I have wanted to share all the ins and outs of getting a work visa in Ireland since the minute we arrived here last year November. But I also wanted to really give a full and complete picture, with answers that can help others to know what kind of permit they could apply for, but also, if they needed a work permit to begin with. The biggest thing delaying this post has been that I wanted to successfully go through this process myself because then I felt I would be in a better situation to fully explain it (with a success story to motivate others, that it is possible!). For the last 8 months of living in Ireland, I have been working on this post, almost always highlighting my frustrations and how slow the process has been, and how stressed out we have been! Last week, the planets aligned and my work permit finally came through. Almost as instantly as the permit arrived, I immediately caught myself uttering words like “you know what, it wasn’t all bad” – but really that is not completely true?! I really do think it can be overwhelming and tricky to navigate, and because all the information I have found online about work permits highlights only success and how super straight forward everything is. I have found it confusing at times, and feel it important to document this process while it is still very clear in my mind. It also requires a bit of a back story as well as a full disclaimer to start:
- Like everything on this blog, it is based off my own experience.
- I can fully answer any questions to permits and ways to go about getting a permit that is same as my own journey. For people coming with different passports, or different work situations, I strongly suggest you read this post but also refer to this link for all the information you might need.
- There are so many variables, and different work permits available, I have chosen to talk about the three main ones most people will find themselves in. There are different options for people wanting to work as a student, doctor, carer, working in a pub or restaurant etc – I am sorry, I don’t know much about this.
So to tell you my success story of applying and receiving my work permit to work in Ireland, we need to go back to the beginning and highlight Our Story:
Rob (my husband) is on a South African passport, I am on a Canadian. But for issues relating to living and working in Ireland, those different passports essentially have the same T&C’s to be able to work and reside in Ireland. Rob got a job in Ireland before we arrived, and he is on a critical skills work permit. This is important to note, because it means that I can apply for a spousal/dependent work permit. When we first arrived, I worked on contract remotely with my previous South African employer for 6 months, that ended at the end of March 2017. I started applying for jobs almost the minute we arrived, but because I did have work to do, I only really actively started applying for jobs from end of January 2017. This is partly because I was working, but also because the closest appointment I could get to get my GNIB card was mid Jan, and I thought I might need this to apply for a work permit. Your GNIB card is a card that shows what permission or restrictions you have to live and work in Ireland. For a detailed reference on what each stamp means, look at this link. For purposes of this post, I won’t go into details surrounding GNIB, but basically if you intend on living in Ireland, you will need to register for one.
You do not need a work permit to work in Ireland if you meet one of the following criteria:
- You are an Irish or EEA (for right now, this includes the UK, but with brexit, that could change) or Swiss National.
- You are married to an Irish/EEA/Swiss National.
- You are a parent to an Irish Citizen.
- You have received special permission to be in the state (i.e a student).
If you fall into one of the above categories, you probably don’t need to read on. You will find that life will be infinitely easier for you, because really the biggest admin related issue we have found about living in Ireland has been applying and securing a job and a work permit. I think this is largely due to the fact that we require a work permit to be able to work, and that processing of these permits can take a while. So I have personally found a lot of companies I applied to just didn’t ever get back to me.The biggest issue we have found about living in Ireland has been securing a job & a work permit. Get the details here: Click To Tweet
All non-EEA nationals need a work permit to work in work in Ireland. Having a work permit is not the same as being legally allowed to live in Ireland. If you have any questions on either, Citizen Information is incredibly helpful. I have called them a few times and they can explain what you need to do.
The three main work permit types I can cover are the following:
- Critical Skills Work Permit
You can apply for a critical skills work permit if your work skill is on the highly skilled list, or if you are earning a salary of more than EUR60k annually. This work permit is for 2 years, it does cost EUR1000 to process this type of permit. The huge benefit of this type of permit is that you spouse/dependent can apply for a work permit. However it does mean that should the person holding the critical skills work permit lose their job or change to another type of work permit; then the spouse/dependent will lose their work permit. The two work permits are essentially tied together.
- General Work Permit
This is a work permit most people will apply for. This allows you to work in Ireland, however the biggest hurdle is that a labour market needs test needs to be conducted by the employer. The processing fee is also EUR1000.
- Spousal/Dependent Work Permit
You can apply for this type of permit if your spouse has a critical skills work permit. There are no processing fees for this work permit, as well as a labour market needs test is not required. You will need to a letter from the employer of the primary work permit holder (the one who holds the critical skills permit) confirming that they are still employed and their job title. This letter needs to be dated within the last three months from the date of receipt of the spouse/dependent work permit application. So basically try get this letter sorted out while you are applying for jobs, as when you submit your application, you will want to have this ready.
Either you as the employee, or your employer, can submit the application for your work permit. This application can be submitted online. You will be required to submit electronic copies of documents you will need to show based off the type of permit you intend on applying for. One of the documents will be the form you fill online, the last page needs to be printed off, signed by both you and your employer and the original needs to be scanned through and attached. You will also need an digital passport photo (I did this using a free app on my phone, just make sure you have the right specs).
