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Pooja Sawant says she and her husband had a choice.

They could have gone to the United Kingdom or to Ireland, she says. But they chose here, because of the spouse permit, the Stamp 3, which made it look as if it would be simpler for her to find work here than there.

A page on the Department of Business’s website notes how spouse employment permits are there “to support the attractiveness” of Ireland to talented employees. “What about after the attraction? The marriage has to work,” she says.

Despite having her Stamp 3, which she thought would be enough, Irish employers have declined to hire her – she says they ask for a Stamp 4, instead.

She was an assistant professor back home, but here she is barred from working, stuck at home, trying to keep occupied by polishing up her housekeeping and cooking skills.

“I have thought about going back to India because I feel I can have no career here, and my husband can stay here if he wants,” says Sawant.

Not Alone

Sawant is not the only one who has faced this difficulty.

Shashank Chakerwarti, who set up Indian Youth Ireland and is chair of Dublin West for Young Fine Gael, has a dossier full of documents from others with Stamp 3 status or Stamp 1G status who have also been turned down by employers for that reason.

Those with Stamp 1G status are students from non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries, who have graduated from a university or college in Ireland.

The Stamp 1G gives them up to 24 months after graduation to find a job relevant to their studies and, once they have a job offer, to get an employment permit from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, by email.

“These people are well settled,” Chakerwarti says, and many have years of experience in IT and have paid to study here but – because they don’t have a Stamp 4 – they are being overlooked.

Those with Stamp 3 status are spouses or partners of people who have come to Ireland to work and have employment permits. The Stamp 3 holder can look for a job, and, once they have an offer, apply for a work permit and get to work.

They are “eligible to seek any employment and apply to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation for a Dependant/Partner/Spouse Employment Permit which is currently issued free of charge”, said a spokesperson for the Department of Justice.

Chakerwarti leafs through his dossier and highlights emails involving a man who went to three interviews with a company before having a back-and-forth over his stamp – and then being rejected.

“Even though they offered him the job,” Chakerwarti said. “And after that, they said no.”

The Department of Jobs is currently investing €1.9 million in its Tech/Life Ireland push to try to attract thousands to tech workers to Ireland.

Some of that funding should be diverted to raise awareness of the rights of people holding a Stamp 1G or a Stamp 3 who are already here, he says.

Turned Down

Richard Grogan, a solicitor specialising in employment law, says he believes that people are being excluded because of “ignorance”, rather than anything else.

Employers can struggle to understand stamps, he says. There’s no “idiot guide” for how to employ people from outside the EEA.

But if somebody on a Stamp 3 applies for a job, and sets out how the process and eligibility works, and they are still rejected, they might be able to take a case with the Workplace Relations Commission, he said.

“They may very well have an equality case” unless the employer can prove they have a legitimate reason, he says.

He hasn’t seen any cases like that yet. But “until there are cases taken, there will not be a change in attitude”, he says.

At the moment, there seems to be a rush of cases from older employees for age discrimination, so employers are training up on that. “If claims are not brought, employers don’t see it as a problem,” he said.

Grogan says there is a shortage of workers right now in Ireland. “Unfortunately we don’t have a history of understanding visas. It used to be that you just needed a work permit. It was relatively easy for employers to understand.”

Different Paths

Chakerwarti turns to his dossier to offer more evidence that jobseekers on stamps 1G and 3 are being told that they don’t have the right to work, even in cases where they do.

That includes a job advert posted by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) in 2016, which opened its graduate scheme for 2017.

“Applicants must be eligible to work in Ireland – applications will be considered from non-EU nationals who are in possession of a current Stamp 4 visa,” the advert says.

A spokesperson for the agency said, by email, that “applications for the NTMA graduate programme will be considered from non-EU nationals who are lawfully entitled to work in Ireland”. He wouldn’t comment on whether that included those on a Stamp 3 or a Stamp 1G.

Jobseekers have sent Chakerwarti emails from consulting firms and companies, including Sigmar Recuitment, Morgan McKinley, Intercom and HP|Konnect.

Jamie Harnett, an associate director at Sigmar Recruitment, said that ultimately, they don’t make the decision on whether a candidate is considered for a role based on their visa status or stamp. “This is down to the individual company themselves”, he said.

