What is the change? The Irish government has announced plans to opt in to a European Union directive that would give some asylum seekers work authorization rights.

What does the change mean? The move comes after Ireland’s Supreme Court struck down in principle the country’s ban on work authorization for asylum seekers. If Ireland opts in to the EU directive, asylum seekers whose cases are pending would have the right to work within nine months of the date of their asylum application.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Employment permits
  • Who is affected: Asylum seekers who want to work in Ireland.
  • Next steps: Both houses of the Oireachtas (Ireland’s legislature) must approve the opt-in, and then the EU would have to confirm Ireland’s participation in the directive.

Background:  In its decision striking down the ban, the court reasoned that because there was no limit to how long authorities could take to decide asylum applications, the restriction amounted to a complete ban on the right to work. The court gave the legislature six months to comply with the ruling, and the government subsequently organized a task force to address the issue. Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan accepted the task force recommendation to opt in to the EU (recast) Reception Conditions Directive (2013/33/EU). As an EU member state, Ireland would be required to provide work authorization to asylum seekers in cases where applications are still pending after nine months, but would be allowed to set the conditions under which work authorization is provided.

BAL Analysis: The government’s decision to opt in to the EU directive may potentially expand asylum seekers’ access to the Irish labor market. The opt-in must be approved by the legislature and confirmed by the EU, however, and many details must be sorted out before it is clear what work opportunities would be available to those with pending asylum applications.

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

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