Changes to Immigration Rules for Spouses and Partners of Critical Skills Employment Permit Holder

March 2019

The Minster for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys has announced that changes will be implemented to make it easier for partners and spouses of non-EEA nationals working in Ireland on a Critical Skills Employment Permit to have access to employment in Ireland. 

Current position

A Critical Skills Employment Permit is an employment permit which allows skilled individuals to work in Ireland for a specified employer in an occupation where skills are not readily available in the Irish/EEA market. The holder of a Critical Skills Employment Permit has the option to apply for immediate family reunification from the Irish Naturalisation & Immigration Service (“INIS”). Once their partner or spouse is resident in the State, they can also apply to work in Ireland.

Currently, the partner or spouse of a Critical Skills Employment Permit Holder is issued with a Stamp 3 immigration permission by the INIS. Stamp 3 immigration permission does not permit the partner or spouse of the Critical Skills Employment Permit Holder to start working in Ireland, but it does allow them to apply for work.

In order to take up employment in Ireland, the partner or spouse of the Critical Skills Employment Permit Holder must be offered an eligible job and apply for a Dependant/Partner/Spouse Employment Permit. Once this permit is issued, they must apply to INIS to have their immigration status changed to a Stamp 1 immigration permission. 

Calls for reform

Last year, the Reform Stamp 3 Campaign, which represents the partners and spouses of Critical Skills Employment Permit Holders, called on the Government to educate employers so they understand that Stamp 3 Holders are legally entitled to apply for work. They stated that a lack of awareness among employers and recruiters and long delays in visa registrations are preventing non-EEA trained professionals from securing employment in Ireland.

They also argued that the spouse or partner of a Critical Skills Employment Permit Holder should not have to obtain an additional Stamp 1 immigration permission before they can take up employment.

Change

The Government has announced that a spouse or partner of a Critical Skills Employment Permit Holder will now have immediate access to the labour market without the need for an employment permit. It stated that, whilst up to now spouses and partners of Critical Skills Employment Permit Holders have been entitled to broad access to the labour market, the current process is overly complicated and, in some cases, has acted as a barrier to securing work in Ireland. The aim of this change is to streamline the existing processes and create a more attractive offering for both investors and international talent.

According to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, “non-EEA spouses and partners of Critical Skills Employment Permit Holders will no longer need an employment permit from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation to work in Ireland. On arrival in the State, eligible spouses and de facto partners will be granted an immigration permission with an automatic right to work. This will enable Critical Skills Employment Permit Holders and their families to quickly become established and assist in their integration in society”.

Minister Heather Humphreys has added that “we are talking about a small group of people here – less than 1,000 spouses and partners per year – but this small change will make a big difference in terms of Ireland’s offering to both investors, and international talent”. She noted that “in general, the spouses or partners of Critical Skills Employment Permit Holders are themselves highly skilled and can make a great contribution to our economy”.

For more information, please get in touch with your usual Whitney Moore contact, Alice Heron, Marie Claire Scullion or any member of our Employment, Pensions and Immigration team.

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