New regime in place that enables asylum seekers to work in Ireland

Last week the Department of Justice and Equality introduced the option for asylum seekers to seek employment or self-employment opportunities in Ireland. Prior to February 2018, asylum seekers were prohibited from working or being self-employed in Ireland. When this was challenged, Ireland opted into the EU(recast) Reception Conditions Directive (2013/33/EU). The Department of Justice set up an interim measure in February 2018 that allowed asylum seekers to be self-employed or they could access the employment permit system operated by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.


The new measures mean that, as of 29 June, asylum seekers who are waiting to see if they qualify for international protection (known as a first instance recommendation) can now apply for a Labour Market Access permission letter from the Department of Justice and Equality. They do not have to access the employment permit system which means that they do not have to receive a minimum remuneration of €30,000 per year in line with the General Employment permit.  


Asylum seekers can apply for any job except for the Defence Forces, An Garda Siochana, the Civil or Public Service. To qualify for the Labour Market Access permission letter they must be waiting for a first instance recommendation on their protection application for nine months or more.


So what does this mean for employers?


It means that approximately 3,000 new workers may be available to work in businesses without the additional restrictions from the employment permit process. This is welcome news for small businesses who are currently struggling to fill vacancies. It allows asylum seekers to either enhance their current skill set or gain new skills whilst becoming more integrated within Irish society.


What must employers ensure?


Employers must ensure that the person holds a valid, in-date Labour Market Access permission letter before hiring the applicant. The official permission will contain the following security features:

  • A colour photograph
  • It is double-sided on watermarked paper
  • It will contain a unique permission number
  • It is signed on both sides by the officer who approved the permission
  • It will clearly show the validity date


Once an employer successfully hires an employee with a valid permission letter, they must inform the Minister for Justice and Equality within 21 days from the date the applicant has been employed and they must notify the Minister again within 21 days of the employment ceasing.


Employers will be required to retain the following information if they employ someone with a Labour Market Access permission letter:


  • A record of the employee concerned
  • The duration of the employment
  • The particulars of the labour market permission
  • Details of the remuneration paid to the applicant. This must be held for a period of three years


If an employer receives a notification that the Labour Market Access permission letter has been withdrawn, the above records must be retained for a period of six months from the receipt of that notification. If the employer receives a request for further information from the Department of Justice and Equality, they must provide that information within 10 days of receiving that request.


In line with other employment permits, the 50-50 rule still applies. What this means is that the mixture of Irish and/or EU nationals must make up at least 50% or more of the workforce. Businesses may be required to provide records to the Department of Justice and Equality on the number of Irish/EU nationals and non-EEA nationals that hold an employment permit or a Labour Market Access permission letter. Businesses that do not comply with this requirement could risk a class A fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or both.


How long will the labour market access permission last for?


It will be renewed every six months for as long as the asylum seeking is awaiting a final decision on their protection application. It should be noted that if a person’s application for asylum protection is denied in the final decision from the Department of Justice and Equality they are no longer legible to remain in employment or in Ireland. You can find out more on at


If you have a concern about employment permits  you can contact Helen at SFA on 01 605 1668 or at or visit our HR and employment law advice section on


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