News & Events

Minister English announces changes made to the employment permits system

Changes will help address skill and labour shortages in the health sector – Minister English

Damien English TD, Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, has today announced changes made by S.I. to the employment permits system which includes adding the occupations of Pharmacist, Cardiac Physiologist; Medical Scientist; Occupational Therapist; Physiotherapist; Podiatrist/Chiropodist; Psychologist and Speech and Language Therapist to the Critical Skills Occupations List. This means these jobs are now eligible for a Critical Skills Employment Permit.

Minister English said:

“I have responded to the evidence provided by the Health Sector which highlighted that increasing competition for skilled candidates for these healthcare roles with a scarcity of these skills to meet global demand has led to significant challenges in recruiting of staff to the health service. This has been further exacerbated by the global pandemic. These changes will help employers in Ireland to recruit non-EEA nationals for these critical roles in the health sector.” 

"Our health workforce is expanding and having these occupations eligible for Critical Skills Employment Permits will make Ireland a more attractive place to live and work in for those medical and therapy professionals from across the globe.”

On the employment permits system in Ireland, Minister English said:

“Our economic migration policy accommodates the arrival of non-EEA nationals to fill skills and labour gaps in the domestic economy in the short to medium term. My Department aims to review the system bi-annually, working with other Government Departments to promote an integrated approach to address labour and skills shortages in the longer term. Where shortages are clearly evidenced, the employment permit system is flexible enough to address these shortages in real time.

Other immediate changes to the employment permit system

The occupations of Bricklayer and Plasterer were both removed from the Ineligible Occupations List in April 2019 subject to quota limitations. In addition to that, in October last year, a number of additional construction sector occupations were also removed from the Ineligible Occupations List. With immediate effect, the limitation of a quota no longer applies, and this decision to remove the quota entirely will ensure that it does not become a constraint on labour market supply for the construction sector for these roles.

Recognising the ongoing challenges in the agri-food sector, a final quota extension of 425 Meat Processing Operatives has been approved to allow for the processing of permit applications remaining in the Employment Permits processing queue.

Notes for Editor


The Employment Permits System

The Irish State’s general policy is to promote the sourcing of labour and skills needs from within the workforce of Ireland, the European Union and other EEA states. Policy in relation to applications for employment permits remains focused on facilitating the recruitment from outside the EEA of highly skilled personnel, where the requisite skills cannot be met by normal recruitment or by training.  Employment permit policy is part of the response to addressing skills deficits which exist and are likely to continue into the medium term, but it is not intended over the longer term to act as a substitute for meeting the challenge of up-skilling the State’s resident workforce, with an emphasis on the process of lifelong learning, and on maximising the potential of EEA nationals to fill our skills deficits.

The Occupations Lists

The Employment Permits system is designed to attract highly skilled workers from outside the EEA to Ireland, to meet skills demand in the economy where those skills can’t be accessed through the resident labour force.  For the purposes of the employment permits system, occupations fall into three categories:

  • Occupations listed on the Critical Skills Occupations List are highly skilled professional roles that are in high demand and are not always available in the resident labour force.  Occupations on this list are eligible for a Critical Skills Employment Permit (CSEP) and include roles such as medicine, ICT, sciences, finance and business.  Special “fast-track” conditions attach to this permit type including the eligibility to apply to the Department of Justice for family members to accompany the permit holder immediately; and after two years may apply for permission to work without the requirement for an employment permit. 
  • Ineligible occupations are those with evidence that there are sufficient Irish/EEA workers to fill such vacancies. Employment permits are not granted for these occupations.
  • Every other job in the labour market, where an employer cannot find a worker, is eligible for an employment permit.  For these occupations, the employer is required to undertake a Labour Market Needs Test and if no-one suitable applies for the job, the employer is free to apply for an employment permit.  Occupations such as these may be skills of a more general nature and are eligible for a General Employment Permit (GEP).  This permit type is renewable and after five years the applicant may apply to the Department of Justice for long term residency permission.  

The Critical Skills and Ineligible Occupations Lists Review

It is vital that the employment permits scheme is responsive to changes in economic circumstances and labour market conditions. Therefore it is necessary to review the Critical Skills and Ineligible Occupations Lists on a regular basis, in accordance with the changing needs of the labour market. 

The review process utilises research undertaken by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) and other experts in the labour market, including the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU) at SOLAS.  The Department also invites submissions from industry representatives, other Government Departments and any other stakeholders who might have a case to make, via a twice-yearly open consultation on the Department’s website. Since the Review of Economic Migration Policy which took place in 2018, the Minister has taken advice on economic migration from the Inter-Departmental Group which managed the review process.

An occupation may be considered for inclusion on the critical skills occupation list or removal from the ineligible lists provided that:

  • shortage exists across the occupation, despite attempts by industry to train and there are no suitable Irish/EEA nationals available to undertake the work
  • development opportunities for Irish/EEA nationals are not undermined
  • genuine skills shortage exists and that it is not a recruitment or retention problem
  • the Government education, training, employment and economic development policies are supported 

Submission process

As part of this review process, submissions are sought from representative bodies, Government Departments, Agencies, and other interested parties relating to occupations currently included on or absent from the lists.

The submission process is an opportunity for stakeholders to provide additional information and potentially different perspectives on the nature and extent of skill shortages.  Stakeholder submissions are a vital source of information, helping inform the Department’s final assessment of the status of occupations. 

Changes announced today

To add the occupations of Cardiac Physiologist; Medical Scientist; Occupational Therapist; Physiotherapist; Podiatrist / Chiropodist; Psychologist, Speech and Language Therapist and Pharmacist to the Critical Skills Occupations List;

To remove the current quota of General Employment Permits that may be granted in respect of employment as Bricklayers and Plasterers;

To increase by 425, the maximum number of General Employment Permits that may be granted in respect of employment as a meat processing operative.