20th December 2023
Salary thresholds for permit holders increased and 43 roles become eligible for employment permits
Neale Richmond TD, Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, has today announced comprehensive changes to the employment permits system, with 43 changes to the jobs eligible for an employment permit as well as a roadmap for increasing salary thresholds.
The main changes include:
- 11 roles added to the Critical Skills Occupations List
- 32 roles made eligible for a General Employment Permit
- salary requirement for majority of General Employment Permit holders will rise from €30,000 to €34,000 in January 2024
- healthcare assistants and home carers salary requirement will increase from €27,000 and horticultural workers and meat processor salary requirement will increase from €22,000 to €30,000 in January 2024, bringing them in line with family reunification thresholds
- extension of existing quotas for dairy farm assistants, butcher/deboners, meat processors and horticultural workers
- a Labour Market Needs Test (LMNT) is required for General Employment Permit applications and will have to reflect the revised thresholds in order to be deemed valid
Minister Richmond said:
“I am delighted to announce the largest ever expansion of our employment permits system, with 43 additional occupations becoming eligible for Employment Permits. From engineers, mechanics and electricians to meteorologists, butchers and bakers, these changes cross many sectors and will be of huge benefit to Irish businesses and society.
“As a result of effective full employment, demand on the employment permits system is very high. Last year, 40,000 permits were issued, and demand remains high this year with over 31,000 permits issued to workers outside of the EEA who are coming to Ireland to address the real skills shortages that are impacting businesses across the country.
“The changes made today will benefit businesses and indeed our society greatly. Electricians, electrical engineers and contractors and skilled metal workers are now eligible for General Employment Permits, and chemical and project engineers are eligible for Critical Skills Employment Permits. This will help us to build more homes, meet our targets under Housing for All and build much needed infrastructure as per the National Development Plan.
“Anyone who has benefitted from Ireland’s healthcare system knows of how richly we have benefitted from non-EU workers. Allowing workers in sectors from play therapists, family support workers in disability service, to support workers and guide dog mobility instructors to access General Employment Permits will not only enhance our healthcare system even further but also to allow us to better support to those in our society who need it the most.
“The transport and mechanics industries are among the most short-staffed in our society. To help address these skills shortages, car, motor and HGV mechanics, auto-electricians, motor vehicle technicians, vehicle body builders and repairers, panel beaters and vehicle paint technicians will have access to General Employment Permits. This is in addition to the 100 permits allocated to NCT testers earlier this year. These changes will allow more of the staff we need most to work and live in Ireland, benefitting all of us who require these services.
“Illustrative of the broad nature of the permits system, General Employment Permits will now be provided for certain craft production roles such as furniture makers and metal plate workers, and for agricultural workers in pig managers and pig farm assistants, to increase the levels of employment and skills into these niche roles.”
A roadmap for increasing salary thresholds for all types of employment permits has also been announced today. Currently, the salary threshold for General Employment Permits is €30,000 and has not changed in almost a decade. This will increase to €34,000 in January 2024, and then further increases will be introduced in 2025.
On the salary roadmap, Minister Richmond said:
“From January, the minimum salary for new General Employment Permits will increase from €30,000 to €34,000. For healthcare assistants, home carers, meat processors and horticultural workers, their minimum salary will increase to €30,000. All General Employment Permit holders will see their salary gradually increase to €39,000.
“The salary thresholds had not changed in some time and had not kept pace with inflation or economic growth. Economic migration has such an important impact on our economy and our society. Migrant workers bring much needed skills and experience to our workforce, and a cultural diversity that greatly benefits Irish society. To recognise this contribution and ensure we are offering good quality employment to these workers, the salary thresholds have been increased.
“These changes will bring all permit holders in line with the minimum requirement of a salary of at least €30,000 to avail of family reunification as a starting point. This is particularly important to healthcare assistants and home carers who do such important work in our communities.
“To balance the rights of the workers with the needs of businesses to prepare for the impact of these changes, the increased salaries will be introduced on a phased basis. This will give all sectors, particularly the agri-food and healthcare sectors, sufficient time to prepare.”
Several occupations which had previously been made eligible for General Employment Permits (GEPs) have had their quotas extended, with effect from January 2024.
- 1,000 GEPs for meat processing operatives
- 350 GEPs for butcher/deboners
- 350 GEPs for dairy farm assistants
- 1,000 GEPs have been provided for horticultural workers to support the sector until the introduction of the Seasonal Employment Permit
Notes to the editor
Summary of Recommended Changes to the Occupations Lists
Occupations added to Critical Skills Occupation List:
- Professional Forester
- Resource modelling, earth observation and data analyst
- Operational Forecaster
- Chemical Engineer
- Project Engineer
- BIM Manager
- Optometrist (Ophthalmic Optician)
- Commercial Manager
- BIM Coordinator/Technician
Occupations removed from Ineligible Occupations List, making them eligible for a General Employment Permit:
- Residential Day and Domiciliary Case Managers – in Disability Services
- Play Therapist – in Disability Services
- Genetic Counsellor
- Social Care Worker
- Family Support Workers – in Disability Services
- Project Offices, Disability
- Support Worker (social, community, public and charity)
- Guide Dog Mobility Instructor for the Visually Impaired
- Autism Assistance Dog Instructor
- Pig Managers
- Smiths and forge workers
- Moulders, core makers and die casters
- Metal plate workers and riveters
- Car mechanic, Motor mechanic, Auto electrician, Motor vehicle technician
- HGV mechanic
- Vehicle body builders and repairers/Body shop panel beaters
- Electrician, electrical contractor, electrical engineer,
- Vehicle paint technician
- Skilled metal, electrical and electronic trades supervisors
- Upholstery and furniture operatives
- Furniture makers and other craft woodworkers
- Senior Care Workers – in Disability Services
- Textile Process Operatives
- Wood Machine Operatives
- Saw Doctor/Wood Machine Mechanic
- Armature Rewinder
- Pig Farm Assistants
- Speciality Forestry Harvesting Technician
Employment Permit Type
Meat Processing / Horticulture
Healthcare Assistant / Home Carer
Graduate Positions; Language Skills Specialist
Butcher / Boner
Critical Skills with a degree
Critical Skills without a degree
Intra-Company Transfer (Trainee)
Contract for Services
* January '25 and January ’26 figures are preliminary, based on most recent CSO data and subject to change with further releases
** Changes to the salary requirements are effective as of 17 January 2024.
*** Extension of existing quotas are effective as of 17 January 2024.
The employment permits system
Ireland’s policy is to promote the sourcing of labour and skills needs from within the workforce of Ireland, the European Union and other European Economic Area (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
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.
- Ineligible occupations are those with evidence suggesting 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).
The review of the lists and public consultation process
In order to ensure that the employment permits scheme is responsive to changes in economic circumstances and labour market conditions, it is necessary to conduct periodic reviews of the Lists that incorporate a public consultation phase inviting submissions from stakeholders and industry. 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. It also involves input from other government departments and the Economic Migration Inter-Departmental Group. The current formal review process commenced with a public consultation opened from 26 June until 18 August.
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
Back to Department News