“Companies tend to hire candidates with visa requirements themselves rather than through an agency, so we have no visibility on how many are hired or ruled out of process,” said Harnett.

A spokesperson for Morgan McKinley, a recruitment agency, said that Stamp 1G and Stamp 3 are not applicable in professional-services recruitment, citing permissions set out by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS).

Stamp 1G holders are recent graduates, so “our clients’ demand for candidates with this level of experience and visa requirement are not high typically”, they said.

The Stamp 3 conditions are that “you cannot work or engage in any business, trade or profession”, they said. (But, as the Department of Justice spokesperson said, those on Stamp 3 have the right to apply for a work permit free of charge.)

Among Chakerwarti’s documents are emails from the tech recruitment firm HP| Konnect asking if a candidate had an active work permit, and, specifically, a Stamp 4.

Another company, the software firm, Intercom, told a candidate that they would not be moving forward with her application, as they require someone with eligibility to work in Ireland – the candidate in question was on a Stamp 3.

Spokespeople for Intercom, and HP|Konnect, declined to comment.

So where does this mismatch between expectations and reality leave Stamp 1G or Stamp 3 holders?

“I am completely dependent on my spouse. For even, anything. Even buying a carton of milk, I can’t earn 75 cents in this country,” says Anuja Patwardhan.

Sawant says she was busy and independent in India but, despite applying for hundreds of jobs, she is now essentially a home-maker.

“My cooking skills have improved. My husband’s a happy man. For him it’s a good thing, for me it’s a bad thing because now I’m in charge of the kitchen,” she says.

“My husband says, ‘Before you came here, your rotis [flatbreads] were like a map of India and now they are like the moon.’”

[CORRECTION: This article was updated on 28 June at 15.42pm. Due to an editing error, Anuja Patwardhan’s name was spelt wrong. Apologies.]

Zuzia Whelan

Zuzia Whelan is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

Join the Conversation


  1. Where did this “rule” come from? Is it an EU requirement or something dreamed up by us?

    Since she seems to be a FGer why hasn’t she done what everybody else seems to , use a TD….

  2. There is a guide to Stamp 1G, linked from here which jobseekers should bring with them – – “You can work for a maximum of 40 hours per week. If you wish to continue working after Stamp 1G expires, you must find a job that requires an employment permit and then follow the usual application process. Your other permissions and conditions remain the same as for Stamp 2/2A.” According to that site, Stamp 3 does not allow work at all.

    1. This is the biggest problem. The inis website doesn’t document everything. While its true that stamp 3 doesn’t allow you to work, spouses of critical skills employment permit holders (who are on stamp 3) can get a work permit and change to stamp 1 once they have a job offer. This work permit is free and easy to apply, but there is a waitlist of 2-3 months. The biggest issue here is the ignorance. Most of the employers aren’t aware of all this.

  3. Very good article!
    In addition, the processes fot stamp 3 people, once submitted, are taking over 3 months to get the approval, does not help at all!! A shame!

  4. Unfortunately it’s a Shame… I’m here because I got a work permit and brought my whole family. Despite my wife having more than 10 years of experience in IT, She cannot work here because companies deny to wait months until she gets the permission to work… My opinion is that once here with me, my work permit should be valid for both.

    1. Join our Current / former Stamp 3 in Ireland Facebook group and share your story! We’re trying to find a way to improve our situation as Stamp 3 holders.

  5. Another major problem is that people on stamp 3 can’t take jobs lasting less than a year, for no obvious reason, which precludes them from taking on contract work and can lock them in bad/abusive/generally mediocre employment situations.

  6. A very Good article Zuzia!
    Thankyou so much for raising voice for us.It has been 1.5 years I am looking for a job initially I was tensed by not getting a single positive response,that has turned into a depression phase now.I am even thinking up on option of leaving my husband and 7 years old and going back to my own country as I don’t see any future here for me.I have 18 years of education,Mphil in human resources, and I am just wasting myself and completely dependent on my husband for every single thing.

  7. Thank you for your article and brought this subject onto table. There are lots of IT expats sharing same story. Also, those people are paying highest taxes and deeply support economical growth for Ireland. Tech companies are highly dependent of those people. To continue sustainable growth, goverment needs to solve this problem.

  8. I have the same problem. Many employers decline accept my wife because she has a stamp 3. They also don’t want to give a letter in order to apply for a work permit, especially if takes 3 months to get the work permit.

