Returning home to Ireland to retire

Introduction

Many Irish citizens living abroad return to Ireland to retire. From pensions and residence rights, to healthcare and housing, this page outlines issues you need to consider to make sure your move home goes smoothly.

What is retirement age in Ireland?

There is no fixed retirement age for people in Ireland. However, if you are an employee, your retirement age will be set out in your contract of employment. The usual retirement age in contracts of employment is 65.

To apply for an Irish State pension, you must be aged 66 or over. For more information on pensions, see 'Can I get a State pension?' below.

Can I bring my family with me?

Not everyone has the right to come and live in Ireland. Your family member’s right to live in Ireland depends on their nationality and their relationship to you.

Irish nationals

Irish citizens returning to Ireland have an automatic right to live here. This includes Irish citizens who have never lived in Ireland.

UK nationals

UK citizens may live in Ireland without any conditions or restrictions. This means your UK family members can live in Ireland in their own right.

EEA and Swiss nationals

European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals can live in Ireland for up to 3 months without restriction. But if they plan to stay more than 3 months, they must either be working or have sickness insurance and enough money to support themselves so they do not become a burden on the State.

Non-EEA nationals

If your family member is a citizen of a non-EEA country, you should check if they need a visa before they travel to Ireland. Family members must also get permission from Immigration Service Delivery (ISD) to live with you in Ireland.

You can read about:

Irish citizenship for children

Your child may be eligible for Irish citizenship, for example if you were an Irish citizen at their birth. Find out more about Irish citizenship and passports for children born abroad.

Where will I live?

If you plan to return to Ireland to retire, you will need to find somewhere to live.

Buying a home

Depending on your financial situation, you may be able to buy a home. If you are buying a home, there are housing schemes and grants available, including the Housing aid for older people scheme to improve the condition of your home. Read more about the steps involved in buying a home.

Renting a home

If buying is not an option, you may consider renting a home. Read more about the things that you might want to consider when looking for private rented accommodation.

Social housing

If you return home to Ireland and have difficulty paying rent or buying suitable accommodation, you can apply for social housing support from the State.

Your application for social housing will be assessed on your residency status, eligibility, need and income. You will also need to show a local connection to the area you apply in (though a housing authority may agree to waive this requirement). If your application is successful, you will be put on a social housing waiting list. Once on this list, you can look for a place to rent and get the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) to help you pay your rent.

You will need to have somewhere to live while your application is being assessed, even if it is with friends or family. If you become homeless, you should contact your local authority to access emergency accommodation. Dublin and Cork also have specialist homeless services. Read about housing and other supports for homeless people.

Safe Home Ireland and housing for older Irish emigrants

If you are an older, Irish-born emigrant living abroad, and you want to return to Ireland, but will be unable to provide accommodation for yourself, Safe Home Ireland may be able to help you find accommodation before you return. Find out more about the housing assistance that Safe Home Ireland provides.

More information and emergency accommodation

For more information, see our guide to housing supports for returning Irish emigrants page, which includes information on emergency accommodation and how to access this support for people who are homeless.

Can I get a State pension?

You can get a State pension in Ireland if you meet certain conditions. If possible, you should apply for an Irish State pension, either Contributory or Non-Contributory, at least 3 months before reaching pensionable age (66 years).

State Pension (Contributory)

You can get the State Pension (Contributory) if you are aged 66 or over and you have paid enough Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions. It is not means-tested and you may have other income such as a personal or occupational pension and still get a contributory pension. Like all other income, this pension is taxed, however you are unlikely to pay tax if it is your only source of income.

If you have paid social insurance contributions in more than one country, you should apply 6 months before you reach 66.

You can apply for this pension while you are still abroad.

State Pension (Non-Contributory)

You can get the State Pension (Non-Contributory) if you are aged 66 and over and you do not qualifyfor a State Pension (Contributory),or you only qualify for a reduced rate contributory pension based on your social insurance record. You must satisfy a means test and be habitually resident in Ireland to qualify.

You must be living in Ireland to apply for this pension.

Combining your social insurance contributions from abroad

If you have worked in more than one EU/EEA country, or in a country with which Ireland has a Bilateral Social Security Agreement, such as the UK, Australia, Canada or the United States, then your periods of insurance can be combined with Irish insurance to see if you qualify for a pension from each country.

You can find out more about combining social insurance contributions from abroad. If you are getting a pension under EU Regulations or a Bilateral Agreement, you may also be eligible for the Household Benefits Package.

Increase in payment for adult and child dependents

If you’re getting a State pension, you may get an increase for a dependant adult such as a spouse, civil partner or cohabitant. This is known as an Increase for a Qualified Adult (IQA). You may also be entitled to claim for any child dependants.

How to apply

You need to complete the application form and send it to the relevant address with documentary evidence as required.

