Ireland Immigration and the Single Permit Directive – With Immigration & Mobility Decoded 

In this week’s episode of Immigration & Mobility Decoded, we caught up with Aaron Flynn, Director of Immigration, Ireland, to discuss recent policy changes, the immigration environment in Ireland and what the future holds. Flynn provides insights into the new single permit for work and residence, the complexities of implementing such a system and how these changes signal the government’s ambitions to attract foreign talent.  

Below is a brief and lightly edited transcript of this conversation.    

Immigration & Mobility Decoded   

Speaking of another change, Aaron, that I wanted to discuss with you, is that Ireland intends to introduce a single permit for both work and residence permit permits over the next three years. Can you break down this change, what it means and what’s coming up? 

Aaron Flynn  

Yes, this has been in the pipeline for a long time. The single permit directive began as an EU directive. At that time, Ireland decided not to opt into it. Historically, the country didn’t have the capability and often acted in tandem with the UK in relation to immigration matters. This was due to the common travel area between the two countries and similar legal systems, and both countries being slightly separated from continental Europe.  

But now, for example, Indian nationals who want critical skills employment permits to come to Ireland must get an employment permit first. When the employment permit is approved, they must apply for an employment visa at the embassy. Both processes are in different government portals of different documentation. The visa appointment requires in-person attendance, biometrics and a huge amount of documentation. 

Flynn (cont.) 

When the visa is approved, they will come to Ireland. They’re stamped by the Border Management unit or the GNIB, which is the immigration police on entry to Ireland, and then they have to register for their residence permit, which must happen in 90 days. So, it’s almost like a three-stage process to get an employee into the country. And there’s a large overlap in the amount of documentation, and it critically requires absolute coordination of timing to ensure the process works harmoniously so that that employee can start at the right time. That’s what we do on a day-to-day week-to-week basis. We manage it because we know how to manage it, and we’ve done this successfully for years for our clients. There’s a huge amount of waste and overlap. Other countries have single permit in some format or another. 

Flynn (cont.) 

Other European countries have it under the single permit directive. The US has it for some visas. As you know, Canada has it. The difficulty we’re bringing in this change is we’re talking about three different government authorities.  

We’re talking about employment permits, departments for employment permits. We’re talking about Irish embassies overseas for the visa part, some of whom will process via visa processing agencies that Ireland and other countries use like the VFS. When you get to Ireland, you deal with immigration service delivery, which is another immigration department to get your residence permit.  

If you live outside Dublin, you must engage with a local police station for your district. So you can imagine the amount of human interface and volume of documentation. The single permit directive combines all those documents in one. 

Flynn (cont.) 

The government is committed to making the change and opting in to that EU directive. Lots of directives must be formally opted into and then implemented by Irish laws, but they’ll have to change their processes, combine those three different government departments, and what they’re going to do is build a new government portal to do all those three things in months. 

It’s a huge opportunity to exploit modern technology and make this a much easier and a far better process for everybody, for the government agencies, for employers, for employees, and for companies like us that work every day with employers trying to move people into Ireland. 

Immigration & Mobility Decoded  

What’s the timeline for all this? What can employers expect in the next year, three, five years? 

Flynn  

They’re going to try and do it within three years. I think what will happen is it’ll be incremental and maybe piecemeal change. I think what will probably happen is they’ll combine the visa and employment permit processes first and then later add the immigration registration part.  

Immigration registration differs between whether you’re based in Dublin or most of the population and most of the employment permit immigration registration is an outside Dublin. Just recently, they’ve added additional counties – suburban Dublin, Wicklow and Kilder Mead. They can now register in an online government portal, and that’s a trial to extend online registration to all the counties of Ireland. That means people no longer have to engage with local police. 

Flynn (cont.) 

The huge difficulty at the minute is local police and smaller teams. Some cities, such as Cork, Limerick and Galway, have a big population of employment-permit and sponsored workers, as well as students. They have universities with semesters like the U.S., so students arrive at the same time and all need registration and renewal at the same time. That creates huge delays in some of those regions, particularly Cork and Limerick. Extending online registration to the whole country will alleviate those delays.  

I think the next stage would be scoping out, build a portal, test, and do a trial on several countries initially. If it works, we’ll build it out for other countries. By 2027, we’re hoping for a single permit directive and a single permit. 

