General Work permits how they work: The Basics of the process

South African passports- work permits- Immigration information for South Africans moving, immigrating, visiting or working in the Republic of Ireland

South African passports- work permits- Immigration information for South Africans moving, immigrating, visiting or working in the Republic of Ireland

General Work Permits (GWP) are issued by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation(DBEI).

Unlike Critical Skills Employment Permits where the State specifies eligible occupations, General Employment Permits assume all occupations to be eligible unless otherwise specified. Therefore, all occupations are eligible unless excluded under the  Ineligible List of Occupations for Employment Permits. The main attraction of the General Employment Permit for prospective candidates is that it permits a broader range of occupations than the other classes of employment permit and may be obtained in respect of a 12 month contract of employment. All occupations under the Critical Skills Occupations List are deemed eligible.

Jobs with annual salaries of €64,000 or more occupations (other than those on the Ineligible job categories and those which are contrary to the public interest) may be eligible for a Critical skills work permit.

The following are eligible:

GWP applicants are where their career is neither on the ineligible list of careers (or DBEI has deemed a limited number of permits available for a short period of time, a quota of jobs advertised by DBEI) or are on the Critical Skills List however do not meet the remuneration, qualifications or 2- year minimum job offer period. An example could be a Medical Doctor who does not get offered a 2-year position as a Medical Doctor instead a 1-year contract, therefore they can only apply for a GWP.

Generally, applications for General Employment Permits must have a minimum annual remuneration (pay) of €30,000 per annum. Minimum annual remuneration - is generally €30,000.

Applications for jobs with annual pay of €27,000* are considered on an exceptional basis in the following case please go to the website for details on these exceptions HERE

The Employer

The normal criteria for employers apply, which seek to ensure that the employer is a genuine and legal employer, so as to give a level of reassurance that the employment rights of employees will be adhered to. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation examines a number of criteria when assessing employers including:

  • Applications will only be accepted from employers that are registered with the Revenue Commissioners and with the Companies Registration Office/Registry of Friendly Societies, if applicable, and which are currently trading in the State.
  • That an employer – employee relationship will exist in that the prospective employee concerned will be employed, salaried and paid directly by the employer.

The Employer also needs to meet 2 testing criteria for General Work Permits: 1. Labour Market Needs Test and 2. 50:50 rule

1) Labour Market Needs Test

As Ireland is part of the European Union, it has an obligation to fill careers from within Ireland and the European Union first. Careers deemed Ineligible therefore have been assessed by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) and Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SMLRU) to have sufficient numbers of people skilled in these areas within Ireland and the EU. Part of this agreement is then to advertise jobs to ensure that the Irish and EU job applicants have equal opportunity to apply.

“The Government’s policy is that employment opportunities which arise in Ireland should, in the first instance, be offered to suitably skilled Irish and other EEA nationals, and should only be offered to non-EEA nationals where no suitable candidate emerges from within the EEA to fill the vacancy. This policy also fulfils our obligations under the Community Preference principles of membership of the EU. In order to ensure that job opportunities are made available to Irish and EEA nationals, employers must satisfy a Labour Market Needs Test before a General Employment Permit or Contract for Services Employment Permit can be issued to a non-EEA national.”

The employer must advertise the vacancy:

  • with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection Employment Services/EURES employment network for at least 4 weeks and
  • in a national newspaper for at least 3 days and
  • in either a local newspaper or jobs website (separate to Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection/EURES websites) for 3 days.

In line with Regulations made under the Employment Permits Act 2006, as amended the vacancy must include the following information:

  • a description of the employment,
  • the name of the employer,
  • the minimum annual remuneration,
  • the location/s of employment, and
  • the hours of work.

Exceptions to having the Labour Market Needs test done can be found here:

2) 50:50 Rule

An employment permit will not issue unless at the time of application at least 50% of the employees of the company are EEA nationals.

