Tougher criteria for work permits

 

The Government has today announced it is to make it more difficult for foreign nationals to seek employment in Ireland by introducing revised legislation for work permits.

The changes, which are to come into effect from June 1st, will apply primarily to first-time entrants to the labour market.

Under the new arrangements, permits will not be granted for jobs paying under €30,000 per annum. Permits will also not be given for a number of professions including domestic workers and HGV drivers.

In addition, the length of time that employers have to advertise jobs will be increased and tougher conditions for the renewal of permits - including higher fees - will also apply.

A further change will see spouses and dependants of future work permit holders having to apply for permits in their own right.

Announcing the new arrangements this morning, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment Mary Coughlan said that while Ireland had benefited greatly from immigration in the past decade and continues to do so now, the revised legislation was needed to reflect the changing realities of the Irish labour market.

"It is essential that we now take steps to ensure that every possible effort is made by employers t find a suitably skilled employee from within the existing labour market,” said Ms Coughlan.

According to figures from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, some 30,000 people, or 1.5 per cent of the labour force, hold employment permits.

The numbers of work permits applied for in Ireland has declined greatly in recently years from a peak of 3,693 issued in the month of July 2007 to just 623 for the month of March 2009.

So far this year, a total of 2,087 permits have been granted to foreign nationals allowing them to work in the country, compared to 23,722 for the same period two years ago.

The Green Card list, which covers professions offering salaries of between €30,000 and €59,999 per annum has also been revised.

From June 1st, a number of roles in the healthcare, financial services and marketing sector will also be ineligible for work permits.

“The overall trend in employment permit applications has been downward with a steep fall in the numbers of permits issued in the last six months. Despite this trend, we foresee a continuing need for the migration of certain highly skilled migrants to this country," said Minister of State for Labour Affairs Billy Kelleher.

"While meeting these high skills needs will continue to be facilitated through our Green Card scheme, categories will be kept under ongoing review in particular following publication of the next Skills Bulletin,” he added.

Fine Gael claimed this afternoon that the changes to the work permit rules would force many migrants into the black economy and leave others standing in dole queues.

The new and stricter conditions that are being placed on migrants wishing to come to Ireland are to be welcomed, but why did the Government not implement this measure 12 or 18 months ago? Rolling renewals and spousal permits into these new conditions, however, will actually make the situation worse in some areas," said the party's spokesman on immigration and Integration Denis Naughten.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland said the Government was making it more expensive and difficult for employers to get workers with specific skills who could not source them locally.

“Through the fee increases, they are also making it less attractive for workers with sought-after skills to come to Ireland,” a spokeswoman for the non-governmental organisation said.

“We don’t believe this makes sense in an economic downturn.”