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Before you come to Ireland

Introduction

There are many reasons why you may be coming to Ireland. You may be coming to work, to set up a business, to study, to join a family member or to retire. You may be looking for protection and intend to apply for refugee status or other protection. Before you come to Ireland, you need to know first of all whether or not you are entitled to live here. Your right to live in Ireland depends mainly on your nationality and what you intend to do when you come here.

After you have established whether or not you are entitled to come and live in Ireland, you will need other information about the formalities of living here. This document is an overview of the main things you need to know if you are proposing to come to Ireland to live. (It is not designed for short term visitors, but you may find some relevant information below.)

Coming to Ireland and permission to land

There are some general rules which apply regardless of the reason why you are coming to Ireland.

EU/EEA/Switzerland: In general, nationals of EU member states, the other EEA countries or Switzerland, have the right to land in Ireland (subject to some narrow restrictions). You do not need a visa but you will need a valid passport or identity card in order to land. You are generally entitled to take up residence in Ireland if you are employed or self-employed. You are entitled to come here to study or retire here if you meet certain conditions.

Other countries: Nationals of other countries need permission to land in Ireland and require permission to remain here. (This doesn't apply if you are a family member of an EU/EEA/Swiss national who is exercising the right of free movement. You must however get a residence card.)

Coming to Ireland to work

Your right to work as an employee, to be self-employed or set up a business in Ireland depends on your nationality and a number of other factors. You can find out about jobs in Ireland from a number of sources. If you are starting work you will need information on issues such as tax and social insurance contributions.

EU/EEA/Swiss nationals have the right to live, work or set up a business in Ireland. You do not need an employment permit. You are entitled to be treated in the same way as Irish workers. You are entitled to have family members come with you to Ireland.

Other countries: If you are from outside the EU/EEA or Switzerland you may need a visa in order to come here. You need an employment permit in order to work or business permission to set up a business here. You can find out about the different types of employment permit if you are coming to work in Ireland. Your entitlement to have family members come to join you in Ireland depends on the type of employment permit you have.

Coming to Ireland to study

If you intend to come to Ireland to study, you must get a place in an Irish educational institution. There is further information on the education system at primary, secondary and third level. If you are moving to Ireland for third-level education you can find out about the allocation of third-level places.

In general, universities and other third-level colleges charge higher fees to students from outside the EEA and Switzerland.

Coming to Ireland to retire

You can find out general information on in our document about retiring to Ireland.

Coming to Ireland to seek protection

Seeking protection generally means applying for refugee status but, if you are refused this, you may apply for leave to remain. EU nationals are not entitled to seek protection in Ireland. If you are seeking protection you must be allowed to land in Ireland. You then apply for refugee status. You can find out more about the asylum process and the services available to asylum seekers.

You may be a programme refugee. This means that you come to Ireland as part of an organised group and are treated as a refugee. You do not have to go through the normal applications process and you are entitled to work once you arrive in Ireland.

General information about living in Ireland

Government: Ireland is a parliamentary democracy. All residents have the right to vote in local elections and EU citizens also have the right to vote in European elections. UK citizens have the right to vote in national elections as well. You can find out further information about the national Irish Government and local government.

Tax and social insurance contributions: If you are working or self-employed you are obliged to pay PRSI contributions in the same way as Irish people. In general, if you are resident in Ireland, you may be liable for income tax and for capital taxes. There are specific rules about residency for tax purposes.

Education: Free primary education and secondary education education is available to all children (under 18) legally resident in Ireland. There are also some fee-paying primary and secondary schools available. School attendance is obligatory until age 16.

Equality: Ireland has equality legislation that prohibits discrimination in employment and access to services on a number of grounds including nationality and racial origin.

Housing: You are likely to find that housing is expensive. Most people live in owner-occupied private housing while a number live in private rented accommodation. Social and affordable housing is available but you generally need to have been resident in Ireland for a period of time before you become eligible for it.

Health services: If you are normally resident in Ireland, you may be entitled to a range of health services that are either free of charge or subsidised by the Government. There is also a range of private health care services. Your permission to stay in Ireland may include a requirement that you have private health insurance.

Social security entitlements: If you are moving to Ireland you need to know about your social security entitlements. EU/EEA and Swiss nationals come under the general rules on social security for migrant workers. Among other things, this means that you may receive certain benefits from your home country while you are in Ireland and you may combine social insurance contributions paid in 2 or more countries to help you qualify for benefits. You are also entitled to the same social and tax advantages as Irish citizens.

There are bilateral social security arrangements with a small number of other countries. These generally allow contributions in the other countries to be combined with your Irish contributions to enable you to qualify for benefits.

Social assistance payments: Everyone, including Irish citizens, has to meet the habitual residence requirement if applying for a social assistance payment. Broadly, this means that you must have been habitually resident in Ireland or the UK for the 2 years prior to applying for the payment.

Changing your name: A foreign national aged 18 or over must get a change of name licence from the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) before executing a deed poll. A British citizen does not require a change of name licence but is likely to need a letter to that effect from INIS.

Pets: There are regulations about importing pets from abroad here, so you need find out about the procedures for bringing your pet to Ireland.

Customs: There are customs regulations about the importation of prohibited or restricted goods and Customs and Excise officers have the power to carry out searches of the baggage of people travelling to Ireland.

Driving, cars and transport: Full driving licences from all other EU member states (and some other countries) are recognised for use in Ireland. You should find out if you need to convert your driving licence to an Irish one. If you want to bring your car to Ireland you need to know about importing a car and implications for Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT).

Further information

You can get further information from your nearest Irish embassy or consulate or the embassy or consulate of your country in Ireland.

Page updated: 2 May 2013

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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.