  • An employment permit will not issue unless at the time of application at least 50% of the employees in a firm are EEA nationals (50:50 rule).
  • The 50:50 rule is waived in certain circumstances see the website HERE

The Employee

  • Minimum annual remuneration (generally above €30,000)
  • the employment named is not in an excluded job category under the Ineligible List of Occupations for Employment Permits;
  • the prospective employee must possess the relevant qualifications, skills or experience that are required for the employment.

Recognition of qualifications and Registration with Irish bodies or organisations:

Its is very important to check if you need your qualifcations from SA education institutions are recognised and if you need to register with an Irish body or organization in order to work in Ireland in that career. Even in normal times these registrations can take months to process, and without that registration your work permit will be declined, and in some cases companies wont even look at you until you’re registered. Check HERE

Qualifications: NARIC

Here is a tool to look up your schooling or degrees and see what the National Framework Qualification (NFQ) is from South African terminology into Irish terminology HERE: NARIC


SA2Eire has a specific page for members to look deeper into how to get employment and some finer details of the process other than what is on the official sites, that more geared towards SA passport holders HERE


On receipt of a valid job offer, how to apply for a work permit

Applications for a General Work Permit should be made to the Employment Permits Section of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. The employer or the employee can apply. You apply online with the required documentation, using the Employment Permits Online System (EPOS). An application for any employment permit must be received at least 12 weeks before the proposed employment start date. Some Work Permits may be processed faster depending on whether the company is registered as a Trusted Partner or not.

Remuneration Criteria

In order to achieve the minimum remuneration threshold of €30,000, €27,000 or €27,500 for a General Employment Permit, the following components are deemed to be remuneration:

  • Basic salary to achieve at least National Minimum Wage or a rate of pay fixed under or pursuant to any enactment, as the first component of the remuneration package and

  • Health insurance payments made to a health insurer registered with the Health Insurance Authority on its Register of Health Benefits Undertakings under s14 Health Insurance Act, 1994.

An application for any employment permit must be received at least 12 weeks before the proposed employment start date.

An application to apply for a General Employment Permit can be made online on the Employment Permits Online System

Before you start your application please see our General Employment Permit Checklist which will assist the process.

An application can be made online on the Employment Permits Online System. There is a User Guide available on the online system which guides the applicant through the process and details the documentary requirements for each employment permit type.

There are up to three stages in the passage of an employment permit application:

  1. Application Received (Awaiting Processing): Once an application is submitted and the associated fees, if appropriate, are recorded the application is then placed in the relevant processing queue depending on the Employer type i.e. Trusted Partner or Standard.  Please note that applications are processed strictly in date order by Employer Type and applicants can keep track of their current processing dates.  They can also check the progress of their specific application online on our new Online Status Update Enquiry facility.  
  2. Processing Stage: This stage is where the application is considered by a decision maker, an official with decision making authority. The processor may request additional information, if required, which should be returned within 28 days. The processor will then either grant an application or refuse it for specific reasons.
  3. Review: Where an applicant wishes a refusal decision to be reviewed then he/she may do so within 28 days on the prescribed Submission of a Decision for Review Form. The review will be considered by a separate and more senior official. The confirmation of a refusal decision on review does not preclude the applicant from submitting a new application following all of the relevant procedures for the specific employment permit type.

The processing fee for a new General Employment Permit is

  • €500 for an employment permit of 6 months or less duration or
  • €1,000 for an employment permit from 6 months up to 24 months duration.

 The processing fee for renewal of a permit is

  • €750 - for an employment permit of 6 months or less duration or
  • €1,500 - for an employment permit from six months, up to 36 months duration.

Detailed information on fee requirements and certain waivers can be found on our Fees for Employment Permits page.

If an application is unsuccessful then 90% of the fee will be refunded. While the fee may be paid by a third party, current policy restricts refunds to applicants only (e.g. if the applicant was an employee and the employer paid the fee, then the refund will still issue to the employee).

Where the employer is the applicant, in accordance with section 23 of the Employment Permits Act 2006, the employer or an agent acting on their behalf may not make any deductions from the remuneration of, or seek to recover from, the holder of the employment permit concerned any charge, fee or expense related to the application.

