The t_naiste and minister for enterprise, trade and employment, Mary Coughlin, has announced what the Irish government is to introduce “revised employment permit arrangements” for foreign nationals attempting to be first-time entrants to the Irish labor market.
The changes are intended to come into effect on June 1.
“A key feature of the new arrangements will be the application of a tougher labor market needs test for all future work permit applications and renewals so as to allow the maximum opportunity for any available job vacancies to be filled from within the Irish labor market and wider EEA,” the Irish government said in a statement.
EEA refers to the European Economic Area, which is the 27-member European Union plus a few other European countries that are not EU members.
“Ireland has benefited greatly from immigration, particularly so over the past decade. Our immigrant population have and continue to make a significant contribution to our economy and to society as a whole here in Ireland,” Coughlin said in a statement.
“We need to ensure however that for our flexible migration policies to remain as a successful tool of Irish economic policy, that they are adapted on an ongoing basis to reflect the changing realities of the Irish labor market. Those realities have altered dramatically over recent months.
“As a result, it is essential that we now take steps to ensure that every possible effort is made by employers to find a suitably skilled employee from within the existing labor market,” said Coughlin, who has been in the U.S. in recent days promoting closer trade ties between both countries.
The move to further restrict visa access to nationals of non-EEA countries such as the United States indeed comes against the backdrop of fast rising unemployment in the Republic which has taken a particularly hard knock in the global economic downturn.
“The Irish government now predicts that this year gross domestic product will fall more than 10 percent from its peak, crossing the line that is sometimes used to distinguish between a recession and a depression,” Nobel winning economist Paul Krugman, by way of illustrating this situation, wrote this week in the New York Times.
As is the case with the U.S., the Irish government issue green cards that permits non-citizens to live and work in Ireland. Irish nationals face multiple difficulties under current U.S. immigration law when it comes to securing U.S. green cards.
U.S. citizens, too, face numerous obstacles should they attempt to secure clearance to live and work in Ireland. For one thing they must give way to EEA citizens who enjoy priority because of binding legal agreements between Ireland and the other signatories to the EEA agreement.
While the rules are being ratcheted up by the Irish government, the number of application for Irish work permits has fallen in recent times.
The Irish Times reported that so far this year a total of 2,087 work permits have been granted to foreign nationals, this compared to 23,722 for the same period two years ago.
Even despite the current economic travails in both the U.S. and Ireland, Irish immigration law reform advocates in the U.S. have continued to argue for a bilateral treaty between both countries modeled on an existing agreement between the U.S. and Australia.