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PROPOSED CHANGES TO IRISH EMPLOYMENT PERMIT SYSTEM

The general scheme of the Employment Permits (Consolidation and Amendment) Bill 2019 has been published.

This is the result of a review conducted last year by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation on economic migration policy review, which found inflexibilities in the current employment permit system.

The current system is governed by the existing Employment Permit Acts 2003-2014.

Speaking about the proposals, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, has said:

“The proposed legislation will increase the agility and responsiveness of Ireland’s economic migration system to meet skills and labour needs, while continuing to safeguard the labour market and support the employment rights of permit holders. I want to modernise the system and ensure that it is capable of adapting to changes in the future as well as fluctuations in demand across the economic cycle.”

The aim of the Bill is to consolidate existing legislation, as the Government believes any further amendment to the existing Employment Permit Acts 2003-2014 would significantly increase the complexity of the current system.

Major changes proposed by the Bill including streamlining the processes for ‘trusted partner’ and renewal applications, and making the system more agile and easier to modify to meet changing economic circumstances, technological advances and process changes as they arise.

Another proposal is to modify the ‘50:50 rule’, which currently requires that 50% of an employer’s staff be EEA nationals before an Irish employment permit may be granted, allowing it be waived in cases where the permit holder would be the sole employee. However, this change is subject to the employer demonstrating that they have made efforts to recruit from within Ireland and across the EEA in the first instance. The 50:50 requirement would resume from the point at which a second employee is contracted.

The Bill also proposes the introduction of new categories of employment permit, namely a Seasonal Irish Employment Permit and a Special Circumstances Employment Permit.

The Seasonal Irish Employment Permit would cater toward those working in the short-stay and recurrent employment sectors. Ireland is an outlier in not offering this type of permit, which would allow individuals to come to the State to work in sectors such tourism, farming and horticulture on a short-term basis.

The Special Circumstances Employment Permit would allow for bilateral, reciprocal agreements between Ireland and other States and could be used, for example, to address a need for a niche, but critically important skillset, for which no formal training is available in Ireland.

The proposals also include an extensive revision of the Labour Market Needs Test, the requirement whereby employers need to firstly advertise vacancies within Ireland and across the EEA.

Ms Humphreys has said:

“The overhaul [of the Labour Market Needs Test] will make it more relevant, efficient, and modernised to reflect current advertising practices. It will also ensure that the test is more targeted and effective in reaching Irish and European jobseekers in the first instance.”

The primary aim of Irish government policy when it comes to the labour market is to promote the sourcing of labour and skills from within Ireland, the EU and other EEA States first and from there look at alternatives from further afield. Permits for highly skilled personnel from outside the EEA can be granted where the requisite skills cannot be met by normal recruitment or training.

The aim of the proposed changes, according to Ms Humphreys, is to enhance accessibility and improve the transparency of the employment permit process while “retaining the core focus of a vacancy led employment permits system focused on meeting the skills and labour needs in the State.”

At present, these proposals are at a very early stage and are subject to change as the Bill moves through the legislative process.

The full text of the general scheme of the Employment Permits (Consolidation and Amendment) Bill 2019 can be found here.

 

 

INIS RELEASES 2018 ANNUAL REPORT: “IMMIGRATION IN IRELAND STATISTICS”

On the 26th September 2019, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of the Department of Justice released its annual report for the year 2018 detailing immigration trends in Ireland through statistics.

In the report, INIS found that there was a total of 140,533 visa applications in 2018. The report further clarifies that in 2018, 121,220 persons received positive visa decisions from INIS in 2018 while 16,568 received a negative decision.

This annual release has once again highlighted the concerning increase in refusals of leave to land. INIS reports that 4797 persons were refused leave to land in the State meaning individuals were refused entry at the airport/border. This is an increase from the 3,746 persons refused entry into the state in 2017.

This is a very large number of persons refused leave to land with the top countries to have people rejected being:

  • Albania (622)
  • Brazil (524)
  • South Africa (359)
  • United States of America (232)

Leave to land is governed by Section 4 of the Immigration Act 2004 (as amended) which provides for limited and specific circumstances to which persons can be refused leave to land. Under Section 4(3), an immigration officer retains a right to refuse permission to a non-national where they are satisfied:

“(a) that the non-national is not in a position to support himself or herself and any accompanying dependents;

(b) that the non-national intends to take up employment in the State, but is not in possession of a valid employment permit

(c) that a non-national suffers from a condition set out in first schedule

(d) that the non-national has been convicted of an offence that may be punished under the law of the place of conviction by imprisonment for a period of one year or by a more severe penalty

(e) that a non-national, not being exempt, is not the holder of a valid Irish visa;

(f) that the non-national is the subject of- (i) a deportation order, (ii) an exclusion order or (iii) a determination by the minister that it is conducive to the public good that he or she remain outside the State;

(g) that the non-national is not in possession of a valid passport or other equivalent document, issued by or on behalf of an authority recognised by the Government, which establishes his or her identity and nationality;

(h) that the non-national- (i) intends to travel (whether immediately or not) to Great Britain or Northern Ireland and (ii) would not qualify for admission to Great Britain or Northern Ireland if he or she arrived there from a place other than the State;

(i) that the non-national, having arrived in the State in the course of employment as a seaman, has remained in the State without the leave of an immigration officer after the departure of the ship in which he or she so arrived;

(j) that the non-national’s entry into, or presence in, the State could pose a threat to national security or be contrary to public policy;

(k) that there is reason to believe that the non-national intends to enter the State for purposes other than those expressed by the non-national”.

There remain serious deficiencies in our immigration system with respect to fairness and the right to have legal representation as a person presenting at the Irish border requesting leave to land.

The absence of legal representation is especially concerning given the seriousness of the decision being made. Refusals of leave to land remains a serious incident in a person’s immigration history. It must be declared for all future visa applications and may be negatively considered in any future immigration matter. Needless to say, being refused leave to enter Ireland at the border can be extremely distressing and traumatising for individuals and in some cases has resulted in persons being detained in Irish prisons!

The increase in the number of persons refused leave to land may be unsurprising given that in 2017, INIS highlighted that enhancing border security was a priority stating that amendments to immigration over last number of years “will allow for arresting, detaining and removing non-nationals who are subject to a deportation order and people who are refused leave to land”, however it is no less alarming.

Although specific, the potentially very wide-ranging power of immigration officers must be exercised in a cautious and restricted manner. Unfortunately, it appears that leave to land refusals are continuing to increase.

As of the 31st December 2018, 142,924 individuals had permission to remain in the State with 2757 being under 18. The Residence Division of INIS received over 14,600 such applications in 2017.

In 2018 there were over 5200 EU Treaty Rights Applications made. The report shed light into trends relating to EU Treaty Rights Reviews stating that 1092 review applications were submitted in 2018 with 134 review cases being granted.

The report also addressed citizenship applications confirming that, similar to the 2017 figures, 8225 persons received Citizenship Certificates in 2018, with 1183 of those being minors.

Of the 984 Family Reunification applications received in 2018, 527 were Syrian nationals. However, only 211 applications were determined favourably with just 133 minors at time of decision receiving positive decisions.

 

The 2018 Annual INIS Report can be read in full here.