The fee for a General Work Permit must be paid by the applicant. The applicant can be the employer, the employee, a connected person or contractor, or an authorised agent. Payments from businesses are made by electronic fund transfer (EFT). Currently this fee is EUR1000.

If an application is refused or withdrawn, 90% of the fee will be refunded to the applicant.

The fee for the Certificate of Registration is €300. This is done once you are in Ireland at a Garda Immigration (Burgh Quay if in Dublin or in the town or district where you live outside of Dublin). If you are having trouble getting an appointment at Burgh Quay, look out for an app on your phone called GNIB Pro to help you get an appointment

You need to do this to get permission to remain and to ensure you have the correct immigration status, as an employee. You will be given a Certificate of Registration which is also known as an Irish Residence Permit (IRP) (formerly called a GNIB card).

Applications are processed in chronological order, nothing can get your application done quicker or slower, unless the company is a Trusted Partner.

Please read on the official site the following topics:

  • Renewals
  • Holders of Work Permit Employment Permits or General Employment Permits for 5 years or more
  • Residency
  • Change of Circumstances
  • Transfer of Undertakings
  • Cancellation of Employment Permits

GWP spouse and dependants arriving after 12 months

You may bring your family (spouse and children) to live with you in Ireland after you have been legally working here for a year on a General Employment Permit.

In other words, your dependants cannot join you for 12 months.

Category B including employment permit holder - you must wait 12 months after your family member registers with immigration. HERE

You also must be able to show that you will be able to support them. In practice, you need to be earning more than the limits for Working Family Payment. Working Family Payment is a benefit offered to Irish and EEA residents who may earn below minimum living wage and as such are eligible for a benefit top-up to their wages. This WFP is used as a measure as to the minimum wage a GWP holder must earn based on the number of children you have.

When the spouse and dependants arrive in Ireland, after the Entry into Ireland process and they have settled a few days at their place of residence with the GWP holder, they then need to apply for permission to stay via INIS/ISD Unit 5. Once they have reviewed your application, they then issue the permission letter, and then you can book an appointment for Stamp 3 at that Garda Immigration station/ Burgh Quay. Get the application in as soon as possible after arrival, as it can take some months to get the application approved.

Spouses, dependants or partners of General Employment Permit holders are not eligible for a Dependant/Partner/Spouse Employment Permit and must apply for a separate employment permit in their own right.

Send the following information (registered post so you can track the parcel) with a cover letter explaining the reason for joining being Family Reunification with a General Work Permit holder after 12 months to:

Unit 5, Residence Division and Permissions Division, Department of Justice, PO Box 12695, Dublin 2

Successful applications for the spouse and dependants of a GWP holder

If your application for immigration permission is successful, you will be sent a letter that includes information about the permission granted to you and what to do next.

This includes how to register with immigration.

If you applied but have not received a response or a letter, contact Residence Division Unit 5 for an update on the address or email above

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to get your nearest (local to where where you are living in Ireland) Immigration Officer's email address/ contact phone number, or if that is Dublin, Burgh Quay office.

When you have the permission letter you can register and pay €300 for the IRP/GNIB card giving residency status to all involved. Children over 16 will have to register and pay the fee.

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   

Entry Visas

If you hold a valid South African passport you do not need an entry visa to enter into Ireland. This is because Ireland and South Africa have a special agreement that allows South Africans to enter Ireland visa free.

This entry however is subject to having sufficient paperwork at entry, this is discussed later in the Resources section “entry into Ireland.”

At entry into Ireland you will get permission stamp of up to 90 days This entry stamp will be placed in the South African member’s passport.

An employment permit is not a Residence Permission. In order to be lawfully resident in the State, it is a requirement that all non-EEA nationals in possession of an employment permit must register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau. It is in the best interest of the persons concerned to register as soon as possible following arrival. Delay in registering with Garda National Immigration Bureau could affect applications in the granting of long term residency and/or citizenship. Immigration permission to remain should, where applicable, be renewed at least one month before the expiry date in order to avoid unlawful presence in the State.

