Waiting On A Work Permit - An Expat Saga
Somehow the two years of my initial work permit have come and gone and it is now time to apply again. While the application wasn’t as intimidating this time, it was even more stressful. This is the application that decides if I get to stay in Ireland for good or not. I wanted to document my experience of applying again for anyone who thinks the idea of working abroad is easy (hint: it isn’t as also discussed here and here), is going through the process of applying for a work permit themselves (specifically in Ireland) or for anyone who may just be curious. I want to share with you the reality of living abroad because it is not always easy or affordable. I know some people think I get to stay in Ireland through my relationship with my boyfriend because he is Irish but that is not the case. I could get a visa through him but we both do not like the idea of my visa being dependent on him. I came to Ireland alone, I have always stayed here on my own, and that is how it is going to be! Can you imagine how let down Beyoncé would be in me if she knew I wasn’t being an independent woman?
The earliest you can apply to renew your permit is 16 weeks from when your current permit expires. I had planned to start the application the moment I could. I searched online for the documents I would need but couldn’t seem to get a straight answer. I had a documents list from my first permit so I went back to that to get an idea on what I may need to get together before starting the application. However, I could not find what I would need for a renewal A N Y W H E R E. If you know where the document list for the General Work Permit renewal is, please send it on because I would love to see that this list actually exists somewhere on the Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation’s website. As I couldn’t find this information on the website, I wanted to share it here with you in case anyone reading is in the same situation or will be at some point in time. Please remember this information can change over time so this information is current as of me writing this in August 2018.
The documents listed below as of August 2018 are mandatory for the renewal application of a General Work Permit:
Passport Photo of Foreign National
Copy of Foreign National’s Passport
Copies of 3 Recent Pay slips
Copies of P60s or P21s
Contract of Employment
So, a couple of things here that may need explain - the signature page is the page the employer and employee are required to sign with the application. A P60, which I submitted, is basically a W2 in America, it just proves you pay your taxes. Everything else is pretty self-explanatory, but the simplest on here you would think would be the passport photo, but that was not the situation in my case. There are a few other documents listed but because they are not mandatory and were not relevant to me, so I am not including them here. Less is more in this situation.
Since I applied for a work permit the last time in summer 2016, everything has gone electronic. You’re probably wondering why I was filling out a paper work permit application in 2016 and the simple answer for you is, that is Ireland. Anyway, the applications have thankfully moved online in a more efficient and tidy system. You start by filling in the actual application form. The first time I applied this was the most stressful part because you have to get all the wording just right! Since I already had all the correct wording from the previous application, this part was pretty simple. It was only once the application was completely filled in did the list of documents required appear. ROLLS EYES SO HARD THEY FALL OUT OF HEAD.
While I did have access to most of the documents pretty easily, I felt a bit like a chicken running around with their head cut off trying to get it all together to upload. For reference I was filling this in at work with another coworker who also helped me apply for the permit the first time. She is beyond patient and I cannot thank her enough for assisting me with the application and being so reassuring during the process/wait time to find out if it is a yes or a no! Another thing, work is insanely busy right now so taking the time out to do this, while essential, stressed me out that I was taking time away from completing my actual work. But that work won’t matter if I don’t have a work permit!
The signature pages, copy of my passport, recent pay slips and contract were on hand so those were easy to scan and upload. The accountant was able to quickly give me all my P60s but all that remained was the stupid photo! I headed down to a local pharmacy that does passport photos and thought I would be good to go. WRONG. The photo you have to upload is very specific. Should you need a photo for a work permit I am going to put the specifications below so you can have this ready to upload when filling out the application. I went over this with the girl taking the photo multiple times and she assured me this photo was within the specifications. Now, it is my fault that I did not check the photo before leaving, but long story short, the photo was not acceptable to upload. This stupid picture held up my entire application.
Work Permit Photo Specifications:
Minimum image size is – width 413 pixels (35 mm) x height 531 pixels (45 mm)
Maximum image size is – width 448 pixels (38mm) x height 590 pixels (50mm)
Image resolution range – 240 dpi to 300 dpi
I would recommend Swan Image in Rathmines if you ever need any government ID photos taken. I should have just gone here first because they are extremely professional and know what they are doing. If you are in American in Ireland and need a passport photo for a passport renewal, come here! I got mine taken here last summer (2017) because you may not know, American passport photos are a different size to Irish ones and only a few places in town will take a photo for an American passport.
