Skip to main content
Global HR Lawyers

Immigration law in Ireland - a roundup of 2023 and looking ahead to 2024

11 January 2024

2023 ended with a significant announcement on the largest expansion and shakeup to the employment permit system since its inception. In 2024, we expect to see further changes to the employment permit system and the possibility of the enactment of the Employment Permits Bill. However, we also expect to see further changes adopted as part of the Department of Justice’s modernisation programme, like those we have seen with the naturalisation process and the possibility of proposals on the adoption of a single application procedure.

Employment Permits System

In June 2023, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment invited relevant stakeholders to submit evidence to support claims for certain occupations to be included on the critical skills occupations list or take off the list of ineligible occupations for employment permits. While nothing of note seemed to be happening following the closure of the consultation period in August 2023, in a surprise pre-Christmas announcement, the Irish Government significantly expanded Ireland’s employment permit system and increased the salary requirements for most employment permit types. Here’s our article detailing the announcement but in summary, the announcement included 43 changes to the occupations lists for employment permits, making 32 new occupations eligible for a general employment permit and 11 new occupations eligible for a critical skills employment permit.

A new roadmap for incrementally increasing the salary requirement for most employment permit types was also published. Notably, all general employment permits may see the minimum salary requirements gradually increase to €39,000 between January 2024 and January 2026. Additionally, the minimum salary requirement for a critical skills employment permit for applicants requiring a relevant third level degree may rise to €44,000 by January 2025. Many employers will likely need to review and reforecast their budgets for employment costs to ensure any employment permit holders they employ can continue to work in Ireland.

However, further changes may be likely in 2024. When these changes were announced, Minister for State, Neale Richmond TD noted that over 121 submissions were received with more than 350 changes of various types sough in response to the Department’s invitation. Ultimately, more than 40 changes were made to the occupations lists with further changes to salary requirements. The Minister confirmed that other requests would continue to be considered on an “exceptional basis”. Therefore, we may see quotas for employment permits extended to other occupations while other occupations may become eligible for general employment permits and critical skills employment permits in 2024.

Employment Permits Legislation

While not necessarily a development in 2023, draft legislation in the form of the Employment Permits Bill 2022 was published in late 2022 with the intention to streamline, improve and modernise the employment permit system and increase its responsiveness to Ireland’s evolving labour market. As drafted the Bill proposes to:

  • Consolidate existing employment permit legislation.
  • Create a new type of employment permit for seasonal workers, designed to facilitate non-EEA nationals’ employment in “seasonally recurrent employment”, which will be specified in separate regulations.
  • Allow subcontractors to make use of the employment permit system.
  • Give the Minister power to specify conditions relation to the grant of employment permit which may include, accommodation, upskilling, training or expenses.
  • Revise the existing labour market needs test to remove any requirement to publish a vacancy in a national or local newspaper.
  • Introduce automatic salary indexation of salary requirements for employment permits.

As drafted, the Bill would help improve efficiency in the system by moving much of the operational details for the employment permit system to regulations to be made under the primary legislation which can be introduced more quickly in order to keep up with evolving recruitment practices. It is disappointing that little headway was made in 2023 to advance this Bill. However, in an election year and given we are yet see the true impact of what the recent expansion and changes to Ireland’s employment permit system might bring, this Bill may move up the legislative agenda and we may see even more the changes to Ireland’s employment permits system this in 2024. We will continue to watch this space closely for developments.

Modernisation Programme

With technological developments and progress all around us, digital transformation has become one of the driving forces behind the evolution of global immigration processes and policies. What initially began as the implementation of online systems during and following the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an increasingly permanent shift by governments to modernise and digitise immigration systems and processes.

The Department of Justice is no different and in April 2023, as part of its strategy to improve Ireland’s immigration system, it established a modernisation programme to make Ireland’s immigration system faster, more accessible, and more efficient.

The Department’s aim in the long term for immigration services it to digitise them and to move them onto a single online platform. It also seeks to improve customer service by simplifying processes and making the immigration system easier to understand whilst also maintaining security.

