Last year my Department issued more than 18,000 permits for the employment of non-European Economic Area nationals, compared with 6200 in the pre vious year. This was achieved through a combination of streamlining of the procedures in dealing with applications and the sanctioning of overtime and Saturday working by the staff of the work permit section of the Department.
The number of applications for work permits received by my Department continues to increase and additional staff are currently being assigned to the area to deal with this.
The principal issue raised by Irish employers in relation to work permits is the period of time taken to deal with applications. In this respect I am happy to say that, notwithstanding the increased volumes of applications, we have succeeded in reducing the average time taken to deal with an application from eight weeks down to four weeks at present and I am confident that we can reduce this period still further when the extra staff are assigned.