8 August 2018
The application is officially submitted! After the fiasco with the photo submitting the actual application wasn’t as much of a relief as it probably would have been had there been no issues before. Now all that’s left to do is wait - wait on the application decision and my first of possibly many emotional breakdowns brought on by this wait!
12 August 18
I thought I would have a look at where the Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation were on processing applications. They’re only processing applications that were received on 3 May 2018. I am in for a long wait and I don’t know why I am surprised by this. Ughhhh, here is to waiting for probably 3 months for my application to even be processed. I guess that is why they give you a 16 week lead up time to apply. I just hope I get an answer before my current visa expires because I hate having to go to immigration for an extension. It stresses me out! Especially when we are going to America for Christmas. I hate being in a visa limbo! No need to stress about things that have yet to happen but it is hard not to.
18 August 2018
I always tell myself to not look at the processing dates and I made it a whole 6 days! They’re processing applications from 9 May 2018 now so maybe this won’t take as long as I originally suspected? I’m not going to hold my breath. Let’s see how long I can last until I check again. Hopefully longer than 6 days!
9 September 2018
Look how long it has been since I checked in! There has been a bit of drama since my last check-in. To be fair, some of it is drama I created from being stressed. Also, just for an update on where the processing of applications is at this point – 31 May. So, in the 3ish weeks it has been since I’ve checked in with you, they have moved about 3 weeks in applications which is an okay sign I suppose. I know there are a lot of applications, and a lot of different kinds of applications being processed but I want mine processed now! Can you tell I’m an only child?
I know this post is about my work permit but along with a permit comes a visa. And I have a visa that is due to expire the end of November and I do not think my work permit renewal application is going to be processed by then so I needed to check in with GNIB (Garda National Immigration Bureau - where you go to register as an immigrant basically) for a visa extension. Getting an appointment with the GNIB has always been bad experience for me, and many other immigrants. When I first moved to Ireland you had to que outside of the building and HOPE to get a ticket in for that day because there were only so many tickets given out per day. If you weren’t in like the first 100-150 people in the que, you basically didn’t get in and would have to come do it again another time. The ques would be so long that they would wrap around the building. For reference, this isn’t a standalone building, there’s like 3-4 other shops all in the one building so for the que to wrap around, there had to be A LOT of people. Most people would start queuing around 4:00am but the last time I queued outside I got there at 11pm the night before and stayed outside until 8am when the building opened. Yup, 11pm, you read that right! It was always an embarrassing procedure, not to mention disgraceful that a developed country was handling this process in such an unprofessional manner, and unsafe. I tell you all this so you’ll understand when it was announced that GNIB appointments would move to an online booking system, there was some hope in making the process better. And while the online booking system has cut the queuing all night crap, you are now fighting to get a spot online with thousands of others. Essentially you now get to HOPE you get a ticket but from the comfort of your own home, hitting refresh over and over, while holding your breath that the site doesn’t crash, again.
I was terrified I was not going to get in because I was looking up what people were saying online and some were saying they had been trying every single day for 4 months trying to get in. Then an article came out about bots blocking up the appointments. Cue my own stress-induced drama. After a bit of research, I found an app called GNIB Appointments. From what I found online, and whether this is true or not I don’t know, but supposedly an international PhD student made the app to help others find appointments. In short, the app will alert you of when certain appointments (work, study, etc.) become available. Now, you have to be FAST when the appointments do pop up because like I said, you are fighting with thousands of people for these slots. I bought the app for €1.09 and sat on it with the GNIB appointment form open on my laptop. It paid off though because I got an appointment for the next day!
With my current visa close to expiration, I wanted to go in and make sure that I could extend the visa to ensure that I do not overstay my visa. I have had to get visa extensions before and the office has always given them to me but they must have changed the rules on this slightly. The person I was dealing with at the office explained you can only get an extension for 3 months from the day of your GNIB appointment. If I had gotten an extension when I went yesterday I would have only been good until 8 December which is useless for me since I am flying home for Christmas on 19 December. This person was SO nice though and made me an appointment for a few days before my visa expires so I can get an extension, or if for some reason my renewal comes back before this, my new visa! I really appreciate that they made this appointment so I do not have to sit on the app and my computer all day again. I also think they were surprised to see me basically 3 months before my visa expired but I explained that I took whatever appointment I could get as they are so hard to come by. I am just so relieved to know I am going back to get everything sorted so that I will be able to leave Ireland for Christmas.
