Coming to set up a business or invest in Ireland
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 need permission to establish a business in Ireland and they do not require a visa to visit, travel to, live or work in Ireland.
UK citizens have the right to work within Ireland, including on a self-employed basis. Find out more in our document on the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the United Kingdom. You can read more about ‘Residence rights of UK citizens’.
There are 2 ways in which non-EEA nationals can invest or start a business in Ireland – see ‘Schemes for self-employed non-EEA nationals’ below.
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 and 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. Investors must be of good character and must not have been convicted of criminal offences in any jurisdiction. They must have a minimum net worth of 2 million euros and be able to provide evidence of this.
In order to be considered for the Programme, the proposed investment must be in one of the following categories.
- Enterprise Investment: A minimum €1 million aggregate investment into new or existing Irish businesses for a minimum of 3 years. The enterprise can be a start-up registered by the investor. Your investment can be in a single Irish enterprise or spread over a number of enterprises. The enterprise must be registered and headquartered in Ireland and the investment must support the creation or maintenance of employment.
- Investment Fund: A minimum of €1 million investment in an investment fund for at least 3 years. Investment funds must invest in Irish businesses and projects. The route for a fund to be accepted as an investment for the purposes of the Immigrant Investor Programme is for it to be part of an application by an individual investor. There is no list of approved funds but you can read about the criteria for investment funds on the Inis website.
- Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT): A minimum investment of €2 million in any Irish REIT listed on the Irish Stock Exchange. The investment may be spread across a number of Irish REITs.
- Endowment: €500,000 to a public project benefiting the arts, sports, health, culture or education. The endowment can be €400,000 per investor if it is pooled by at least 5 individuals.
You can apply for any of the 4 investment options without committing any investment funding. If you are approved, you then invest in your preferred investment option and following this, you and your nominated family members will be issued with permission to reside in Ireland. You do not have to live in Ireland to avail of the programme, but you must visit Ireland at least once a year. You can read more information in the Immigrant Investor Programme Guidelines (pdf).
Note that applications are only accepted during certain periods – see ‘How to apply’ below.
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 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
- Involved in manufacturing or internationally traded services
- 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 5 years old
12-month immigration permission: A 12-month immigration permission is available for foreign national entrepreneurs attending incubators or innovation bootcamps in Ireland to allow them to prepare a STEP application. This 12-month permission is also 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. 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.
Note that applications are only accepted during certain periods – see ‘Where to apply’ below.
A business permission scheme that allowed you to start a retail, catering, personal services or similar business was open until 16 March 2016. It is no longer in operation. If you were granted permission before this scheme ended, you will find information about applying for a renewal on the INIS website.
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. You can read about the organisations, websites and publications that can help you in our document, Sources of information on starting a business.
Businessregulation.ie is a portal to help you identify the main regulations which affect your business. If you are self-employed and your income is reduced you can find out more in our document on self employment and unemployment.
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.
Local Enterprise Offices provide supports such as advice and grants to local businesses (10 or fewer employees) that are starting up or in development. You can find information about their training programmes and start your own business courses as well as mentoring and financial supports on localenterprise.ie.
How to apply
To apply for the Immigrant Investor Programme you complete the investor application form (pdf) and pay a non-refundable application fee of €1500.
The Immigrant Investor Programme will open for applications between the following dates in 2020:
- 17 February 2020 - 21 February 2020
- 20 April 2020 - 24 April 2020
- 22 June 2020 - 26 June 2020
- 31 August 2020 – 4 September 2020
- 26 October 2020 – 30 October 2020
To apply for the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme you complete the entrepreneur application form (pdf) and pay a non-refundable application fee of €350. Further information on Step will become available on the INIS website.
The application forms and guidelines as well as a sample business plan template are available on the INIS website. You will need the following documentation to complete the application:
- 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 or partner (if applicable)
More information about the investor and entrepreneur programmes is available on inis.gov.ie.
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 Enterprise Office to find out the supports available for setting up a business in Ireland - see 'Where to apply' below.