The Irish Government has made changes to the restrictions it places upon foreign workers in a move that will see health and social care employers breathing a sigh of relief.

The social care sector even more than the healthcare sector is experiencing perhaps its worst staffing crisis ever, with high staff turnover and little funding to increase wages.

However, a new move from the Irish Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment could go some way to easing the pressures on the social care sector.

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One of the avenues care providers have been using to plug gaps in their workforces has been employing foreign staff.

Now, the department believes that Ireland has become a “more attractive” place to work for staff coming from abroad thanks to reduced restrictions on their ability to work in the country.

A statement from the department earlier this month said: “Non-EEA doctors already in the State for 21 months or more with a General Employment Permit may apply for a new permission granting them the right to work without a permit. Their spouses or partners will also receive a permission allowing them to work.”

It has also made its permit application forms available in an electronic format.

Earlier in the year it also made similar moves to reduce the administrative burden on non-EEA doctors working in the country.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said at the time: “For decades, doctors from outside Europe have made an enormous contribution to the Irish health service. Among them was my father, Dr Ashok Varadkar, who came to Ireland in the 1970s. The value of the contribution made by non-EEA nation doctors was particularly evident during the pandemic.

“Having worked with many non-EEA doctors, I understand their frustrations with our migration system. They are not given the same opportunities and it is hard for them to get on specialist training schemes and then apply for consultant posts. Many want to stay in Ireland and build their careers and raise their families here. We make it too hard for them and many move on to other Western countries.

“We have already changed the system to allow for a two-year employment permit so a doctor does not need to change his or her work permit every time he or she moves hospital.

“Today I’m delighted to announce further changes that will make it easier for doctors to get on the pathway to residency and to give their spouse an unlimited right to work. I believe it will make Ireland a more attractive place for doctors to move to and remove many time-consuming interactions with multiple departments, including my own.

“The work of these doctors is an example of how migration has enriched Ireland and infused our country with new knowledge, new ideas, culture and energy. Our health service simply would not function without doctors, nurses and support staff from outside the EU.

“This change will be good for the health service and lead to efficiencies in the employment permit and visa system.”

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