13 November 2018
Hi, long time no talk. That’s because I finally got my worrying under control and let go of the anxiety I was allowing this application to cause me. Well, I’m glad I had those two somewhat blissful months of not worrying as much because guess what? My renewal application for my work permit has been denied. This is not a new feeling – my first ever work permit application was denied too. My company is extremely supportive and backed me then so I am hopeful they will now again. The reasons for denial seem to be purely bureaucratic which makes me, as much as I can be, hopeful for a renewal after submitting a Decision for Review. I am slightly annoyed because one of the reasons I was denied is because my wages on my first permit do not match the wages I earn list on my new application…yeah, because I got a raise. I thought that getting a raise would work in my favor but I suppose it hasn’t. It is so odd because I also had to submit proof of my wages so it wasn’t like a random salary was slapped on the application with no proof that I earn that. I feel like I want to cry but the tears will not come. I had planned to go do some Christmas shopping tonight but now all I want to do is sulk and have some wine.
One last thing! I would also like to point out that the letter I received to say my application was denied is dated 12 November 2018 so I was dead on when I wrote on 12 August 2018 that it would be a 3-month waiting period!
26 November 2018
I’m on the Luas into town for my immigration appointment. I thought this appointment would be me getting my new visa for the year but instead it’s me going in asking for an extension to stay through my appeal process. I feel like I’m going to cry.
I never like going into the immigration office but especially not when things are really out of my hands. My visa expires Friday so my stomach is in knots hoping they’ll allow me to stay. The office is dingy and the people working there don’t tend to always be the nicest. I can understand why though, they’re probably dealing with a lot of nonsense all day. Blah. I’m going to go to Starbucks before so I can get a small treat like I always do and use their toilet. I would honestly rather pee all over my legs than use the toilet in the immigration office.
6 January 2019
Well, hopefully I should hear back by the end of this month regarding a decision on my visa. I’m in a really weird mood about it but I keep trying to tell myself to be positive. Easier said than done! I’m sure the Christmas break is going to delay me getting an answer and I booked an appointment with immigration at the end of the month with the hopes of having a positive answer. The appointments are so hard to come by so fingers crossed I can stay AND use this appointment! I will obviously be happy if I get a ‘yes’ on my visa but the stress of making an appointment to get my new stamp in my passport and immigration card is so bad! Ugh, need to put all of this to the side until it needs to actually be dealt with.
Oh, and I’m assuming you figured out that they did let me stay at that appointment! I originally thought I would only get a 3-month extension but I got 4!
7 February 2019
The department that deals with work permits have come back asking for a certain document for a THIRD time. This is bureaucracy at its finest. I’ve now gotten added health issues on top of waiting for this permit to come through so I am basically a big ball of nerves walking around right now. I feel as if I am always on the edge of tears or so frustrated that I can’t see straight. I’m trying to not spend my time being upset or worried but it’s hard. I’m a natural worrier!
11 February 2019
I found out on the 8th of February, exactly 6 months to the day that my renewal application was submitted that I had been approved for my new work permit. I slept for 13 hours that night and I can confidently say it was because of the relief I experienced knowing I was able to stay and knowing that I never have to fill another freakin’ work permit application out again in Ireland. I feel like I have been processing it since I found out and only now felt like I was ready to put the finishing touch to this what felt like, never-ending, journey.
I hope this gives faith to someone else in this process, about to enter this process, or potentially thinking of going down this route. If you are in this process, you are not alone! It is scary and it is easy for other people to tell you ‘ah sure, don’t worry about it! It’ll be grand!” Yeah, it’ll be grand for you, you’re not the one with your life up in the air waiting on Irish bureaucracy to give you an answer. If you are entering this process, say hello to potentially the next few months of your life! It can hit you out of nowhere that your entire life is in the hands of some government workers but don’t let that get you down too much!!
If nothing else, I am happy I documented this. It’s easy to only feel the relief and the calm take over once you are approved and forgot all the emotions you felt. I will look back at this one day probably and be like, ‘Jesus you really should’ve calmed down’ but today is not that day.
If you have any questions on working abroad in Ireland or work permits feel free to reach out. x
*thumbnail image not original to Candid Alexandra. Stock image from Typorama.