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Coming to set up a business or invest in Ireland

Information

If you are an EEA or Swiss national you are entitled to come and work in Ireland either as an employed or a self-employed person. EEA and Swiss nationals do not require a business permission to establish a business in Ireland and they do not require a visa to visit, travel to, live or work in Ireland. Non-EEA nationals can establish a business in Ireland but they require permission to do so. Following the opening of 2 new schemes for non-EEA investors and entrepreneurs on 16 April 2012 there are now 3 ways in which non-EEA nationals can invest or start a business in Ireland – see ‘Schemes for self-employed non-EEA nationals’ below.

Changes to the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP) from 15 March 2014 include a reduction of the required minimum investment from €75,000 to €50,000 and a new 12-month immigration permission to prepare an application to STEP – see ‘New 12-month immigration permission’ below. You can read details of the changes to the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme.

If you are coming from outside Ireland to set up a business you will need information on a number of topics such as tax and legal requirements – see ‘Information supports’ below.

Schemes for self-employed non-EEA nationals

Immigrant Investor Programme

The Immigrant Investor Programme provides a range of investment options which allows approved non-EEA investors and their immediate family enter Ireland on multi-entry visas and remain here for up to 5 years with the possibility of ongoing renewal. The investment must be good for Ireland, good for jobs and in the public interest. The funds must be legally acquired and owned, not borrowed, by the investor.

In order to be considered for the Programme, the proposed investment must be in one of the following categories. Since 15 July 2013 there have been a number of changes to these categories:

  • A once-off endowment of at least €500,000 to a public project benefiting the arts, sports, health, culture or education. The endowment can be €400,000 if it is pooled by at least 5 individuals.
  • A minimum €500,000 (was €1,000,000) aggregate investment into new or existing Irish businesses for a minimum of 3 years
  • A minimum €1,000,000 (was €2,000,000) investment in a special low interest 5-year immigrant investor bond
  • A mixed investment consisting of a minimum €450,000 (was €500,000 in property and €500,000 in immigrant investor bonds
  • A minimum of €500,000 in a managed fund which would invest in Irish businesses and projects

You can read more information in the Immigrant Investor Programme Guidelines (pdf).

Start-up Entrepreneur Programme

The Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP) allows a non-EEA national with an innovative business idea and minimum funding of €50,000 (was €75,000) to come and set up a business in Ireland. The aim of the Programme is to support High Potential Start-Ups which are defined as start-up ventures that are:

  • Introducing a new or innovative product or service to international markets
  • Capable of creating 10 jobs in Ireland and realising €1 million in sales within three to four years of starting up
  • Led by an experienced management team
  • Headquartered and controlled in Ireland
  • Less than 6 years old

New 12-month immigration permission: From 15 March 2014 a 12-month immigration permission will be available for foreign national entrepreneurs attending incubators or innovation bootcamps in Ireland to allow them to prepare a STEP application. This 12-month permission will also be made available to non-EEA students who graduate with advanced STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) degrees in Ireland and wish to work on preparing a STEP application.

The STEP scheme does not apply to retail, catering, personal services or similar businesses - see 'Business permission' below. No initial job creation targets will be set as it is recognised that such businesses can take some time to get off the ground. There is detailed information in the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme Guidelines (pdf)

Business permission

If you are not eligible for the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme or if you wish to start a retail, catering, personal services or similar business you should apply for a business permission. This is a written permission from the Minister for Justice and Equality that allows you to establish and engage in a business in Ireland for a certain period. If you are applying for a business permission to start a business in Ireland, you must meet the following strict criteria:

  • You must have at least €300,000 of your own money to invest in business in Ireland.
  • Your business must create employment for at least 2 Irish or EEA/Swiss nationals or at least maintain employment in an existing business
  • Your business must add to the commercial activity and competitiveness of the State
  • Your business must be a viable trading concern and provide you with sufficient income to maintain and accommodate yourself and any dependants without resorting to social assistance or paid employment for which a work permit would be required

Artists, writers or crafts people do not have to meet the capital and employment requirements. However they must show that they are well known in their field and that they can support themselves without the need for other employment or social assistance. In these cases they should contact the Department of Justice and Equality separately.

There is detailed information on business permission available on the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS).