Processing of your application is done by date submitted. To process an application can take anywhere between 6- 8 weeks to process. In extreme cases, it can take up to 12 weeks. If your employer is a trusted partner, the process is a lot quicker (2 – 4 weeks). I made the mistake of thinking that this would be the same for me, however mine was a standard application, in the end it took 8 weeks to be completed.
Some tips on finding a job in Ireland:
- Securing a job can be a long and challenging road. It is probably worth mentioning that I am in my mid 30’s and with a half decent career in S0uth Africa, I wasn’t prepared to move to Ireland to work as a waitress or in a field that is not my specialty. I was looking for a job, but also wanting the job to make sense in my career growth. So perhaps you can say I was a bit particular on the jobs I applied for. If you are looking to take on anything that pays the bills, perhaps your journey to employment will be easier. I was thinking long term, willing to wait for the perfect role in the best company. I am super happy to say that that has paid off for me. But the wait was stressful and a worry at times. A friend suggested I only apply at recruitment agencies, but in my opinion if you need a work permit, and you aren’t necessarily looking for a role that is highly skilled or in demand, you are probably better off avoiding recruiters. One recruiter told me that they would naturally put other names forward that did not require a work permit because they want to secure the position quickly so that the can earn their fee. If an employer is paying a recruiter and still needs to pay and go through a work permit application, this is a long and expensive process for them. So in my opinion, apply at recruitment agencies, but don’t hold you breath, keep applying directly for roles in companies too.
- I suggest that where possible, rather state that you are eligible to work in Ireland (which you are), however, try hold off on going through the nitty gritty details that you need to apply for a work permit until you are face to face with a prospective employer. This means you have a chance to build rapport with them, and show your value, before they find out that you need a work permit. It sounds a bit misleading, but honestly, if you start your covering letter with “there is a ton of admin we need to go through before I can start working with you”, trust me, you won’t get a call back. But having said that, be honest when they do ask. My now current employer actually called me back and plainly asked what my intentions were to live and work in Ireland. They were concerned I wasn’t planning on being here long term. I can honestly say that while Rob and I appear to be very casual about our future, having successfully navigated this admin minefield, I have no interest in going through any huge life changes for a while. We fully intend on making it work here in Ireland for as long as Ireland will have us. If you can, show them that you intend to stay long term, not just job hop and leave in a few months. Going down this application process is a long term commitment from both parties involved, and they are taking a big chance in hiring you, so the least you can do is be 100% honest with your intentions.
- The recruitment process can be delayed. In some cases, I applied for roles and it took months to get a response back. There is often various steps in recruitment namely; telephone interview, then face to face interview, in some cases a presentation or panel interview or meeting with CEO. Depending on the time of year, and when people go on holiday or end of financial year – these all have knock on effects on how quickly the process is completed. Like I said, I started actively look for a job end of January. I applied for hundreds of roles, and got quite a few telephone interviews and call backs. I went to 6 face to face interviews, and made it through to final round of 3 of them. My job offer came through at the end of May 2017, then it took a further 8 weeks to get my application processed, so in the end I was unemployed for 4 months before starting this job.
- People told me this, and it is only really true once you are through it, but enjoy your unemployment, because the minute you get that work permit issued, things can move very quickly! I got the permit on Thursday last week, and now today, Monday, I am starting work!
The process from applying for a work permit to employment:
- Once you go through the recruitment process, get an job offer in writing from your employer.
- Gather the required supporting documentation needed for the type of work permit you intend on applying for (Ideally you should have this ready before the job offer, this will mean you can submit quickly.)
- Submit your application online.
- Allow for 6-8 weeks. You can check online to see what date they are reviewing. The website updates Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. However there were a few weeks when the date did not move for 2 weeks, and then there were days when the date jumped by a few days. It is difficult to say how it will take for you, so just keep checking and try not panic. There is nothing you can do to speed up this process. Trust me, I know how stressful it is, but you will get there.
- Once the website shows that they are reviewing applications from your date, then you will get notified if there is any documentation outstanding. For me, there was a form my employer needed to submit. I was lucky that the document I had missing was submitted quickly (that day). They give you 28 days to submit outstanding information. It is important to note that if you have submitted it incorrectly, you risk the chance they decline your application and you will have to resubmit – so it is worth it to be thorough first time around.
- Once they receive all the correct information, they issue your permit and send via post to you and your employer.
- Once you have the permit, you will need to update your GNIB card (your stamp will change). This costs EUR300, and you need to book an appointment online. I recommend booking this asap as it is hard to get a date, even though you are given time to update, the next booking time I could get is only in September even though that was the very next thing I did after receiving my permit in July!
- You will also need to register your PPS number with Revenue, before your first paycheck. This is important so that you are to charge the maximum tax allocation. You can register online here.
I realise that this post is probably way too much info, and really specific to people wanting to work in Ireland, butI hope it helps! I personally found it all very overwhelming and battled to get a lot of these answers online. The aim of this post is to make it easier for you, if you have any further questions, drop me a message in the comments, or email me: email@example.com. I am always keen to chat, and will try my best to answer any questions you may have!
WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU CAN OFFER ABOUT FINDING A JOB AND GETTING A WORK PERMIT IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY?
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