Agreement has also been reached to begin the roll out of a single permit to both work and live in Ireland which will eventually allow Ireland to opt into the EU’s Single Permit Directive.

At the moment, applicants have to apply to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment for a work permit, and then go to the Department of Justice to apply for a visa.

“By introducing a single permission, we can reduce the cost and complexity for both employers and applicants of having to separately obtain employment and residence permits,” said Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.

“This will ensure that we can respond effectively and quickly to meet the skills needs of the economy,” she added.

The Government said that by opting in to the EU Single Permit Directive, it will remove barriers to attracting key skills into Ireland in important sectors such as healthcare and construction and reduce the cost and complexity of the current system.

“Ireland’s ability to attract and retain skilled workers is increasingly important given the demographic challenges which face the whole of Europe with an aging population and sustained full employment in Ireland,” said Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Peter Burke.

“I believe joining the Single Permit Directive and enabling spouses or partners of workers to also contribute to the economy will be key in ensuring that we can bring much needed skills and experience to the labour market across all sectors of the economy,” Mr Burke said.

The Department of Justice said the wider issue of family reunification waiting periods and other matters is currently the subject of an ongoing review of the Non-EEA Family Reunification Policy.

Chambers Ireland’s Chief Executive, Ian Talbot said the Government’s commitment to rolling out a single permit system is a “very positive” move for businesses across the country that have been constrained by skills and labour shortages.

“In a survey carried out by Chambers Ireland last year, we found that almost nine out of ten businesses that responded were facing significant challenges recruiting essential employees with sufficient skills and qualifications,” he said.

“We are therefore supportive of the proposals to streamline the decision-making process, as delays within the dual permit and visa system were prohibitively impacting businesses.

“This move represents an important step to increasing our competitiveness and ensuring we stay agile in the global race for talent,” he added.