Working in the EU


As a European Union (EU) citizen, you have the right to live and work in any other EU country. If you are an EU national or a dependant of such a national and you meet the requirements of the EU Directives on free movement of workers, you may not, in general, be refused permission to land in another EU country. You may require a valid identity card or passport.

You may be refused entry and/or your right of residence in another member state may be restricted on grounds of public policy, public security, or public health.

The rights outlined in this section broadly apply to the non-EU States in the European Economic Area, that is, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, as well as to Switzerland.

EU Directives on free movement of workers

If you are an EU national moving to another EU country to take up employment or self-employment or to provide a service, the Directives cover you. Members of your family, whatever their nationality, have the right to accompany you or to join you in your country of employment. Your family is defined as your spouse and your children who are under 21 years of age (or older if they are dependent on you) and their spouses, as well as your parents and your parents-in-law, if they are dependent on you. Your registered partner (and dependent relatives) is also entitled to move with you if the host member state treats registered partnerships as equivalent to marriage.

The host member state must facilitate the entry and residence of other family members who do not have an absolute right to move but who are dependent on you or whose health is such that they require care by you. Member states must also facilitate the entry and resident the entry and residence of a partner with whom you have a durable relationship.

EU citizens exercising their right to free movement are not required to have a residence card but their family members who are not themselves EU citizens may be required to have such a card.

If they wish to, your spouse, civil partner and children also have the right to work without restriction in your country of employment. You and your family members have the right to the same social benefits as the nationals of the host member state. This includes the right to education access and benefits.

Members of your family who come from a non-EU country may be asked for an entry visa by the country of employment. This visa is granted quite easily and should be free of charge.

Access to employment

You are entitled to be recruited under the same conditions as nationals of the country in which you are seeking work and cannot be asked to meet any additional requirements. This means that you can apply for any job vacancy advertised in any EU country, including public sector jobs. However, certain public service posts may be restricted to nationals of a particular country where the job in question involves safeguarding public order or the interests of the state, for example, the armed forces and police.

Recognition of qualifications in the EU

Some EU countries require diplomas, titles, certificates or other special qualifications as a condition for access to certain salaried and self-employed occupations. It can be difficult to have your own training and skills fully recognised.

The EU has therefore set up systems for recognising diplomas and training that enable you to make full use of your training and skills in another EU country. The basic principle is that if you are qualified to exercise a profession in your home country, you are qualified to exercise the same profession in any other EU country.

A general system of recognition of qualifications that is applicable to most regulated professions has been put in place across the EU. So, if you wish to work in a profession (as a teacher, lawyer, engineer or psychologist, for example) that is regulated in the country of employment, you must apply for recognition of your qualifications in that country. The authorities have 4 months in which to reply. If they consider that your training is significantly different in terms of duration or content from that given in the host country, you may be asked to obtain either additional professional experience completing your training, or to take a training course or to take an aptitude test.

If you are a doctor, a general nurse, a dentist, a midwife, a vet, a pharmacist or an architect, your national qualifications are in principle recognised automatically.

If your profession is not regulated in the country in which you wish to work, no recognition of your qualifications is required.

Looking for a job in the EU

The EURES network was established by the European Commission to help European citizens looking for work in another country in the EU/EEA. EURES has a network of advisers, known as EURES advisers, who can give you general practical information on legislation, social security, living conditions, useful addresses, information on pay levels, taxes, contracts, recruitment practices, etc. They also have access to the EURES job vacancies database with vacancies in the EU/EEA. If you are interested in working or seeking work within the EU/EEA, make an appointment with your nearest EURES advisor. Contact your nearest employment services office or Intreo centre for more information.

You can access the EURES job vacancies database yourself from the EURES site. Each vacancy in the database is provided with contact details at the bottom of the page.

If you are unemployed, you have the right to live in another EU country for a "reasonable period" of time in order to look for a job. In the absence of a definition of "reasonable period", most EU countries are now operating a 6-month period, though some EU countries are still operating a 3-month period. You are advised to check the exact situation with the national authorities of the EU country in which you are looking for work. However, no matter how long you have to look for a job, you cannot be asked to leave the country if you can prove that you are genuinely looking for a job and that you have a real chance of finding one. For example, you have still got interviews or tests to attend.

You can register at employment agencies and centres without being resident in the country in which you wish to work and you will be given the same help to find work as nationals of that country.

Transferring your unemployment benefit

If you are drawing unemployment benefit in one member state, you may continue to draw benefit from that same country for up to 13 weeks after you move to another member state. This is provided that you have been available to the employment services in the country where you have been drawing unemployment benefit for at least 4 weeks.

If you apply to transfer your benefit it will be paid directly to you. You will still be required to register with the employment services of the country where you have gone to look for work within a week. Also you may now transfer your benefit more than once while you are unemployed provided you do not exceed the maximum period of 13 weeks. If you do not find work, you must return to the first country within 3 months, otherwise you will lose your right to unemployment benefit.

If you are leaving Ireland to move to Northern Ireland or Britain your Social Welfare Local Office will issue you with the Form U2 (formerly Form E303) which you take to the UK social services. If you are moving to another EU country the Department of Social Protection will send the U2 form to your new address in that EU country.

