Critical Skills Work Permit

CapeToCork Visas

Irene and I are both South African passport holders. As a South African passport holder, and all non-EU or Swiss citizens, you require an employment permit to work in Ireland. There are nine types of employment permits. We came to Ireland on a Critical Skills Work Permit. To qualify for this permit you will require the relevant qualifications, experience and/or skills listed here.

With a few exceptions, on the Critical Skills Work Permit you are bound to the employer for a minimum of 12 months. Your permit is valid for two years with the employer. To change employers before the two years have passed, you’ll need to apply for a new work permit from scratch. After twenty-one months working in Ireland you can apply for a Stamp 4. This allows you to work without a work permit and you can start your own business.

When we came over to Ireland in 2018 your spouse could join you immediately, however, they were issued with a Stamp 3. If you were the spouse of a Critical Skills Work Permit holder, you could actively seek employment, but you couldn’t work for yourself. Once you had a singed employment offer you could then go back to the immigration office and get a Stamp 1. There was a lot of confusion since prospective employers thought that you didn’t have the right to work and that they had to apply for a work permit. The rules were subsequently changed and all spouses of Critical Skills Work Permit holders were issued with a Stamp 1G, which permits them to work without having to go back to immigration.

In reverse order, the process is as follows: A work permit will be stamped in your passport by an immigration officer and it is aptly called a Stamp. You also get issued with an Irish Residency Permit (IRP) card that indicates the type of permit you’ve been issued with. Your IRP card will be ready for collection about three weeks after your passport is stamped (Edit: Our most recent IRP cards were sent to us by mail during the COVID pandemic). There are various Stamp / permit numbers. For a Critical Skills Work Permit you are issued with a Stamp 1. To get your passport stamped and your IRP card, you first need to apply to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) for a Critical Skills Work Permit. Before you can apply for the Critical Skills Work Permit, you must have a singed employment contract. In a future post we’ll discuss the process and our experience of looking for work in Ireland. Let’s assume for now you have an employment contract.

The application for the Critical Skills Work Permit is completed through the DBEI’s  Employment Permits Online System (EPOS). You can save your progress as you go. There is information required from both you and your employer which is listed on the DBEI website. The EPOS user guide can be found here. Once the application is submitted you have to wait a few weeks for the application to be processed. The wait times varies and it depends on the employer type: trusted or standard. Trusted Partners get processed quite a bit faster. Their website lists the current processing times. Once my permit was approved, it was mailed to my employer. Besides the wait, it was a relatively painless process until… my Critical Skills Work Permit got lost!

A word of advice, never must you ever under any circumstance have your original work permit mailed to you, especially if you’re still in South Africa. Ireland has an amazing postal service called An Post. It is quick and reliable. In comparison, South Africa’s postal service leaves quite a bit to be desired. My Critical Skills Work Permit got lost in the hands of the South African postal service. For some reason I assumed my employer would send my permit to me by courier since it is the type of document you as a South African would never send via the local postal service. My employer, to no fault of their own, mailed my work permit to me as registered post with An Post. A few days after the permit was supposed to be delivered to our home address in South Africa, I gave An Post a call. They advised that they had handed over the parcel to the South African postal service and that they could no longer track it on their side. I went completely cold. I tried to get a hold of someone at the South African postal services by phone and email to no avail. No one answered any of the listed phone numbers. Our flight out was booked two weeks from then and we were in a bit of a pickle.

If you suspect that your work permit has gone missing, you have to contact the DBEI and inform them by means of a statement of loss which needs to be stamped by An Garda Síochána (the Irish national police). DBEI then keep the statement of loss on file for four weeks in case the permit surfaces. You can read more about it in the Employment Permits Frequently Asked Questions PDF. My problem was that we were still in South Africa and couldn’t visit a Garda station. I had a copy of the permit that was emailed to me and our best bet was to go to our nearest SAPS station to have a statement notarized. I reported my permit as missing via email to the DBEI in the meantime and also printed the emails as part of our supporting documents in case immigration wanted to verify.

As you can imagine, this was quite a stressful time for us. We had packed up our lives. What if we get turned back after all the planning, effort and hopes? We were previously told that we had to have the original work permit with us when we arrive at the port of entry. Our best bet was the sworn statement we notarized at SAPS and a printed soft copy version of the work permit.

Our port of entry was Cork airport. I explained our situation to the immigration officer. They could see from all the documentation we provided that the original work permit was lost and that we had tried to report it from South Africa. We were allowed to enter on a three-month visa. The immigration officer, who was very professional, processed us and wrote our newly assigned registration numbers in the front of our passports. This takes a couple of minutes. Relieved we headed over to our hotel.

The following day we visited the nearest Garda station and completed the statement of loss, which we mailed to DBEI. We were hopeful that the four-week countdown started when we emailed DBEI back in South Africa. At this stage we hadn’t yet heard back from the DBEI by email. If you tried to speak to someone by phone, the call centre made it clear that they are unable to directly contact the personnel that deal with the permit queries. It was about a month after arriving in Ireland that we were notified that the replacement Critical Skills Work Permit had been issued. In fairness, from the documentation available, this was on schedule. A fair warning, if your Critical Skills Work Permit goes missing it will likely take at least four weeks to get a new one based on our experience. There wasn’t any acknowledgement of receipt of emails or feedback on progress of the replacement work permit provided, which would really have been nice. The main take-away here is make sure that your work permit doesn’t end up in the hands of the South African postal services, because getting a new one in our case was unnecessarily stressful.

After more than a month of worrying we were finally able to go to our local immigration office to present the original Critical Skills Work Permit and get our passports stamped. It was a relief and felt like quite a victory.


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