A man standing at an airport window with a suitcase looking at a plane representing someone with Stamp 3 visa.
Image: © anyaberkut/Stock.adobe.com

A significant change has been made to the Stamp 3 visa

6 Mar 2019

Those in possession of a Stamp 3 visa will soon be eligible to apply for work as soon as they arrive in Ireland.

Today (6 March) the Irish Government has announced a significant change to the Critical Skills Employment Permit (Stamp 3), which will give partners and spouses of Stamp 1 visa-holders immediate and full access to the labour market without the need for a separate employment permit.

The Critical Skills Employment visa is aimed at “highly skilled” workers and is considered a Stamp 1 visa. Those who are eligible for a Stamp 1 visa can have their spouses or partners join them on a Stamp 3 visa. However, previously, those in possession of a Stamp 3 visa could not enter the labour market.

‘A bureaucratic labyrinth’

While Stamp 3 visa-holders could apply for work under this visa, they would need to apply for a Stamp 1 visa in order to actually enter the workforce. This has caused massive confusion among employers, leading to problems with actually being able to secure employment for those holding a Stamp 3 visa. The complications and arising problems led to a campaign by the Stamp 3 Association to reform the visa and provide clarity on the rules.

In 2017, a total of 8,423 Stamp 3 visas were issued, while only 590 work permits were granted to Stamp 3 holders.

Today’s announcement from Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, TD, means that from 1 April 2019, spouses of those coming to Ireland with a Critical Skills Employment Permit will be eligible to apply for work as soon as they arrive in the country.

Nahla Bastawi from the Stamp 3 Association said this is a huge step forward. “For many months and years, we have been battling a bureaucratic labyrinth. While we had the right to work on paper, due to a lack of clarity on our eligibility among recruiters and employers, in addition to the huge delays in spousal employment permit processing, this right was practically unworkable.”

Bastawi added that this development is not only a huge relief to those in need or possession of a Critical Skills Employment Permit, but an important development for Irish employers.

“[They] can be confident that when they employ someone with a Critical Skills Employment Permit, they are more likely to stay if their spouse has an avenue to work and independence.”

The American Chamber of Commerce Ireland, which represents more than 700 US companies in Ireland, also welcomed the visa changes.

In a statement, the Chamber said this change will bring certainty to employers and the families of Critical Skills Employment Permit holders. “The new process will contribute to enhance Ireland’s overall competitiveness in a rapidly changing talent environment.”

More work to do

This is a landmark decision for tech workers coming to Ireland. Ankita Ahluwalia from the Stamp 3 Association said: “A lot of us felt that if we had known the barriers we would face, we probably would not have chosen to come to Ireland. Today’s decision is a win-win for both parties.”

However, Ahluwalia also warns that there is still more work to do in terms of visa reform. “We are still very concerned this avenue is not open to spouses of General Skills Permit holders. We will continue to call for fair access to employment for all holders of spousal Stamp 3 permits.”

This refers to the General Employment Permit, which is applicable to all occupations not included in either the Critical Skills occupation list or the ineligible occupations list.

Earlier this year, Careers reporter Eva Short broke down the details of visas needed by non-EEA citizens to get work in Ireland.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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