Employment rights

As an EU national working in another EU country you have the right to live there. You are not required to have a residence permit. You are subject to the same working conditions as nationals of the country you are working in as regards, for example, pay, dismissal, hours of work, maternity leave and health and safety at work. You are also subject to the same conditions as nationals of the host country with regard to the principles of equality between men and women.

Social security

The basic aim of EU policy is to ensure that you are part of a social security system and that you do not lose your rights, regardless of the member state you decide to work in.

In principle, you are insured for social security purposes in the country you work in. You, and in certain circumstances, your family are entitled to the same social security benefits as nationals of the country in which you work. These rights cover sickness and maternity benefits, disability, old-age and survivor's benefits, benefits payable for accidents at work, occupational illness, death and unemployment, as well as family allowances. You are required to pay the same level of contributions as host country nationals. You cannot be excluded from benefits on grounds of nationality, for reasons of residence, or for any other discriminatory reason.

You can find more information in our document, Leaving Ireland and your social security entitlements.


By working in another member state and by transferring your residence there, you are likely to become "resident for tax purposes" there. The definition of fiscal residence varies from one member state to another. You must comply with the laws of the country where you have established your residence. The laws on personal taxation vary considerably from one member state to another and you may be liable for taxation in more than one country. In general, you are subject to income tax in the country where you are living but this may not be the case if you are a “posted worker” – see below. In general, property is taxed in the country in which it is situated but, again, there are variations.

Tax agreements have been concluded between most of the member states of the EU, which are intended to avoid double taxation, if you derive income from different countries.

In general, national fiscal rules must respect the fundamental principle of non-discrimination against nationals of another EU country.

Workers posted to another EU country

You have certain specific rights if you are a posted worker, that is, you work for a limited period of time in a member state other than the one where you normally work. If you are to be posted for a period of more than a month, your employer must inform you in writing, before you leave, of your pay and working conditions while you are abroad.

You will usually remain affiliated to the social security system of your country of origin. You may pay income tax in that country as well but the situation varies between member states. You can find out more about social security for posted workers in this guide or see 'further information’ below.

Freedom to provide services

You may choose to offer your services in another EU country without establishing yourself there permanently. If you comply with the rules of the profession or trade that apply in your own country, you can, in principle, offer those services anywhere else in the EU. You can travel to assist clients located in another EU country or you can provide paid services from your country of residence without travelling there.

Cross-border commuters

You are a cross-border commuter (also known as a cross-border or frontier worker) if you live in one EU country but work in another and you go home at least once a week. As a cross-border worker, you must be treated in the same way as an employee who is a national of the country of employment as regards the right to apply for jobs, working conditions and social benefits.

Therefore, the general rule is that you pay social security contributions in the member state where you are employed and you are subject to the legislation of that state even if you live in another member state.

With regard to benefits, generally you get short-term benefits from the state where you last paid insurance and long-term benefits proportionately from all the countries in which you paid insurance.

For cross-border workers, the rule in relation to unemployment benefit is as follows:

  • During partial or intermittent unemployment you get your benefit from the country of employment
  • During periods of being wholly unemployed, you get your benefit from the country of residence.

So, for example, if you are living in the State and working in Northern Ireland you can claim Jobseeker’s Benefit from your local social welfare office or Intreo centre, if you lose your job. If you are employed or self-employed in 2 member states, you pay social security contributions in the state where you live.

Cross-border information

The Border People website is a source of information for people living in the border counties of Ireland and elsewhere in the island of Ireland. It provides cross-border mobility information on taxation, social security and job seeking, health and education as well as banking, housing and telecommunications. The information is about rights and entitlements in Northern Ireland and Ireland with sections about living, working and studying both north and south of the border. There is also a list of frequently asked questions on topics such as motoring, employment, tax, healthcare, consumer and social welfare.

Further information

For information about your rights in the European Union you can contact:

European Commission Representation in Ireland

Europe House
12-14 Lower Mount Street
Dublin 2
D02 W719

Tel: +353 1 634 1111
Fax: +353 1 634 1112

Posted workers

You are a posted worker if your employer sends you to work in another country on a temporary basis. The period of the posting is a maximum period of 24 months. If you are posted to another EEA state or Switzerland you have certain rights as follows:

Social insurance

As a posted worker you generally will continue to pay your social security contributions in Ireland. You should apply for an A1 (formerly E101) certificate which states that you are insured for social security purposes in Ireland. This will exempt you and your employer from paying social insurance in the country to which you are posted. At least 4 weeks before you leave you or your employer should apply for the AI certificate. You can download the application form for an A1 (pdf) and it is also available from the PRSI Special Collections Section of the Department of Social Protection (DSP). When you get the A1 certificate you will continue to pay your PRSI contributions in Ireland. There are further details about PRSI and posted workers on the DSP website.

Health entitlements

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) replaced forms such as the E111 and the E128, making it easier for you to get medical care quickly and easily. It is evidence that you are part of a health insurance scheme administered by another state in the EEA/Switzerland.

An S1 portable document (formerly E106) ensures that you have the same health entitlements in the state to which you are being posted, as are available to nationals of that state. Before you go to another EU state, you should contact the HSE Overseas Section on 01 6201816 to obtain an S1.

Page edited: 16 January 2017