Almost 5,000 work permits issued to medical personnel since pandemic began

Department denies claims of three-month processing times for non-EEA applications

Almost 5,000 work permits have been issued to medical personnel since the Covid-19 pandemic began in March, according to figures from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

The department rebuffed claims that the atypical work permit for individuals from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) was taking up to three months to process and stressed that employment permit applications for nurses are dealt with in a matter of days.

“It is important to note that there are no employment permit processing delays at present,” the department said in a statement, adding that visas were taking five working days to be approved.

The Department of Justice earlier this month acknowledged there had been a “temporary increase in processing times” with about 350 applications on hand.


Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty claimed in the Dáil that the Department of Justice was taking 10 to 12 weeks to process visas for nurses, up from as little as 48 hours in March last year.

Mr Doherty told Tánaiste Leo Varadkar during leaders' questions last week that the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) had to cancel exams for 200 nurses in January alone because of the delay.

Nurses from non-EEA countries, registering with the RCSI to work in Ireland, are required to get an atypical visa for the two-week programme they must attend before applying for a full employment permit.


Nursing Homes Ireland, the organisation representing the private nursing home sector, also complained that delays in approving visas for nurses from India, the Philippines and other countries outside Europe were hampering their ability to manage outbreaks of the virus.

The Department of Enterprise said the Tánaiste spoke with the department’s secretary general who made enquiries with the Department of Justice.

“Although there were some delays in processing times, largely to do with incorrect data being submitted in application forms, the Department of Justice has taken measures to bring the processing times back to five working days,” it said.

“The department is unaware of any applications, properly submitted, taking three months to process.”

It said that since the pandemic began, employment permit applications for medical personnel have been prioritised with more than 4,700 employment permits issued to date. Employment permit applications for nurses are dealt with in a matter of days.

The Department of Justice said it had increased staff numbers in the unit responsible for processing the visas by 50 per cent to deal with a “temporary increase” in processing times and applications would be dealt with in 10 working days.

The Tánaiste’s department said applications are now being processed within five working days and there are no delays in dealing with visas.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times