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Ireland Work Permits

There are currently over 15,000 South Africans in Ireland and thousands of these immigrants undoubtedly will possess work permits. This is the essential piece of documentation required to remain in Ireland to work as a non-EEA national.

If you are a South African needing assistance with your work permit, then read this article and contact Immigration Advice Service for help. Our expert team can be reached online or at +353 061 518 025

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    What is the Irish Work Permit?

    The Irish work permits are documents giving non-EEA citizens like South Africans the right to work in Ireland. This is generally valid to remain in Ireland for a maximum of two years, but it can be renewed as required. The work permit scheme has been targeted at skills shortages in Ireland, and there are multiple different types of work permit to match this need.

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    Basic Eligibility Requirements for the Work Permit in Ireland

    When you apply for a work permit, you will have to fit a range of basic eligibility requirements which include the following:

    • You are a citizen of a non-EEA nation
    • In most cases, you will need to have already arranged work in Ireland, and cannot use your work permit to seek employment
    • You have a clean criminal record
    • You have valid health insurance for Irish private medical healthcare facilities
    • You posess the right to travel to Ireland, including a valid passport
    • Generally, you will need to display that you have the skills for the role you are going into
    • You or your prospective employer must pay a partially refundable application fee of 1000 euros

    There are multiple types of employment permits which are described in the section below. Be aware that you will have to fit with the additional requirements of whichever permit you are applying for.

    General Irish Work Permit

    The majority of Irish employment permits are general permits which give holders the right to work in Ireland. Applicants must already have a job offer, and this job offer must be coherent with requirements across four categories:

    • Pay: minimum salary of 34,000 euros (as of January 2024; this figure is set to rise to 39,000 by January 2025) which may be lowered under specific circumstances
    • Occupation: your role is not on the Ineligible List of Occupations
    • Your role has followed the Labour Market Needs Test
    • 50/50 Rule which requires at least half of any workforce to be Irish or EEA citizens

    Please note that there are multiple circumstances for which the 50/50 rule does not apply, which includes the following:

    • The company is less than two years old, has a letter of support from Enterprise Ireland or IDA Ireland, and is a client of these institutions
    • Employment permits for non-EEA workers given before 1 October 2014 don’t count towards the 50/50 rule
    • You will be the company’s only employee
    • You are applying for a permit which does not require you to be employed by an Irish company directly.

    Other Types of Irish Work Permits


    With the Employment Permits Act (2006), the Irish government expanded the types of employment permits that non-EEA nationals such as South Africans could apply for. There are now several types of employment permits, which are detailed in this section. They include the following employment permits:

    • Critical Skills
    • Dependant/Partner/Spouse
    • Intra-Company Transfer
    • Contract for Services
    • Reactivation
    • Internship
    • Sport and Cultural
    • Exchange Agreement

    Critical Skills Employment Permit

    The critical skills employment permit is aimed at highly skilled workers who can fill roles that the Irish labour market is struggling to fulfil. The Irish government has specified the types of roles that are eligible for the critical skills employment permit. There are many roles included in the Critical Skills Occupations list, but they are primarily in the ICT, engineering, and technology industries.

    Dependent/Partner/Spouse Employment Permit

    The critical skills employment permit has been designed to entice skilled workers to Ireland, and one key element of this strategy is to allow the dependents of people on this employment permit to work as well. The dependant/partner/spouse work permit gives the holder the right to work in Ireland in any role, including those on the Ineligible List of Occupations.

    Intra-Company Transfer Employment Permit

    This type of work permit helps key workers within multinational companies to move more easily between countries. It permits workers to temporarily come and work in Irish branches of their company. One noteworthy aspect of this permit is that you will remain on a Non-EEA payroll rather than being paid from the Irish branch directly.

    Contract for Services Employment Permit

    This work permit is intended for non-EEA contractors who win contracts to conduct substantial work in Ireland. It is used to allow the contractor to transfer non-EEA workers to Ireland to conduct the contract requirements. Again, the holder will remain on a foreign payroll.

    Reactivation Employment Permit

    This permit has been created to make sure that non-EEA workers can remain in the system. It helps those who fall through the system or are mistreated in an Irish workplace to continue to work in Ireland within a new role.

    Internship Employment Permit

    The Irish government has also created a permit to help foreign students to come to Ireland on work placements. This permit is available for those in full-time tertiary education who have been offered opportunities to gain work experience in Ireland. This opportunity must relate to an occupation included within the Critical Skills Occupations List.

    Sport and Cultural Employment Permits

    Foreign talent often comes to Ireland to work in the burgeoning sports and entertainment sectors. South African touring artists, musicians, actors, and more, as well as sportspeople signed by Irish teams, can use this work permit to entertain and display their sporting prowess.