    Another problem is if you want to change to another job, even if I am a High Skilled Worker, I can only do that after a year. After that, If I want to change, I have to ask for another work permit and wait up to 3 months to get the new one. Also, I cannot work until I get the new on (basically unemployed for 3 months).

    1. For what it’s worth Andre, if you have a Critical Skills Employment permit you’ll be on stamp 4 after two years. Not much use to your partner though…

    2. Join our Current / former Stamp 3 in Ireland Facebook group and share your story! We’re trying to find a way to improve outr situation as Stamp 3 holders.

  9. i recently completed my masters, i will be having stamp 1g soon. But many employers reject me completely by saying you dont have stamp 4.
    And these jobs are like 6 months contract or an year contract, Stamp 1G covers 2 years duration easily.
    Some recruiters wont even accept stamp 1G at all for any job.

    After spending so much time, away from my family, from my wife my son, my parents, i cant even call them unless i get a suitable job.
    i had spent so hard time here and after completing it all, i get rejected just because i will have stamp 1G, sounds like its a disease.

    I am heart broken from all of this.

  10. Thank you for raising awareness about this issue that impacts so many expat families in Ireland. My husband and I are US citizens who moved here in February 2018 after my husband was transferred to the Dublin office of the large, multinational company he works for. His company had no trouble securing a Critical Skills permit for him, but that leaves me with a stamp 3, and despite holding a master’s level degree and having a successful career in the US, I’ve experienced many of the same challenges finding a job as the voices in this article.

    Having the ability to apply for a Spouse/Dependent work permit means nothing when the processing time routinely takes 3 months. What company can afford to wait 3 months to fill a role, even for a great candidate? That’s a non-starter for most employers. Losing the ability to work after having a full and fulfilling career has greatly impacted my mental health and has made my husband and I seriously question whether we should stay in Ireland for the long-term.

    If the Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation really wants to make Ireland an attractive country for expats with the in-demand skills needed to develop Ireland’s economy, it must pay more attention to how it supports (or doesn’t support) the spouses of those workers. Ireland and the rest of the EU can make itself more attractive for highly skilled international workers by relaxing work permit regulations for their spouses. That’s a “win win” for families and also local economies. The Permits Foundation is doing valuable work by campaigning governments around the world to do just that. I encourage anyone interested in this topic to check out their website:

    1. I don’t know what you and your husband’s plans are, but if you have a child that’s an Irish citizen you get stamp IV (look up Zambrano)

      A child is an Irish citizen if born after three years of a parent’s lawful residence in Ireland, so it wouldn’t be a quick fix.

      Pretty drastic approach but thought I’d mention it!

      1. Hi Robert. Thanks for the comment. You’re right that having a kid is a pretty drastic way to go about getting a stamp 4, but it would be a nice “bonus” if we decide to stay and have children here in a few years. Thanks!

    2. Join our Current / former Stamp 3 in Ireland FB group and share your story! We’re trying to find a way to improve outr situation as Stamp 3 holders.

  11. Anyone having a Stamp 3 and interested in sharing their stories and participating to improve our situation, join our FB group “Current / former Stamp 3 in Ireland”.

  12. Guys, the process of making Spouse work permit not 3 months – in March my friend made it for 5 weeks! She was lucky and the employer was my husband – who already knew everything about Stamp3. But as for me – I am looking for a job since October – but always being declined of stamp 3!(

  13. I am in the same situation as many others who have voiced their frustrations in the article and the comments. My husband has stamp 4, I have stamp 3 and been in Dublin for more than a year, have a PhD and yet I am struggling to get a job here.

    The ‘express’ child system to get Stamp 4 cannot possibly get any crazier – have a child (on a single-income household), get Stamp 4, bear the cost of raising a child while trying to survive with crazy rents in Dublin and get a job (hopefully, one that is supportive of and not biased against new mothers).

    Like someone else who mentioned about having a choice between UK and Ireland, we too had the choice and we chose the latter, partly because getting a job for Stamp 3 holders of critical skills’ work permit holders was made to sound so easy. Clearly, it’s not the case.

    After reading this post, I realise that there are many of us in the same situation than I had imagined. I think we could possibly raise our voice as a group affected by this policy. Is there anything we can do to make our frustrations heard to the government? Like starting a petition online or something else?

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