Migrant workers and unemployment


If you have come to work in Ireland and you lose your job, it can be a very difficult situation. If you are not an Irish citizen you need to find out your rights and entitlements in relation to redundancy, looking for work, social welfare and getting a tax refund.

If you are an EEA or Swiss national, you can stay in Ireland if you are unemployed and looking for work.

If you are a UK citizen you have the right to live, travel, work and study in Ireland. You can access social benefits, healthcare, social housing supports and you can vote in certain elections. You can 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’.

If you are a non-EEA national who has an employment permit there are special arrangements for employment permit holders who are made redundant – see ‘Employment permits’ below.

Employment permits

If you are a non-EEA national with an employment permit, there are special conditions that apply to employment permit holders who have been made redundant within the last 6 months. You should notify the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment within 28 days of your dismissal.

If you have been made redundant after working on a work permit for 5 consecutive years you will no longer need a permit to work in Ireland.

If you entered the State on a valid employment permit but you fell out of the system through no fault of your own, or you have been badly treated or exploited in the workplace, you may be eligible for a Reactivation Employment Permit.


If you are dismissed by your employer you should check if it is a redundancy situation, for example, the closure of a business. If it is not a genuine redundancy or if you think you have been unfairly selected for redundancy, you may qualify to bring a claim for unfair dismissal. Your employer must prove that there was a genuine redundancy situation and that fair procedures were followed.

If it is a genuine redundancy situation, you may be entitled to a redundancy payment if you have been working for your employer for 2 or more years. You may have other entitlements such as notice and holiday pay.

Social welfare payments

Jobseeker's Benefit: You may be entitled to Jobseeker’s Benefit(JB) when you lose your job or are made redundant. To get JB you must be unemployed and looking for work and you must have paid a certain number of social insurance (PRSI) contributions. EEA migrant workers may combine their social insurance contributions paid in another EU country to help them qualify for JB. Non-EEA migrant workers who qualify for JB can get it as long as they are legally resident in Ireland.

Jobseeker's Allowance: If you are not entitled to Jobseeker’s Benefit, you can apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA). Jobseeker’s Allowance is a means-tested payment. To get JA you must be unemployed, looking for work and pass a means test. You must also be habitually resident to get JA.

EEA migrant workers

If you are unemployed, your unemployment benefit in the country you are leaving may be transferred after you have been receiving it for 4 weeks. Under EU Regulations you can ask for it to be transferred to Ireland and you should bring a copy of the form U2 (which is replacing form E303) with details of your payment. You must, of course, comply with the rules for getting benefit in the country that you are leaving. When you arrive in Ireland, you should sign on at your local social welfare office - see 'Where to apply' below within a week. You may then receive your benefit for 13 weeks (up to 26 weeks in some cases). You get the same benefit as you would get if you stayed in the country you have left. You are entitled to medical card services in Ireland while you are receiving unemployment benefit from the other country.

After 13 weeks have expired, you will be in the normal Irish social welfare system. In order to qualify for benefits in Ireland, you need to get a job and pay at least one Class A PRSI contribution. At this point, your contributions from the other country you worked in may be added to your Irish contribution(s) to help you qualify for benefits.

When you are coming to Ireland you should bring a record of your contributions on Forms U1 (formerly E301) and E104 from the social security institution in the country you are leaving. These forms will help speed up the payment of benefits under EU Regulations.

If you are employed when you come to Ireland then you are covered by the normal Irish rules relating to social welfare.

EEA workers who do not qualify for Jobseeker's Benefit, will meet the habitual residence requirement for Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) if they are actively looking for work. If they have been working in Ireland for less than 12 months, they are entitled to get SWA for 6 months from the date their employment ended. If they have been employed for more than 12 months they are entitled get SWA as long as they are actively looking for work.

You can read about EU/EEA citizens and social welfare.

Rent Supplement: If you are getting JB, JA or SWA and paying rent to a private landlord, you may be entitled to Rent Supplement. However, to get Rent Supplement you must pass a means test and be habitually resident in Ireland.

Non-EEA students are not entitled to social welfare payments in Ireland.

Social security arrangements between the UK and the EU27 are unchanged at present.


You may be entitled to a tax refund, if you have paid tax and you are now unemployed. If you have not paid any tax, you will not be due a refund.

If you are getting another income which is taxable, for example, Jobseeker’s Benefit, you should wait for 8 weeks from the date you became unemployed before applying for a refund.

If you are not getting Jobseeker’s Benefit and have no other taxable income, you should wait 4 weeks from the date you become unemployed before applying for a refund.

If emergency tax was being deducted by your former employer you should apply immediately.

Returning home

If you have no work and you are not entitled to a social welfare payment you may find it very difficult to continue living in Ireland, particularly if you do not have permission to remain. There are a number of organisations in Ireland providing supports for foreign nationals in particular:

  • The Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) – see ‘Where to apply’ below – is an independent, national organisation which supports migrants coming to Ireland for purposes such as work, study, family reunification, self-employment or to visit. ICI provides an information service and a limited legal service to immigrants.
  • The Migrant Rights Centre (MRC) – see ‘Where to apply’ below – is a national organisation which provides support to migrant workers and their families. The MRC operates a drop-in centre which provides information, advice and assistance.see ‘Where to apply’ below – is a national organisation which provides support to migrant workers and their families. The MRC operates a drop-in centre which provides information, advice and assistance.

The following schemes may help you if you decide to leave Ireland to return to your country of origin:

Scheme of repatriation

The Reception and Integration Agency works with the Department of Social Protection to support the repatriation of nationals of the new EU member states. The scheme applies to people who have failed the habitual residency condition attaching to social assistance payments. Any citizen of a former EU accession state, and certain other ‘special-case’ EU nationals, who find themselves destitute during their time in Ireland can apply for this scheme. If you wish to apply for this scheme you should contact the Community Welfare Officer in your local social welfare office

Scheme of voluntary assisted return

If you are an asylum seeker or an irregular migrant from an non-EEA country who wishes to return voluntarily to your country of origin but do not have the means to do so, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) may be able to assist you to return home – see ‘Where to apply' below. If you return voluntarily and you have no outstanding criminal court proceedings, you may apply to re-enter Ireland legally for the purpose of work, study, etc.

Where to apply

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Employment Permits Section

Earlsfort Centre
Lower Hatch Street
Dublin 2
D02 PW01

Opening Hours: Helpline only: Monday to Friday 9:30am - 5pm
Tel: +353 1 417 5333
Locall: 0818 808 090
Fax: +353 1 631 3268

Immigrant Council of Ireland

2 St Andrew Street
Dublin 2

Opening Hours: Information and Referral Service: Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri 10am - 1pm
Tel: +353 (0)1 674 0200
Fax: +353 (0)1 645 8059

Migrant Rights Centre Ireland

13 Lower Dorset Street
Dublin 1
D01 Y893

Tel: (01) 889 7570

International Organization for Migration

116 Lower Baggot Street
Dublin 2

Tel: +353 (0)1 676 0655
Locall: Freephone: 1800 406 406
Fax: +353 (0)1 676 0656
Page edited: 2 April 2020