    Exchange Agreement Employment Permit

    In recent years, the Irish government has signed various employment exchange agreements with countries all over the world. This type of permit facilitates the employment of foreign workers in line with the agreements that have been made. Examples of such international agreements that Ireland is part of include the following:

    • AIESEC: an international program for highly talented students and young people
    • IAESTE: an exchange program to help students gain work experience around the world
    • The Fulbright Program: a student and researcher exchange program between the USA and Ireland
    • Vulcanus in Europe: an opportunity for talented Japanese students of engineering, science, and technology to gain experience in Ireland.

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      Apply for a Work Permit

      Either you or your employer can apply for a work permit. The application must be made to the Employer Permits Section at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment via the Employment Permits Online System (EPOS).

      Once you have navigated to the online system, you must provide information on the following:

      • Employer’s details including the type of work conducted and the EEA to Non-EEA worker ratio
      • Your employee details, including your residency status, previous residencies in Ireland, and your qualifications
      • The work you will be completing, including your duties, qualifications, skills, and knowledge relevant to the employment, and the proposed start and end of your employment
      • Your pay includes the annual amount and the hours of work you will conduct each week
      • Contact details for yourself and the company
      • The payment information for the account paying the application fee.

      Documents Required for Ireland Work Permit

      The information you provide must be substantiated by a range of documentation. This includes the following:

      • Your passport
      • Your PPS number if you have one
      • A residence permit card or an immigration stamp if you are already living in Ireland
      • Certificates for any relevant qualifications
      • A copy of the job advertisements
      • A statement from the Revenue Commissioners to evidence the employer’s statutory returns
      • A copy of the employment contract signed by you and the employer
      • A copy of your license if the role requires you to operate machinery.
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      Appealing if You Are Refused

      In recent years, Ireland has doubled the number of work permits given to non-EEA applicants, but the amount of refusals and rejections remains high. In the first half of 2022, 2,210 applications were refused, while 1,466 were completely rejected.

      Luckily, if your application is refused rather than rejected, you can appeal within 30 days of receiving your decision. To appeal, you must complete a “submission of a decision for review” and send it to the Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation.

      In this document, you must give your personal information and then set out in detail why you believe your application should have been accepted. You are required to complete the same document if your employment permit is revoked and you wish to appeal.

      Start a new career in Ireland by applying for a work permit with our lawyer's guidance. Contact us

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        How Can IAS Help?

        South African workers seeking work in Ireland will find a complicated work permit system where it can be challenging to discover exactly which work permits they are eligible for. When you make your application, you and your employer will need to provide lots of information and documentation to a high degree of accuracy.

        IAS can help you throughout the application process. When you contact us, you will be connected with a team of immigration lawyers and advisors who specialise in cases like yours. They can help you to submit your application and will use connections in the Irish Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment to help you to keep track of your application.

        If you decide that you want help from IAS, please contact our team at +353 061 518 025 or visit us online.

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                  Frequently Asked Questions

                  If your employer requires you to pay the application fee, a work permit can be very expensive. This cost is even more alarming if your application is rejected.

                  However, refused applications are able to get 90% of their application cost back in most cases. You can expect this refund to be processed in around eight weeks.

                  The standard processing time from when you submit your application will be eight weeks. However, there is some variation, and you can expect the processing time to be substantially longer if your application is missing crucial information or you apply during a particularly busy time.

                  As of January 2024, there are exceptions to the 34,000 euro minimum wage rule in cases where you are working, such as the following:

                  • If you work as a horticulture worker or meat processor operative, the minimum threshold drops to 30,000 euros (or the equivalent of 14.79 euros an hour)
                  • If you work as a healthcare assistant or home support worker, the minimum threshold drops to 27,000 euros

                  Note that these figures are subject to change; at the time of writing, the thresholds for these categories are set to rise in increments until January 2026, by which time the threshold for all categories of General Employment Permits will be set at 39,000 euros.

                  Some work permits require your employer to show that they had sufficiently attempted to find an Irish or EEA citizen to fill the role through the Labour Market Needs Test. They must have advertised the role in Ireland and the EU properly and in the following locations:

                  • Department of Social Protection and European Employment Services for four weeks
                  • A national newspaper for three days
                  • A local newspaper for job websites such as Indeed for at least three days

                  Having failed to find an appropriate candidate through these pathways, the employer must apply for an employment permit within 90 days.

                  However, there are some notable exceptions to this rule, meaning your role won’t need to pass a labour market needs test, including the following:

                  • You were made redundant while on an employment permit
                  • The role is on the Critical Skills Occupations List
                  • The role is recommended by Enterprise Ireland or IDA Ireland
                  • You work as a carer for someone with medical needs who is dependent on you
                  • The role will pay over 64,000 euros a year
                  • You are applying for a permit which does not require you to be employed by an Irish company directly
                  • You are working under a Dependant/Partner/Spouse permit.