Will 'Brexit' strengthen Ireland's position as an immigration hub?

Brexit & immigration

Following the United Kingdom vote to leave the European Union, amongst many concerns are the implications for Irish immigration law.

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Will 'Brexit' strengthen Ireland's position as an immigration hub?

It is important to note that there will no immediate or automatic effect of the leave vote but employers will have to consider how best to ensure their European and global executives can move freely within Europe including between Britain and Ireland.

What does 'Brexit' mean for Ireland?

Amongst the many implications of Brexit is the possible reintroduction of passport controls between the Republic of Ireland and the UK. Ireland currently has an agreement with the UK named the Common Travel Area ("CTA"). The CTA enables the UK and Irish nationals to be treated almost identically in both states, including unrestricted access to employment. The CTA led to the development of the Short Stay Visa Waiver Programme which enables certain non-EEA visa required nationals to travel between Ireland and the UK without performing any additional immigration formalities. It has also led to the creation of the British Irish Visa Scheme which permits Chinese and Indian nationals visiting the UK on a short term basis to travel to Ireland and vice-versa without additional immigration requirements.

Should the CTA cease, there may be significant changes to the movement of people between the Republic of Ireland and the UK. It has been suggested that immigration control would need to be established at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and at all airports and ports to the UK, so as to not allow an EU backdoor into the UK via Ireland. Employment permits may be required for Irish citizens working in the UK and for UK citizens working in the Republic of Ireland. Further, it is likely that the current Short Stay Visa Waiver Programme and the British Irish Visa Scheme would also cease to exist.

It may also be noteworthy that should the CTA cease, the Republic of Ireland may not have a reason to opt out of the Schengen Convention. To provide a brief description, the Schengen Convention is an agreement among some European states which allows for the abolition of systematic border controls between the participating countries. It also includes provisions on common policy on the temporary entry of people (including the Schengen Visa) and the harmonisation of external border controls. Previously, Ireland chose to opt out of the Schengen Convention so as to maintain the CTA with the UK. In the event that the CTA is abolished and Ireland chooses to join the Schengen Convention, this would also lead to further changes to the current Irish immigration system.

What does this mean for HR practice?

Employers need to be cognisant of the fact that changes to Irish immigration law are afoot, which will impact on employment arrangements. Global employers are attracted to the Irish Trusted Partner Initiative and the Atypical Working Scheme (among others) which enable many global executives to work in Ireland and given the efficiencies of such schemes, we expect a further interest in them.

We will continue to advise on the effect of 'Brexit' on British nationals working in Ireland; however, the implications of the vote for such workers will likely depend on the terms of the agreements the UK manages to negotiate with its EU partners and whether or not it joins the single market, European Economic Area (which includes Norway and Iceland), or the European Free Trade Association (which includes Norway and Switzerland). In any event, we expect an increase in citizenship applications and claims for Irish residency.

It has been suggested that more jobs will be created in Ireland as a result of employers needing to base their employees within the EU and accordingly we envisage an increase in recruitment and consequently employment permit applications, ultimately leading to longer processing times.

In light of the expected delays in processing applications, HR practitioners will come under increasing pressure to manage timelines of establishing new recruits in Ireland. Accordingly, we advise HR practitioners to consult with KPMG's Employment and Immigration team early in their recruitment process.

If you have any questions on these or any other employment law or immigration matters, please do not hesitate to contact Aoife Newton, above.

Employment & immigration law

Employment & immigration law

KPMG’s Employment and Immigration Law unit is a dedicated division within Legal Services, offering practical legal advice on areas of employment law.

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