Returning to Ireland and COVID-19

Introduction

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has caused massive global social and economic disruption. Irish people living abroad have been impacted heavily by the crisis, with many concerned for relatives at home and unclear about their personal futures abroad.

This document aims to give you information on returning to Ireland during the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes practical, up-to-date information on travel advice, public health guidelines, employment rights and social welfare entitlements for people returning to Ireland.

Travel

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFA) is advising against all non-essential travel overseas until further notice. This includes Great Britain but not Northern Ireland.

What to do if you are abroad

Where commercial flights are still open DFA recommends that Irish citizens abroad who wish to return to Ireland do so as soon as possible.

Flight restrictions and route cancellations are happening daily worldwide and there is no guarantee that air routes will continue to operate. If you are due to travel, contact your airline for updates. Download DFA’s Travelwise app and see the website at dfa.ie for up-to-date travel advice.

DFA advise Irish citizens abroad to follow local public health advice and stay in regular contact with their family and friends. You can contact your local Irish embassy or consulate and register your contact details with the Department. DFAT’s Consular Assistance Unit in Dublin can also be contacted by calling +353 1 408 2000. You can also follow DFA on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates.

A number of Irish organisations abroad support Irish emigrants. Many are continuing to operate by phone and email even if their public offices are closed.

What to do when you return to Ireland

Since Thursday 28 May, anyone arriving in Ireland from another country is required by law to fill in a Covid-19 Passenger Locator Form (pdf). This includes people arriving from a country on the 'COVID-19 green list' and people arriving from a country not on the 'COVID-19 green list'. Each passenger aged 16 or over should fill in one form. If you are travelling with children under the age of 16 you should include their details on form. They do not have to fill in their own form.

You can fill the form in before you travel. If you need help with filling in the form, let border personnel know when you arrive in Ireland.

The information on the form may be used to contact you to check your location, or to contact you if there is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 on your flight or ferry.

You may be fined up to €2,500 or imprisoned for up to 6 months, or both if you do not:

  • Fill in and submit the form to a relevant person
  • Knowingly provide information that is false or misleading
  • Provide further information when requested
  • Update your residence details if these change within 14 days of your arrival

If any of the information you provide on the form changes in the next 14 days, you must email passengerlocatorform@plf.ie with updated information.

You do not have to fill in the form if you are:

  • Arriving from Northern Ireland
  • A transit passenger who will not be leaving the port or airport
  • Holders of a Certificate for International Transport Workers, or drivers of a heavy goods vehicle who are in Ireland for work
  • Aircraft crew, including pilots, in Ireland as part of your work
  • Ship crew, including maritime masters, in Ireland as part of your work
  • A foreign diplomat

You will only need to fill in part of the form, if you are not staying overnight in the State.

You will also need to restrict your movements on arrival for 14 days. Avoid using public transport to travel to your final destination. Ask a relative or household member to collect you instead. Read more about restricting your movements in the next section, including exceptions.

You can get advice for people who have recently returned from abroad from the Health Service Executive (HSE). You can find out more about the range of measures in place to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in Ireland on citizensinformation.ie.

Do I need to quarantine?

Most people who arrive in Ireland from another country need to restrict their movements for 14 days, including:

  • Returning Irish emigrants
  • People with no symptoms
  • People who have tested negative for the virus in another country

Stay at home and avoid contact with other people and social situations as much as possible. You must also avoid:

  • Using public transport
  • Visiting others
  • Meeting people face-to-face who are at higher risk from COVID-19
  • Going to the shop, unless you have to (wear a face covering if you do)

The only people who do not need to restrict their movements are:

  • People arriving from Northern Ireland
  • Aircraft crew, including pilots, in Ireland as part of their work
  • Holders of a Certificate for International Transport Workers, or heavy good vehicle drivers who are in Ireland for work
  • Ship crew, including the maritime master, in Ireland as part of their work
  • People arriving from a country on the 'COVID-19 green list'

What to do if you develop symptoms of COVID-19

If you feel ill while you are restricting your movements, you should self-isolate and call a doctor. Do not go to a doctor’s surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Your doctor will assess you over the phone. If they think you need to be tested for COVID-19, they will arrange a test.

Self-isolation means staying indoors and completely avoiding contact with other people, including people you live with. If you live with others, they will also need to restrict their movements.

To self-isolate you should:

  • Keep away from others in your home as much as you can
  • Check your symptoms - call a doctor if they get worse
  • Phone your doctor if you need to - do not visit them
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes using a tissue - clean your hands properly afterwards
  • Wash your hands properly and often
  • Clean your room every day with a household cleaner or disinfectant
  • If you can, use a toilet and bathroom that no one else in the house uses and do not share towels, bedding, cooking or eating utensils with those you live with

Depending on your circumstances, it may be possible to self-isolate safely in the same property as someone who is designated highly medically vulnerable to COVID-19. The Health Service Executive (HSE) has published detailed guidance on how to self-isolate effectively when you live with other people.

If you cannot self-isolate at home, you may need to be admitted to a self-isolation facility. You must have a referral from a doctor, hospital, or contact tracing team to be admitted.

