Social welfare payments for returning Irish emigrants


You may need financial assistance when you return to Ireland. The Department of Social Protection (DSP) has a range of social welfare payments that provide financial support. This page gives an overview of those payments and how you can apply for them.

Before you return to Ireland, check if there are any benefits you can transfer to Ireland – see Moving to Ireland and your social security entitlements.

Crosscare Irish Diaspora Support Project has information on what to do if you are returning to Ireland in a crisis, especially if you are homeless.

You can also get information and advice in your local Citizens Information Centre in Ireland.

Habitual Residence Condition

To apply for a social assistance payment, you need to show that Ireland is your main place of residence. This is called the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC). Some returning Irish emigrants can face difficulties with this requirement.

You do not have to be living in Ireland for a certain period of time to be considered habitually resident. But you must show that your main centre of interest is now in Ireland, and prove that you are resuming your previous residence here.

Read more about the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC). Crosscare Irish Diaspora Support Project’s website also has useful FAQ on the Habitual Residence Condition.

Can I get a social welfare payment when I return to Ireland?

You may be able to get a social welfare payment when you return, depending on your circumstances.

Social welfare payments are available for:

How do I qualify for a social welfare payment?

There are different types of social welfare payments available, depending on your income and whether or not you have paid enough social insurance contributions.

Social assistance payments

If you have no income or your income is low, you may qualify for a social assistance payment.

When you apply for a social assistance payment, all your income is taken into account. This is called a means test. How your income is taken into account in the means test depends on the payment you apply for.

You must also meet the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC) to get a social assistance payment, see ‘Habitual Residence Condition’ above.

Social insurance payments

If you have worked and paid social insurance, you may qualify for a social insurance payment.

When you apply for a social insurance payment, the DSP will check if you have enough social insurance contributions paid at the right time to qualify. You may be able to use your social insurance contributions from abroad. For short-term payments (for example, Jobseeker’s Benefit) your most recent social insurance contribution must have been paid in Ireland.

If you think you might qualify for a social welfare payment, you should apply.

How do I apply for a social welfare payment?

You must fill in an application form and provide other supporting documentation which is assessed by the DSP. The information and documentation you have to give is different depending on the payment and your personal circumstances. However, you usually submit some documentation with your claim form.

You can get an application or claim form, from the Department of Social Protection, your Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office or your local Citizens Information Centre. You can also get an application form on the DSP website. You can also apply online for some payments such as Jobseeker’s allowance.

To apply for a social welfare payment, you must have a Personal Public Service Number (PPS number). You can read more about PPS numbers for returning Irish emigrants and their families.

How quickly will I get a social welfare payment?

You should apply for a social welfare payment as soon as you can. It can take weeks for the Department to make a decision on your application for a payment. While you are waiting, you can apply for an immediate payment of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA). SWA is paid if your income is below a certain limit.

Page edited: 3 June 2022