You can get an application form from your Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office, post office or Citizens Information Centre.

You can also print the relevant application form below:

To apply for a pension or any other form of State benefit in Ireland, you need a Personal Public Service number (PPS number). This number is a unique personal identification number that is essential for applying for State benefits and services in Ireland.

Read more information about getting a pension in Ireland.

What other State benefits can I get?

You may be entitled to apply for other benefits in Ireland.

If you are getting an Irish State pension, you may also be entitled to:

Read about the benefits available with Contributory and Non-Contributory State Pensions.

What health services am I entitled to?

Both private and public health services are available in Ireland.

Public health services

Public health services are provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE). You can access public health services either free of charge or at a reduced cost if you are ordinarily resident in Ireland. Ordinarily resident means you have been living in Ireland for at least a year or you intend to live here for at least one year.

Medical cards and GP visit cards

Depending on your income, age and situation you may be eligible for a medical card which entitles you to access certain public health services at no cost. If you are ordinarily resident in Ireland and getting a pension from an EU or EEA country or Switzerland, you may qualify for a medical card under EU rules. If you are getting a social security pension from the UK, you may be entitled to a medical card if you are ordinarily resident in Ireland.

If you are not eligible for a medical card, you may qualify for a GP visit card. With a GP visit card, you can visit your doctor free of charge. Your eligibility will depend on your age, income and situation.

Private health services

Private health services are provided by individual health professionals or healthcare companies. You usually pay the full cost of private health services unless you have private health insurance. Use the Health Insurance Authority’s Health Insurance Comparison tool to compare private health insurance in Ireland.

Read about returning to Ireland and buying private health insurance.

How will I get around?

There are many ways of getting around when you return to Ireland, including public transport, driving, cycling, taxis and more.

Driving

You can exchange a driving licence issued by an EU/EEA member state, the UK or other certain recognised states for an Irish driving licence.

If your driving licence was issued by a country that is not recognised for driving licence exchange, you cannot exchange your licence for an Irish licence. You will need to go through the full driver licensing procedure.

If you want to bring your car to Ireland you need to know about importing a car and implications for Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT).

Free Travel Pass

If you are aged over 66 and living permanently in Ireland, you are entitled to free travel on public bus and rail transport under the Free Travel Scheme. Some people under age 66 also qualify.

Public transport services vary across the country, so the services available to you will depend on where you live. If you are aged 66 or over and have free travel, you can also travel free of charge on all bus and rail services in Northern Ireland using a Senior Smartpass card.

You can also read information about travelling on public transport with a disability or reduced mobility.

Can I work?

Many people over the standard retirement age of 65 continue working past this age.

If you are working in retirement, you have the same employment rights as everyone else. If you decide to work part-time, you can read about employment rights of part-time workers.

If you are under age 66, you may be able to do some part-time work and keep your entitlement to part of your Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance. If you are getting any social welfare payment other than the State Pension (Contributory) or Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Contributory) Pension, working can affect your entitlement.

Before you decide to work in retirement, you should read about the possible impact on your pension, social welfare payments, and tax obligations.

Will I have to pay tax?

If you are moving to Ireland you need to know about residency for tax purposes. Your residence for tax purposes depends on the number of days that you are present in Ireland during a tax year (a tax year runs from 1 January to 31 December).

Tax on your belongings

If you’re returning to Ireland for an extended period of time, you may need to ship your belongings home and you may need to pay certain import taxes on your items. However, there are tax reliefs available. Read about the taxes you may have to pay when shipping your belongings back to Ireland.

Pensions and tax relief

In general, foreign pensions (including UK and US pensions) are also taxable sources of income in Ireland. They are liable to Income Tax (IT) and Universal Social Charge (USC), but not Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI).

There are some special tax arrangements for people aged 65 or over and tax relief is available for certain medical expenses including nursing home costs.

You can find out about income tax credits and reliefs and how pensions are taxed.

Tax on your savings

If you have savings from employment income earned when you were not tax resident in Ireland, those savings will not be taxable when brought home.

If you are tax resident in Ireland, you are charged a tax on the interest you are paid from certain deposit accounts (such as deposit accounts in certain banks or building societies). This is called Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT). This happens whether or not you would normally be liable for tax. If you are aged 65 or over or your spouse or civil partner is aged 65 or over, or if you are permanently incapacitated, you may not be liable for DIRT if you are exempt from income tax.

Tax for people aged 65 and over

If you are aged 65 or over, you must pay income tax in the normal way. However, there are tax exemption limits and some extra tax credits available to people aged 65 or over. For more information, see older people's tax credits and reliefs.

What about other supports?

There are many organisations providing supports for retired people, including active retirement groups, campaigning, and support for older people (including carers).

The Guide to entitlements for over sixties (pdf) has detailed information on your rights and entitlements in Ireland.

Page edited: 19 August 2022