As part of its modernisation programme in 2023:

  • The Department of Justice moved the citizenship application processes for adults and minors online. At the same time and in an effort to improve customer service, efficiency and to make the system more accessible to end users, it also relaxed some of its eligibility rules for naturalisation (as noted below).
  • The Department of Justice took over the Stamp 4 application process for critical skills employment permit holders. This has streamlined the process significantly as it has ended the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment’s involvement in the process by removing the need for critical skills employment permit holders to receive a letter of support from it as part of the application process.

It will be interesting to see what other improvements are made in 2024 as the Department‘s other objectives include:

  • Clearing the ever-increasing backlog of immigration application types;
  • Transferring the remaining immigration duties from the Garda National Immigration Bureau to the Department of Justice;
  • Moving towards timely processing of applications for international protection and towards making the international protection process more efficient;
  • Ensuring the fairness and efficiency of the Irish immigration system through new strategic policies and legislative proposals.

It should be noted these are outline goals only and won’t have any policy impact. However, changes implemented as a result of pursuing these objectives may see employers hiring foreign nationals in Ireland and employees seeking to enter the Irish labour market can expect improved services, additional use of online platforms, more consistent decisions and increased transparency in the immigration process.

Naturalisation Rules

In 2023, the Department of Justice relaxed its naturalisation rules, allowing applicants to spend a greater period outside the country.

As part of an application for naturalisation by an adult, the applicant is required to have one year’s continuous residence in Ireland immediately prior to the date of application. During the 8 years immediately preceding that period, the applicant must have a total residence in Ireland of 4 years.

Previously, the Department of Justice deemed absences longer that 6 weeks per year non-reckonable for naturalisation purposes. Accordingly, if the applicant was absent for more than 6 weeks in a year, that year would not be counted for the purposes of the naturalisation application. Further, the Department of Justice would allow the year to still be counted if “exceptional circumstances” existed and could be demonstrated to the Department.

However, the difficulty with the above was that the Department of Justice operated these rules through an internal policy and so there was no clear “exceptional circumstances” provision in guidance or law and so reliance on such internal policies created significant uncertainty for applications, creating restrictions on the ability to leave Ireland – whether for personal or professional reasons. It led to many applicants submitting lengthy submissions, either to justify absences and/or to seek exceptions.

In a welcome move, these rules were relaxed, and some outline guidance was provided. Now, naturalisation applicants can be outside Ireland for a total of 70 days in the year preceding the application. Applicants may also seek an additional 30 days for exceptional circumstances (which include family or personal circumstances, health issues, employment or study obligations, and voluntary humanitarian service).

In relation to the other four years of residence required for the naturalisation application, the applicant is now required to demonstrate, by way of objective assessment, that Ireland has been their primary residence for that period.

Despite clarifying the situation for these application types, the legislation and guidance still does not address the situation for adult applicants who must rely on their parents’ documentation for periods when they were a minor to prove their residence during that period. Therefore, we may see the Department of Justice announce further changes to provide clarity and tweaks to these applications in 2024.

Single application procedure for employment permit and immigration permissions

Proposals for the development of a single application procedure for employment permits and immigration permissions were agreed in principle by the Irish Government in 2022. An Inter Departmental Working Group was then established to develop an implementation plan for consideration by Government. While no report was published by the Group in 2023, we will need to wait and see whether any recommendations or proposals in relation to the implementation of the proposed single application procedure are published in 2024 and whether it will take into consideration the Department of Justice’s Modernisation Programme and the latest changes to Ireland’s employment permit system.

Keep in touch with Lewis Silkin for further updates and assistance

We will be monitoring immigration law developments throughout 2024 and will publish further information once it becomes available.

Our business immigration services cover all aspects of work and business immigration permissions, employment permits for new and existing hires, business visas and additional assistance for their family members. We also offer training, assistance with implementing policies and procedures to ensure compliance with immigration law, mock audits of existing systems to identify any areas of risk and to suggest improvements to ensure you are prepared for any Workplace Relations Commission investigation.

If you have any queries on any of the topics raised in this article or need assistance with any Irish immigration application, please contact Declan Groarke.

Related items

Related services


Driven by evolving client needs, we have opened an office in Dublin to ensure that we can deliver consistent and expert advice now, and post Britain leaving the EU. Through this, we are able to leverage our in-depth sector knowledge, providing our clients with confidence in the legal services they receive across the UK and the EU.

Back To Top