Residency

Successful applicants for the Immigrant Investor Programme and the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme and their immediate families will be granted residence permission for 2 years initially. Their immediate family means their spouse, civil partner or partner and dependent children aged under 18. This permission can be renewed for a further 3 years. After these first 5 years, the investor or entrepreneur can apply for long-term residence. If required they will be granted multiple entry visas for the same duration.

Usually, a business permission is granted for 1 year initially.

Non-EEA nationals who are granted a business permission are entitled to live in Ireland for the duration of the business permission. They should check if they require a visa to enter Ireland.

Information and supports

If you are coming from outside Ireland to set up a business you will need information on a number of topics such as tax and legal requirements. You can find information about starting a business and being self-employed on this website, including details of legal structures and potential liabilities. The guide to self-employment, Toil and Trouble (pdf), is available on the Department of Social Protection website. below. Businessregulation.ie is a portal to help you identify the main regulations which affect your business. The website selfemployedsupports.ie has information on the services and entitlements available if you are self-employed and your income is reduced.

IDA (Irish Development Authority) Ireland is an Irish Government agency with responsibility for securing new investment from overseas in manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors. It can provide information about setting up a business in Ireland and may provide grants to companies wishing to locate in Ireland or expand their existing operations in Ireland.

Enterprise Ireland is an Irish Government agency which is responsible for the development of Irish industry. It provides advice and financial support to High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) businesses. You can find information about starting a business in Ireland on its website.

City and County Enterprise Boards and local development companies provide supports such as advice and grants to local businesses (10 or fewer employees) that are starting up or developing - see 'Where to apply' below. You can find information about their seminars and start your own business courses as well as mentoring and financial supports on enterpriseboards.ie.

How to apply

Investor and entrepreneur programmes

To apply for the Immigrant Investor Programme you complete the investor application form (pdf) and pay a non-refundable application fee of €750.

To apply for the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme you complete the entrepreneur application form (pdf) and pay a non-refundable application fee of €350.

The application forms and guidelines as well as a sample business plan template are available on the INIS website.

  • Your passport and those of your spouse/partner and dependants (if applicable)
  • Evidence of family relationships (if applicable)
  • Evidence of funds
  • Evidence of investment or details of start-up
  • Police report or character report from risk management consultancy for yourself and for your spouse/partner (if applicable)

Applications for these programmes must be submitted after 16 April 2012. Applications submitted before that date will be returned to the applicant.

Business permission

You apply for business permission to the Business Permission Unit of the Immigration Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service – see ‘Where to apply’ below. You must include the following documents:

  • Your valid passport or national identity document
  • Your registration certificate if you are already residing in the State
  • A statement of character from the police authorities of each country in which you have resided for more than 6 months during the previous 10 year period
  • A business plan which addresses the above criteria for a business permission. The plan should be endorsed by a firm of accountants or other relevant professionals.
  • Details of your skills and qualifications to undertake this business
  • References from previous employers
  • Original documents from your financial institution confirming you have at least €300,000 to invest in the business
  • Details of where the business will operate.

Contact the Companies Registration Office to register your business - see 'Where to apply' below. You can register and file your documents such as your annual returns online with CRO using CORE (Companies Online Registration Environment).

You can contact your local City or County Enterprise Board to find out the supports available for setting up a business in Ireland - see 'Where to apply' below.

You can find out about registering for tax from your local tax office – see ‘Where to apply’ below.

Where to apply

Contact your local tax office
Contact your local City or County Enterprise Board

Contact your local development company

Investment and Entrepreneur Unit

Department of Justice and Equality
Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service
13-14 Burgh Quay
Dublin 2
Ireland

Email: investmentandstartup@justice.ie.

Business Permission Unit

Immigration Services Section
Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service
1st Floor, 13-14 Burgh Quay
Dublin 2
Ireland

Homepage: http://www.inis.gov.ie/
Email: INISbperm@justice.ie

Companies Registration Office

Parnell House
14 Parnell Square
Dublin 1
Ireland

Tel:+353 (0) 1 804 5200
Locall:1890 220 226
Fax:+353 (0) 1 804 5222
Homepage: http://www.cro.ie
Email: info@cro.ie

Page updated: 19 March 2014

Language

Gaeilge

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Contact Us

If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.