Last week the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Micheál Mairtín T.D., announced details of the new employment permit arrangements which became effective on 1st February 2007.
While the old work permits system has remained in place, albeit in a slightly modified form, the Employment Permits Act, 2006 has allowed for the introduction of a new type of employment permit, namely the Green Card, the re-introduction of the Intra-Company Transfer Permit, the clarification of the system regarding spousal and dependent permits and the establishment of a new Graduate Permit Scheme.
From 1st February 2007, work permits will be issued directly to employees for occupations with salaries of over €30,000. Work permits will be granted for an initial period of two years which can be renewed for a further period of three years. A more stringent labour market test has now been introduced with employers required to advertise in local and national newspapers for at least three days in addition to registering positions with FAS. It is only in very exceptional circumstances that work permits will be granted for salaries under €30,000 and the list of occupations for which work permits will not be granted remains in place. Family reunification for work permit holders is only allowed after one year has passed.
Green Card Permits
The most significant change brought about as a result of the commencement of the 2006 Act, is the introduction of the new Green Card system. Green Cards are essentially employment permits available to most occupations with annual salaries of over €60,000. In certain limited circumstances, Green Cards may be granted for positions with annual salaries of between €30,000 and €60,000 but this is limited to certain ICT professionals, health professionals, professional engineers and technologists, construction professionals, certain researchers and natural scientists, certain business and financial professionals and some specialist managers. There is no labour market needs test required prior to the application for a Green Card which is issued for an initial period of two years following which it can be renewed indefinitely and permanent residency can be sought. The new Green Card system replaces the old work visa/work authorisation scheme and allows for immediate family reunification.
Intra-Company Transfer Permits
The Intra-Company Transfer Scheme which was discontinued a number of years ago has been re-introduced. Intra-Company Transfer Permits will now be available to senior management, key personnel or those undergoing a training programme who are earning a minimum annual salary of €40,000 and have been working for at least 12 months with the overseas company prior to the transfer. Intra-Company Transfer Permits will initially be granted for a period of 24 months but are renewable thereafter subject to a maximum stay of five years.
This new scheme will allow the spouses and dependents of employment permit holders (whether Green Card, Work Permit or Intra-Company Transfer Permit) who are entitled to reside here to apply for work permits. In such circumstances, no labour market needs test is applicable.
It is now possible for third level students to apply to remain in Ireland for a period of six months following receipt of examination results to allow them sufficient time to seek employment. Thereafter, if their search for employment is successful, either a Green Card or Work Permit may be applied for dependent on the circumstances.
What is interesting is that built into the new arrangements are mechanisms which provide for the protection of immigrating employees going forward. From 1st February 2007, Green Cards and Work Permits are granted and issued directly to an employee. Furthermore, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has provided that all permits will henceforward be accompanied by a summary of principal employment rights.
While it is now possible for either an employee or an employer to make an application for an employment permit, the 2006 Act contains a specific prohibition on an employer making deductions from the remuneration of, or seeking to recover from, the holder of an employment permit any charge, fee or expense relating to either the employment permit fee, the recruitment of the employee or any amount paid to the employee in respect of travelling or expenses incurred in connection with the taking up of employment in the State. An employer who contravenes these provisions of the 2006 Act may be found guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of up to €50,000 and/or imprisonment for up to five years. Interestingly, while it is suggested that employees should remain with the same employer for at least a year, there is no prohibition on employees leaving their employer at any stage. For employers who pay out €1,000 for an employment permit (or indeed €1,500 for a renewal of an employment permit) this might prove a bitter pill to swallow.
For further information, please contact:
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The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice. Mason Hayes & Curran (www.mhc.ie) is a leading business law firm with offices in Dublin, London and New York.
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