Citizens of Bulgaria and Romania will be given the unrestricted right to work in Ireland immediately 17 months ahead of the scheduled date in 2014, according to the Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation.
Although Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007, there was a seven-year transition period before their citizens would gain full access to the labour markets of other member states.
The rules had gradually been relaxed, with certain categories having access to work here - including the self employed, students and people who were self-sufficient.
In recent years, less than 450 work permit applications from the two countries were received annually, with about 350 being approved.
All restrictions were due to expire automatically on 1 January 2014 - giving Bulgarian and Romanian citizens full access to work in Ireland.
However, a review of the situation found that while applications peaked at 3,600 in 2003, they fell to just over 500 applications from both countries combined last year.
The review also found that the population of Romanians and Bulgarians living in Ireland fell by around 3000 between 2008 and last year.
The Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation said the review identified a clear pattern of work permit applications from the countries under discussion that follows closely economic circumstances and prospects of employment.
It said that it had become clear that the basis for continuing restrictions on access to the labour market for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals was now questionable.
Only nine of the 27 other EU member states currently retain restrictions of any sort on access to their labour markets by Bulgarian and Romanian nationals.