Please note during Covid additional note must be taken that there is an implementation of 14 day quaratine in a hotel facility!

Keep track of events here:   Covid-19 updates


 Special Notes for General work permit holders:

Note if you are a Doctor:

  • Very often Doctors receive only 1 year work offers from the hosiptal or practice where they apply for work. As a result this does not give you a Critical Skills Work Permit, instead you get a General Work Permit. However, the Minister of Justice has made allowance for this in giving immediate family reunification as exceptional circumstances. Please do email the work permit department for clarification: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Note if you are GWP holders and dependants:

  • Email reply from the Secretary of the Minister of Justice regarding General Work permit holders not being able to have family join except for Full-Time Doctors HERE

Note on Seeking work in Ireland whilst on holiday

  • You cannot come to Ireland on holiday and seek work (see more below). You must seek work, apply for work and apply for work permits whilst in South Africa. HERE   


 So, we are going to go through this process step-by-step with you:



Important links:


   #MapMyMove- Our coaching Service - confused or lost and need some direction? 

   General Work permits: Gov site

   General Work Permit: Citizens Information site

   General Work Permit: DBEI site

   Skills Ireland

   Labour Market Needs Test

   General Work permits: Gov site

   Employment Permits Online System (EPOS)

   Processing times and dates

   Employment Permit Applications - Online Status Update Enquiry

   Registration information

   Registration of Non EEA depandants

   Registration information

   Salary Guides

   Documents you need for Entry into Ireland

   Family Reunification

   De Facto (unmarried) Partners and proofs required

   Admin before the move

   Admin once you're in Ireland

   Contacts and Big Big Links

   Covid-19 updates

Work Permit Seekers and looking for work whilst on Holiday in Ireland

We sent an email to the justice department asking if a person is able to come to Ireland on holiday and then seeking employment while on holiday. In essence, no you cannot seek work whilst in Ireland.

This was the response:

Visa Mail <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> Wed, 1 Feb 2017 at 2:20 pm
To: Vicky
Dear Vicky

Thank you for your email of 20/01/2017

A ‘visa’ is a form of pre-immigration clearance which allows its holder to seek permission to enter the state. Not every non-EEA national requires a visa. In accordance with Schedule 1 of S.I. No. 473 of 2014 of the Immigration Act 2004, a national of South Africa does not require pre-immigration clearance to land in the state. Permission to enter the state however is required and is given at the port of entry by an Immigration Officer. A maximum stay of 90 days is permissible for the purpose of a short trip. Employment is not permitted.

Should you wish to take up employment, you must obtain permission prior to entering the State. This is an independent process and applies whether or not a person requires an entry visa. Permission to engage in employment depends on the nature and duration of the employment contract involved.

Applications for short-term employment (15 - 90 days) are processed by the Atypical Workers Unit of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service

Working Holiday Authorisations, with the exception of Taiwanese applications, are processed by various the various Irish Embassies worldwide; which fall under the remit of the  Department of Foreign Affairs

Applications for long term employment (over 90 days) are processed by the Employment Permits Unit of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

All persons intending on residing in the State for longer than 90 days must register with their local Immigration Registration Office, further details are available here

Kind regards,
Visa Customer Services
Visa Office, Dublin
Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service
Visa Mail
Mail-In Query

Here is the email that we sent them:

From : Vicky
To: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,
Date : 20/01/2017
Subject: Confirmation please

Good day,
I trust my email finds you well.
A debate has recently arisen regarding looking for employment while on a 90 day visitors visa from SA.

Could you confirm whether or not it would be a breach on the visa if a person on the critical skills list had to make contact with companies in Ireland while visiting to establish if they have possible vacancies, and then subsequently contacting the companies who indicated they do have once the person is back in South Africa?

I would appreciate if you could give some clarity in this regard, as most people are aware that they may not seek employment whilst on a visitor visa, yet some seem to believe this to be acceptable.

I look forward to hearing back from you.
Warm regards,


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