Most people with COVID-19 will only have mild symptoms and will get well within weeks. Even though the symptoms are mild, you can still spread the virus to others.

Accessing food and medical supplies while self-isolating

Family, friends and neighbours can support you to get food and medical supplies while self-isolating. They must follow physical distancing guidelines. Where possible, you should use online shopping services. Find out more about how to shop safely in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If these options are not available to you, you may need to access community support to make sure you have access to food, essential household supplies and medicines. You can find information on how to contact your local community support helpline here. If a vulnerable person needs to make contact immediately they can call 0818 222024.

When to stop self-isolating

Only stop self-isolating after 14 days have passed and you have had no symptoms. If you have symptoms, only stop self-isolating when:

  • You have had no fever for 5 days, and
  • It has been 14 days since you first developed symptoms.

Getting around

As part of Phase 3 of the Government roadmap, you can travel anywhere in the country from 29 June 2020.

Public transport

Public transport services are running but you should only use public transport for essential journeys. If you have to use public transport, you should wear a face covering. Read about using public transport during COVID-19.

Driving

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption to driving licencing, testing and National Car Test services in Ireland. You can find out more about this in our document on Driving and Transport during COVID-19.

As part of public health measures during COVID-19, if you have an Irish driving licence that is due to expire between 1 March and 30 June 2020, your licence is automatically renewed for a further 4 months.

Learner permits that are due to expire between 1 March 2020 and 31 October 2020 are automatically renewed for 4 months.

If you have a valid full foreign driving licence, you can drive on this for up to 12 months while visiting Ireland. If you plan to stay in Ireland for longer than 12 months, you should apply to convert your foreign driving licence for an Irish licence if you are eligible, or go through the driving test process to get an Irish driving licence.

Importing a vehicle

All vehicles brought into Ireland are subject to Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) and must be registered. Vehicle registration inspections are currently suspended due to the public health emergency. For more information on importing a vehicle to Ireland, including details of VRT exemptions and when VRT testing will resume, read our document on Importing a car into Ireland.

Health information

The HSE provides health information on COVID-19, including:

  • The symptoms and causes of COVID-19 (coronavirus)
  • When to call a doctor
  • How to protect yourself and others
  • Groups at increased risk from COVID-19 (coronavirus) and what they should do
  • Pregnancy and coronavirus

If you develop symptoms on your return to Ireland, you will need to self-isolate and phone any local GP. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. The GP will assess you over the phone. If they think you need to be tested for coronavirus, they will arrange a test.

The HSE also provides information on minding your mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Work for the HSE

The Irish government has launched a large-scale recruitment drive to deal with the expected rise in cases of COVID-19 across the country. The campaign ‘Be on call for Ireland’ is aimed at Irish healthcare workers abroad, part-time staff and medical students. More information is available on the HSE website.

Income supports

Depending on your circumstances, you may need financial assistance when you return to Ireland. The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) has a range of social welfare payments to provide financial support.

The quickest way to apply for these is online through MyWelfare. To do this you will need to create a MyGovID account. You will also need a Personal Public Service (PPS) number.

PPS numbers

You must have a Personal Public Service (PPS) number to apply for a social welfare payment. If you have worked in Ireland before you may already have a PPS number. You can get your PPS number from DEASP’s Client Identity Services:

If you, your partner or your children do not have a PPS number, you can apply for one by email as part of new special measures during the COVID-19 outbreak. You must download and fill out the REG1 form and send it to with a scanned image or photograph of your identity document (passport, driving licence, ID card) and proof of address (utility bill, letter from landlord to PPSN@welfare.ie.

Applying for Social Welfare

The Returning to Ireland section of our website provides information on how to access social welfare as a returning Irish emigrant.

If you are applying for a social assistance payment, you need to show that Ireland is currently your main place of residence. This is called the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC). You do not have to have been living in Ireland for a certain period of time to be considered habitually resident. You can read more about returning Irish emigrants and the HRC. Crosscare Migrant Project’s website also has useful FAQs on the HRC and you can also contact them for support if you are having difficulty with your application

People who have lost employment outside Ireland are not eligible for the new COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment upon returning to Ireland because the payment is only for people who have lost employment in Ireland. They may access other social welfare payments such as Jobseeker’s Allowance and Basic Supplementary Allowance. Anyone in crisis, or without any income can apply for an Exceptional Needs Payment.

Housing

If you are returning from abroad it is important to try to have somewhere to stay on arrival. The Returning to Ireland section of our website has more housing-related information and advice for returning emigrants.

The Government has introduced a range of special measures to assist tenants impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, including a temporary ban on evictions and rent increases, as well as a longer notice period for tenancies under 6 months. Services are available for tenants in difficulty through the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) and the national housing charity, Threshold, which operates the Tenancy Protection Service.

Any Irish emigrants returning to Ireland who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or in any other crisis situation should contact the local council in the area they are returning to. The following support organisations may also be able to give you more information and advice by phone or email:

Page edited: 29 July 2020