The processing of applications for employment permits will take a further one to two weeks, in addition to normal wait, due to the large volume of applications from the agricultural sector, according to Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

Approximately 1,000 horticulture applications and 2,000 meat applications were made and are currently being processed, the Tánaiste said.

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment was responding to a parliamentary question raised by independent TD for Laois-Offaly, Deputy Carol Nolan.

The current volume of employment-permits applications represents an 11-year high which, Deputy Nolan said, is “alarming”.

“Many of these employers have been trying for months and, in some cases, longer than that to have their applications processed, but they continue to face a significant amount of time waiting for a decision,” she said.

Deputy Nolan said this issue is increasingly brought to her attention by local rural employers who are struggling to find staff with appropriate skills.

The independent TD for Laois-Offaly called on the minister to ensure that Irish businesses, and in particular rural employers, are fully supported by enabling them to have access to properly qualified staff in a timely manner.

Employment permits

The number of applications received between January and December 2021 reached 27,666, representing a 69% increase over the same period in 2020, and a 47% increase on 2019, according to the Tánaiste.

This significant increase in applications for employment permits has impacted processing times, the Tánaiste said. He added:

“The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment recognises the impact delays in the processing times for work permits has for businesses and their workers, and significant resources have been allocated to processing times.” 

The department expects to see a consistent fall in waiting times for general employment permits from mid-May, with processing times considerably reduced by the end of quarter two this year, he added.