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Clarification on the classification of employments for the purposes of Employment Permits

Standard Occupational Classification (SOC)

The Critical Skills Occupations List and the Ineligible List of Occupations for Employment Permits are organised using the Standard Occupational Classification system (SOC 2010), a system devised to classify workers into occupational categories.  SOC2010 is structured in nine major groups and 25 sub-major groups; it has 90 minor groups and 369 unit groups.

Within the structure of the classification, occupations fall broadly into four skill levels:

  • The first level relates to occupations requiring only a general education, usually the completion of secondary level education. These occupations are coded in the ninth major group.
  • The second skill level covers a large group of occupations, that require a general education as for occupations at the first skill level, but which normally have a longer period of work-related training or work experience. These occupations mainly fall into the fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth groups.
  • The third skill level applies to occupations that normally require a body of knowledge associated with a period of post-secondary education eg. diploma, ordinary level degrees. A variety of technical occupations fall into this category, as do trades occupations. These occupations fall into the third and fifth groups, but also include occupations prefixed 12--.
  • The fourth level applies to what are termed ‘professional’ occupations and high level management positions in corporate enterprises. Occupations at this level normally require a degree and/or substantial work experience. These occupations fall into the first and second major groups.

The lists operate at Levels 3 and 4 of SOC-2010, in order to furnish sufficient detail to prospective applicants for employment permits.

The eligible and ineligible employments for employment permits are laid out in regulations and are arrived at following a formalised and evidence-based process which is carried out bi-annually.  The process involves obtaining and considering advice from the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) and Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SMLRU) in SOLAS.  It also involves input from relevant Government Departments, Agencies, and industry as necessary.

Assigning SOC codes to Job Titles

When processing employment permits, if an applicant assigns a SOC code to an employment the Department evaluates it based on its own criteria.  In determining the relevant SOC code to be applied the following criteria are indicative of those used by the Department:

  • Salary
  • Job Title
  • Educational Qualifications, and where relevant, experience of foreign national.
  • Description of the employment to be undertaken - the majority of tasks undertaken by the job holder must fall under the selected SOC code. However, it may also include additional tasks not specifically listed under the chosen SOC code but these must not be majority of the job holder’s core duties.
  • Job specifications (official and summary versions) that may be submitted as part of an application.

In finalising its decision, the Department may also seek from the applicant additional information in relation to the employment.

Useful tools and websites

The following webpages include useful tools and reference points which we use for clarification of relevant SOC codes:




Employment Permits Section
21 August 2019