Immigration & Mobility Decoded  

I think that’s a good date. But with the single permit directive combined with the new stamp and regulations for spouses or partners, what do these two changes signal to you about the government’s ambitions to attract foreign talent or to attract talent? 

Flynn  

Ireland has seized the opportunities that technology can bring and has tried to streamline quite an antiquated and document and process-heavy system that’s been in place. Sponsored immigration in Ireland is relatively new. It’s only about 20 years old, and in that time, many people have moved to Ireland.  

The benefits to the economy and to multinational companies are beyond doubt. If we look at the success of Ireland as a country economically, we can see that Ireland has benefited hugely from the factors that have led to this. Ireland recognizes that as a country, and it’s these initiatives that are really setting Ireland up for the next 20 years. Otherwise, we can’t fill the roles that we need, and we won’t be able to fill the roles that we need. 

Flynn (cont.) 

ICT or IT type roles were the top ones in demand over the last four or five years. The biggest tech companies in the world are all based in Ireland, and there are many of them, mostly healthcare and healthcare professionals, but also construction, horticulture and agriculture. The traditional industries of Ireland can’t find people. Ireland can’t function without immigration. It’s as simple as that. And as I say, in a world where each country is trying to attract the best talent, the best system and the best long-term opportunities are the ones that expats are going to choose to go to. 

Immigration & Mobility Decoded 

Agreed. We’re seeing that in Canada, with all the changes that they’ve made to attract foreign talent, and they’re also seeing an increasing student foreign national student population. You mentioned that some of these changes or some of the aspects of Irish immigration, some are based centered around the laws, already written others around policy. How much of that policy is influenced by the Prime Minister? What does the new PM believe the role that immigration plays and how much does he influence policy? 

Flynn  

We’ve got European elections upcoming, so we are electing members to go to the EU parliament. A lot of EU countries have immigration as a hot topic for differing reasons, maybe positive reasons like employment and sponsorship.  

The Prime Minister Leo Riker stepped down. We had a rotating prime minister for the last few years because we’ve got two of the biggest political parties, Al and Finna Gale sharing a coalition and sharing a rotating prime minister Ock, as we call it. Leo Ranker had done quite a few years, considered very positive for Ireland, came from immigrant father from India, and an Irish mom qualified as a doctor, had worked in various government departments, including in the employment permit department, which is called the Department of Business at one point. 

Flynn (cont.) 

Immigration in Ireland has radically changed over the past 5-10 years. Now we have the situation with Ukraine. Ireland has over a hundred thousand Ukraine nationals here under temporary protection.  

It’s the biggest per quota country in terms of the amount of people that have come to Ireland. With that international protection applicant numbers have also increased, but that has coincided with the success of a country, a growing population, and a housing crisis. And the word “crisis” has been used because housing’s always been an important topic in Ireland for at least 100 – 150 years. Now, post economic depression in 2008, Ireland has never really caught back up with building the amount of housing units that it needs for its population, and it’s now expanding population. 

Flynn (cont.) 

There are competing demands there. In addition, the new Prime Minister, Miha Martin, recognizes that there are challenges in immigration, but also the necessity of it, including in construction, to help get Ireland out of the difficulties that we’re in with this housing shortage. And the party. Ireland has never had a right-wing party in government. It’s never had an outward right-wing government or an outright right wing with an immigration focus, government party or political party. But it has become an important topic for Meha Martin and his party. 

Flynn (cont.) 

The European elections, all of the candidates have a huge part to say about immigration and local elections, which are kind of more counselor based. It’s a challenging time and there needs to be a coordinated government approach. The messaging from the government is that they’re going to get a handle on it and institute positive changes.  And then maybe a little bit more intuitive policies designed to work within the European framework to make sure we’re complying with our international obligations because we’re a signatory country under the refugee aspects and subsidiary protection. We need to make sure those things work correctly for the benefit of the people who need refuge or are in Ireland. I think the policy might refine itself a little bit, not completely dependent on the public mood, but with certainly a nod to what’s happening publicly and what people are saying about immigration. 


 

Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an attorney at Corporate Immigration Partners, P.C., or another qualified professional of your choosing. On non-U.S. immigration issues, consult your Envoy representative, or another qualified representative of your choosing.