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

At present, anyone coming into Ireland, apart from Northern Ireland, must either restrict their movements or self-isolate on arrival for 14 days. Self-isolation involves staying indoors and avoiding unnecessary contact with other people. This excludes people working in essential services like pilots, maritime staff, and hauliers.

You can get advice for people who have recently returned from affected areas 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.

Health information

The HSE provides health information on coronavirus, 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 coronavirus 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: 1 April 2020