and find a niche market.
Although in theory it’s the DETE that grants or refuses work permits, it’s the Department of Justice that decides who may work in Ireland. Work permit approval will depend on your skills. The basic criterion is that no suitable EU candidate can be found for the job and the onus is on the employer to ‘prove’ that all reasonable steps have been taken to recruit a suitably qualified EU national and that you were better qualified for the job than any of them. You must therefore provide the prospective employer with proof of your previous employment, training qualifications and other skills that you have. You should also submit letters of recommendation from your previous employers. The issue of a work permit to a non-EU national is considered to be a privilege rather than a right and doesn’t in itself authorise entry to or residence in Ireland, which are subject to the control of the immigration authorities.
The rapid growth of the Irish economy in recent years has resulted in a shortage of skilled employees in certain sectors, specifically information and computing technology, architectural practice, construction engineering, quantity and building surveying, town planning and nursing.
To facilitate the recruitment of people suitably qualified in these areas from non-EEA countries, in April 1999 the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment introduced work authorisations and working (or work) visas (sometimes referred to as ‘Harney visas’ after Mary Harney, the TD who proposed them) to supplement the work permit procedure.
The new scheme makes it possible for non-EEA nationals with bona fide job offers to obtain immigration and employment clearance in advance from Irish embassies and consulates (note that applications for work authorisations and visas can be made only outside Ireland), although immigration officials retain the right to refuse entry into Ireland.
Those who require a visa to come to Ireland may be issued with a working visa; those who don’t (but are non-EEA nationals) may obtain a work authorisation. Working visas and work authorisations are usually valid for two years (three months in the case of temporarily registered nurses) but may be renewed at the end of that period. Holders may change jobs provided that they still meet the requirements for a visa or authorisation. Applications for working visas and work authorisations should be made to the Work Permits Section of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in Dublin (Tel. 01-631 2121).
Nurses wishing to work in Ireland must have a current licence to practise nursing in their home country and English language qualifications (unless English is their mother tongue) and they must provide references as well as details of nursing qualifications and employment. They must register with An Bord Altranais ( The Nursing Board, Tel. 01-676 0226).
Those with qualifications from countries outside the EU may need to undergo a period of supervised practice (normally six weeks) in an Irish hospital before being eligible for full registration, which must be achieved within three months of arrival – otherwise they won’t be allowed to remain in Ireland. Each applicant is assessed individually to decide whether supervision is required.