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Non-EU doctors to be eligible for stamp 4 after two years

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar is planning to change the employment permit rules in the new year to allow non-EEA doctors apply for their stamp 4 permit after only two years, compared to five years currently, the Medical Independent (MI) understands.

The stamp 4 employment permit gives the right of permanent residency to holders.

The changes would mean that doctors from countries outside the EU and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, who are currently working here, would have security of residency much sooner. It would also mean a doctor’s spouse and children can live in Ireland. The reform is especially significant as stamp 4 holders are to be considered equivalent to Irish/EU/UK candidates when applying for specialist training positions following a policy change announced by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly in September.

Most non-EU doctors are on general employment permits, which currently allow them to apply for stamp 4 after five years. While doctors are eligible for critical skills permits -which facilitate an application for stamp 4 after two years – these permits require the offer of a minimum two-year contract and the HSE generally does not offer these terms to NCHDs.

The planned change would ensure that non-EU doctors on general employment permits would be eligible to apply for stamp 4 residency after two years.

The Tánaiste is understood to be keen to recognise the huge contribution of healthcare workers during the pandemic, many of whom come from outside Europe. This reform will be in addition to the recent introduction of two-year multi-site employment permits (irrespective of length of initial employment contract), meaning doctors in the public system no longer have to apply for a new permit every time they change location. It also builds on Minister Donnelly’s changes to the policy regarding the application of EU/EEA community preference to postgraduate medical training programmes.

In September, Minister Donnelly announced that all categories of stamp 4 holders would be deemed equivalent to Irish, EU and UK nationals in the allocation of specialist training positions. Previously, only limited categories of stamp 4 holders were deemed equivalent during the allocation process, meaning that most non-EU doctors could not attain a training position, irrespective of merit.

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