Ireland’s immigration rules need radical reform to fast-track visa applications for overseas finance workers, it was claimed today.
Financial Services Ireland, a branch of business federation IBEC, said restricting migrants from outside of Europe was at odds with the country’s open industrial policy.
Aileen O’Donoghue, FSI director, called on the Government to adopt special migration measures for the financial sector to allow non-EU nationals to enter the labour market.
“Our industrial policy is geared to attracting investment from key non-EU jurisdictions such as the US, but our migration policy makes it difficult to bring senior staff to Ireland to establish new business here,” she said.
“This does not make sense and needs to be reformed swiftly.”
IBEC said the employment in the financial services was up by 50% since 1998 and forecast to grow by a further 75% by 2020.
Speaking at the Financial Services Ireland annual conference in Dublin Ms O’Donoghue said the sector should be treated differently than other areas of the economy.
“Unlike other sectors of the economy, the Irish financial sector needs graduates from outside the EU to serve those markets which we are exporting financial services to, to bring important investment business to Ireland and to allow us to access key specialist skills for global finance which are scarce,” she said.
“Special measures are needed to accommodate the strong forecast for growth in the Irish financial sector.
“Firstly, we need to establish fast-track measures for specific occupations in the work visa/authorisation scheme – similar measures already exist for healthcare, construction and ICT.
“Secondly, we need to have the intra-company transfer scheme reintroduced to allow the transfer of key staff from non-EU jurisdictions.”
Ms O’Donoghue said Ireland will need 300,000 new graduates over the next five years to meet demand.
She added: “The Government’s recent commitment to establish a Centre for Financial Services Skills and an International Financial Services Skills Fund should be acknowledged.
“These initiatives have the potential to deal with our skill gaps in the longer term. However, we need to deal with the migration issue now. Financial services exports have grown substantially and now account for 35% of all Irish services exports.
“We need to take the initiative to enable Ireland to grow further in this area and to position itself in the top end of global financial services activity.”