Returning to Ireland and COVID-19

Introduction

This document has information on returning to Ireland during COVID-19. It includes up-to-date information on travel advice, public health guidelines, employment rights and social welfare entitlements for Irish people returning to Ireland from abroad.

The Irish Government has published ‘Resilience and Recovery 2020 – 2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19’. This plan sets out 5 levels that correspond to the severity of COVID-19 in a location.

From Saturday 16 January 2021, all passengers arriving into Ireland must have a negative or ‘not detected’ COVID test (PCR test) taken no more than 72 hours before your arrival. See ‘Pre-arrival testing’ below.

Travel to Ireland

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is advising against all non-essential travel overseas, apart from countries that are part of the EU ‘traffic lights’ approach where the advice is to exercise a high degree of caution. For more information, read our COVID-19 travel overview.

Ireland is following the EU 'traffic lights' approach to travel within the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) and United Kingdom (UK). This system is based on a combined indicator map.

This map will be updated weekly by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and categorise countries as green, orange, red or grey depending on their COVID-19 rates of infection. Details on this new system are available in the European Commission’s factsheet.

See ‘Do I need to quarantine?’ below for more information.

Pre-arrival testing

All passengers arriving into Ireland must have a negative or ‘not detected’ COVID test (PCR test) taken no more than 72 hours before your arrival. You must restrict your movements for 14 days, unless you are travelling from a country that is ‘green’ or ‘orange’ on the EU traffic lights system.

If you arrive at an Irish airport or sea port without proof of a negative or ‘not detected’ test, you will be committing an offence.

You do not need a COVID test if you are travelling through Ireland and transiting to another country. This only applies if you do not leave the airport

You should read the latest travel advice before travelling to Ireland.

Recent arrivals from Great Britain, South Africa and South America

The HSE has updated its advice for people who have arrived in Ireland from Great Britain (England, Scotland or Wales), South Africa or any country in South America.

You should self-isolate (stay in your room) for 14 days from the date you arrived in Ireland.

The HSE will contact you using the information you provided on your Passenger Locator Form (see below) so you can get a COVID-19 test.

You must complete the full 14 days of self-isolation, even if your test result is negative (COVID-19 not detected).

You still need to complete 14 days of self-isolation, even if you have already had a private COVID-19 test with a negative (COVID-19 not detected) result.

Passenger Locator Form

Anyone arriving in Ireland from another country is required by law to fill in a Covid-19 Passenger Locator Form.

You fill in the form online. 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 the form. They do not have to fill in their own form.

The information on the form may be used to contact you to check the information you have provided and to share public health information on COVID-19 with you.

There are penalties for not filling in the form or giving inaccurate details – you may be fined up to €2,500 or imprisoned for up to 6 months, or both.

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.

What to do if you are abroad

If you are due to travel, contact your airline for updates. You can visit 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. If you need help, there are consular and diplomatic supports available from the DFA.

DFA’s Consular Assistance Unit in Dublin can also be contacted by calling +353 1 408 2527 during office hours, or +353 1 4082000 for out-of-hours emergencies. Follow DFA on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates or follow the Twitter account of your nearest Irish embassy or consulate for local 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.

Do I need to quarantine?

All passengers arriving into Ireland must have a negative or ‘not detected’ COVID test (PCR test) taken no more than 72 hours before your arrival.

Most people travelling to Ireland from abroad are asked to restrict their movements for 14 days on arrival. This includes Irish citizens returning home, as well as people with no symptoms.

If you recently arrived in Ireland from Great Britain (England, Scotland or Wales), South Africa or any country in South America, you should self-isolate for 14 days from the date you arrived and follow the HSE’s latest advice.

Who is exempt?

You do not have to restrict your movements if you are:

  • Arriving from Northern Ireland
  • Arriving from a ‘green’ or 'orange' region
  • An international transport worker carrying out your work
  • Travelling with an essential function or need

If you have arrived from an ‘orange’, ‘red’ or ‘grey’ region, you can stop restricting your movements IF you get a negative or not detected PCR test 5 days or more after your arrival. You must wait until you get the result of your test before you stop restricting your movements. NOTE: this does not apply if you recently arrived from Great Britain (England, Scotland or Wales), South Africa or any country in South America. You should self-isolate for 14 days from the date you arrived and follow the HSE’s latest advice.

Find out more about restricting your movements.

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.

If you test positive, you should self-isolate immediately.

Self-isolation means staying indoors and completely avoiding contact with other people, including people you live with. You should only stop self-isolating if:

  • You have had no fever for 5 days
  • It has been 10 days since you first developed symptoms

If you live with others, they also need to restrict their movements.

For more information, see the HSE’s guide to self-isolation.

Getting around

Every county in Ireland is at Level 5 until 31 January 2021.

You should not travel more than 5km from your home unless you have to travel for essential work, educational or other essential purposes, such as providing care.

Read more about domestic travel restrictions.

Onward travel on arrival in Ireland

You can travel from the airport or port to where you plan on restricting your movements. Avoid public transport if possible. Ask a relative or household member to collect you. They will not have to restrict their movements.

When you arrive, you will most likely need to restrict your movements for 14 days. Read more about restricting your movements in 'Do I need to quarantine?' above, including exceptions.

Public transport

In Level 5 restrictions, public transport services are running at a reduced capacity. If you are over 70, or extremely medically vulnerable, you are advised to avoid public transport.

If you have to use public transport, you must wear a face covering. Read about using public transport during COVID-19.

Driving

Read about Driving and Transport during COVID-19.

As part of public health measures during COVID-19, if you have an Irish driving licence that expired between 1 March and 31 August 2020 your licence is automatically renewed for a further 7 months.

Learner permits that expired 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. For more information on importing a vehicle to Ireland, including details of VRT exemptions, read about Importing a vehicle into Ireland.

Health information

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

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

If you develop symptoms on your return to Ireland, you 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.

Income supports

Depending on your circumstances, you may need financial assistance when you return to Ireland. The Department of Social Protection (DSP) has a range of social welfare payments that you may be eligible for.

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 DSP’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 gives 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 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

It is important to try to have somewhere to stay on arrival. Our website has more information on housing for returning emigrants.

You can also read more information on Renting and COVID-19.

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: 18 January 2021