719. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Justice if she has plans to decrease the processing times in respect of atypical work permits especially for persons classed as essential workers; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the delay in processing of such permits is having a negative impact on industries such as the fishing industry as essential workers are being lost to other jurisdictions due to more favourable processing times of employment permits in those jurisdictions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13166/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): I can inform the Deputy that there are currently no delays in the processing of applications for permission under the Atypical Working Scheme (AWS).
The Scheme supports a vast array of industries who have a requirement for specialised or highly-skilled individuals. In addition, the AWS Unit of the Immigration Service of my Department processes a considerable number of applications for permission made by or on behalf of frontline medical personnel who are urgently required to assist in the national response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
To date this year, over 1,000 decisions have issued on applications for permission under the Scheme. The vast majority (over 80%) of these applications have been made by or on behalf of doctors and nurses. In line with agreements with the Health Services Executive, the Department of Health and other key stakeholders in the provision of these essential services in the State, processing of applications in the healthcare sector is occurring within 5 working days of receipt of all in-order application documents. While other AWS stakeholders are advised that the prioritisation of such applications may result in delays experienced by non-medical applicants, in practice no such delays exist at present.
Approximately 50 applications have been received to date this year for permission to work in the Irish fishing fleet, and decisions have issued in respect of the vast majority of these applications. The average processing time for properly completed applications for this sector to date in 2021, is less than 7 working days. The stated minimum processing time under the published terms of the Scheme is 21 working days.