Irish authorities announced sweeping changes to key immigration programs Wednesday, including what the government called the “largest ever expansion to the employment permits system.” Officials also announced they would increase minimum salary thresholds.

Key Changes to the Employment Permits Scheme

  • Critical Skills Occupations List. Eleven roles were added to the Critical Skills Occupations List. Occupations on this list are deemed to be “critically important” to the Irish economy, and workers in jobs on the list are eligible for streamlined work permit procedures, including an exemption from labor market testing requirements. The occupations added to the list include chemical engineer, project engineer, BIM manager and BIM coordinator/technician. The full list is available under “Occupations added to Critical Skills Occupation List” here.
  • Eligibility for General Employment Permits. Thirty-two occupations were removed from the Ineligible Occupations List, making workers in these positions eligible for General Employment Permits. These occupations include social care workers, car mechanics and bakers. The full list is available under “Occupations removed from Ineligible Occupations List, making them eligible for a General Employment Permit” here.
  • Extension of existing quotas. Existing quotas will be extended in 2024 for several occupations, including meat processing operatives (1,000 permits), butchers/deboners (350 permits) and dairy farm assistants (350 permits). An additional 1,000 General Employment Permits were provided for horticultural workers to support the sector until the introduction of the Seasonal Employment Permit.

Salary Requirements

The government announced the salary requirement for most General Employment Permit holders will increase from €30,000 to €34,000 in January 2024. Labor Market Needs Tests are required for General Employment Permit applications and, beginning in January, must reflect the increased salary level to be valid. Salary thresholds will also increase for Critical Skills Employment Permit holders, intra-company transferees and others.

Employment Permit Thresholds

Employment Permit Type Current Threshold 2024 Threshold
General €30,000 €34,000
Meat processing/horticulture €22,916 €30,000
Healthcare assistant/home carer €27,000 €30,000
Critical skills with a degree €32,000 €38,000
Critical skills without a degree €64,000 €64,000 (no change)
Intra-company transfer (trainee) €30,000 €34,000
Intra-company transfer €40,000 €46,000
Contract for services €40,000 €46,000

Additional Information: In announcing the changes, Neale Richmond, Ireland’s minister of state for business, employment and retail , said that with low unemployment in Ireland, demand for employment permits remains high. He said the addition of new occupations to the Employment Permits scheme would be a “huge benefit to Irish businesses and society.” He added that the 2024 salary increases mark the beginning of a phased approach to salary increases that are designed to “balance the rights of the workers with the needs of businesses.” His full remarks are available here.

BAL Analysis: The changes to the Employment Permits scheme will make it easier for non-EU/EEA nationals to work in key jobs in Ireland. Employers should take note of the changes to salary thresholds and plan accordingly. BAL will continue to follow immigration developments in Ireland and will provide updates as information becomes available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice Group.

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