More chefs from outside the country will be eligible for employment permits allowing them to work in Ireland, as a result of changes announced by Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys today.
The move, which follows a review of labour market requirements, is aimed at addressing staff shortages in the hospitality sector.
Other modifications to the system are also being made to increase the supply of workers from outside Ireland coming to work in construction, health and road haulage.
"A strong economy and full employment present their own challenges as labour shortages in certain sectors demonstrate," said Ms Humphreys.
"I am pleased to announce these changes, which will fill immediate gaps in businesses across a range of sectors."
At present, in order for workers from outside the European Economic Area to work legally in Ireland, they must have employment permits.
These occupational permits are managed through lists that both define critical skills and rule out certain occupations as ineligible.
Twice a year, the Government reviews these lists by reviewing evidence and submissions from interested parties, before adding and removing occupations as labour market supply and demand dynamics require it.
The latest review, which comes into effect from 1 January next, has proposed changes to address immediate labour shortages in key sectors of growth, including health, construction, hospitality and road haulage.
Chefs will no longer have a quota of 650 permits and all grades including commis chefs, who had previously been restricted, will be eligible for permits.
The move will provide a boost to the hospitality sector, which employs 152,000 people, and is struggling to attract and retain sufficient numbers of kitchen staff.
All nurses, not just those with a degree, will also be able to qualify for a Critical Skills Employment Permit.
This system allows permit holders the right to immediately bring their family with them and gives them a right to work.
It also offers a fast-track route to long-term residency after two years.
Until now, nurses from outside the EEA with a diploma rather than a degree could only access a General Employment Permit, which carries fewer benefits.
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The Government has also decided to add further professional occupations in the construction sector to the Critical Skills Employment Permit list, and remove roles such as foreman, architectural technician and construction safety officer from the ineligible list.
A further 200 permits will also be made available for heavy goods vehicle drivers, to address shortages in the transport and logistics sectors.
"The sectors involved have had to prove that they are making every effort to recruit staff domestically and train up workers," Ms Humphreys said.
"Ultimately this is the primary way of dealing with labour shortages in the longer term."
The chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland has welcomed the moves by Ms Humphreys.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Adrian Cummins said it was a good news story for the hospitality industry and that the RAI has been lobbying for it for some time.
He said around 5,000 chefs are needed each year, but only around 1,800 are trained in Ireland each year, so there is a shortfall.
He said a cap on two work permits per premises was lifted, which he said was welcome.
The RAI would now turn its attention, Mr Cummins said, to addressing a shortage of front-of-house staff, as an overall skills shortage still remained.
He said it wanted to address the fact that not enough young people are interested in going into work in the hospitality sector.