Bringing your non-EEA de facto partner home to Ireland


Irish citizens do not have an automatic entitlement to bring family members who are not nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland to live in Ireland.

If you are returning to Ireland from outside the EEA with your non-EEA de facto partner, your partner will need permission from the Irish National Immigration Service (INIS) to live with you in Ireland.

This is a step-by-step guide to the immigration process for your de facto partner. Please note that if your de facto partner is coming to Ireland on or after 1 November 2019, preclearance from INIS is mandatory (see step 1 below).

What is a de facto partner?

A de facto partner is the term used by INIS to describe a partner you are not married to or in a civil partnership with. This term also applies to same-sex partners. For immigration purposes, a person may be considered your de facto partner if you meet all of the following criteria:

  • You and your partner are in a mutual and committed relationship like a marriage or civil partnership in practice, and
  • You have been cohabiting (living together) for at least 2 years, and
  • You have a mutual commitment to a shared life together to the exclusion of all others

Step 1: Get immigration preclearance or a visa

There is no de facto visa in Ireland. However, your partner must apply for immigration preclearance to enter the State before they travel to Ireland. This preclearance process only applies to people who plan to stay in Ireland for more than 3 months (90 days). It applies both to people who need a visa and people who do not need a visa.

Since 21 November 2020, immigration preclearance procedures have changed. The Department of Justice will continue to accept applications submitted under the previous application procedures up to 31 December 2020.

Partners who need a visa

Your partner no longer has to apply for a letter of preclearance. They must, however, still apply for a visa. You can use the INIS website to check if they need a visa.

If your partner needs a visa, they must apply for a Join a Family Member (D) visa. They must apply for the visa online. In their application, they should make it clear that the purpose of the application is to join you, their partner (an Irish national) in Ireland.

Once they have completed the online visa application form, they will need to print this out and sign it. At the end of the online application they will be given the address to send the signed form and documents to, usually the nearest Irish embassy or consulate. They must submit these documents and signed application within 30 days of submitting the online application. Some embassies and consulates have additional requirements.

The online application form will generate a visa reference number which your partner can use to check the progress of their application. Visa decisions are published on the INIS website.

If your partner’s visa application is approved, this only allows your de facto partner to travel to Ireland. This does not give your de facto partner permission to enter the State or to stay here. Your partner cannot travel to Ireland until their visa is granted.

If your partner’s visa application is refused, they can appeal this decision within two months of the date of the refusal letter. The appeal should address the reasons for refusal stated in the refusal letter and provide extra supporting documents if possible. The visa refusal letter will state where your appeal should be sent.

Partners who do not need a visa

Citizens of many countries do not need a visa to enter Ireland (for example, Australia, Canada and the US). Even if your partner does not need a visa, they must still apply for immigration preclearance by completing the online preclearance application form for de facto partners of Irish nationals and submitting all the supporting documentation, along with a non-refundable application fee.

If your partner’s application for preclearance is approved, they will get a preclearance letter. This letter is valid for 6 months. If your partner does not travel to Ireland within these 6 months, they must submit a new preclearance application. Your partner will need their preclearance letter to:

  • Cross border control into Ireland and to finalise their permission to enter the State
  • Register with immigration after they arrive in Ireland

If the preclearance application is refused, your partner will receive a letter explaining the reasons why their application was refused. They can appeal this decision by responding to the refusal letter with extra supporting documents if required. This appeal must be received by INIS within six weeks of the date of the refusal letter. The appeal process is free of charge.

Step 2: Prepare for border control

All citizens of non-EEA countries, whether they need a visa or not, must go through immigration control when they arrive in Ireland. Your partner should tell the immigration officer at the airport or point of entry that they plan to apply for residency in Ireland, based on their relationship with you.

If your partner is allowed to enter Ireland, the immigration officer will place a landing stamp in their passport. The landing stamp gives them permission to stay in Ireland up to the date indicated or for a maximum of 3 months.

At immigration control, your partner should expect to be asked for the following documents at a minimum:

  • Valid passport
  • D visa (if they are from a visa-required country)
  • Their immigration preclearance letter

Step 3: Register with immigration and apply for residency

Your partner must be in Ireland before they can register with immigration and apply for residency permission. Your partner only needs to register with immigration if they plan to stay in Ireland for more than 90 days.

Your partner must register in person with an immigration authority as soon as possible after arriving in Ireland. Registration involves formally requesting permission to live and work in Ireland.

You and your partner need to provide the following to register with immigration and apply for residency:

  • Your preclearance certificate
  • Your original passport
  • Your partner’s original passport
  • Evidence of your joint address in Ireland
  • A registration fee of 300 euro

At the appointment, your partner will have fingerprints and a photo taken. INIS provides more information about what happens at the registration office.

Where to apply for registration

If you and your partner are living in Dublin, you need to make an online appointment to go to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service Registration Office at 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2.

If you and your partner are living outside Dublin, you should go together to your local Garda District Headquarters. You should call the headquarters in advance to find out if you need to make an appointment.

If residency permission is granted

The Registration Officer will put a Stamp 4 in your partner’s passport. Your partner then has permission to live and work in Ireland for the length of time stated on the stamp.

If residency permission is not granted

If a Stamp 4 is not issued (this can happen if there are any issues that need to be clarified such as identity, criminal history or relationship history), your partner may be asked to make a written application for residency to INIS . Your partner is not entitled to work in Ireland until a Stamp 4 has been issued.

Step 4: After residency permission is granted

Your partner will get a registration certificate called an Irish Residence Permit (IRP). This is a credit-card sized plastic card that displays basic information about the card holder.

After permission is granted, your non-EEA partner must inform INIS of any change of address within 7 days of moving. Also, if their family circumstances change (for example, if your relationship breaks down) they must inform INIS.

Make a note of when the residency permit must be renewed

Your partner’s Stamp 4 permission will usually be valid for 1 year. In order to stay in Ireland, your partner will need to renew this permission before it expires.

Further information

Crosscare Migrant Project has a range of useful resources to help you to bring your non-EEA family members home to Ireland.

Page edited: 4 December 2020