Returning to Ireland and COVID-19
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.
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 self-isolate on arrival for 14 days. These restrictions apply fully to Irish citizens returning home after a period abroad. Read more about self-isolation in the next section.
From Thursday 28 May 2020, it is mandatory for people arriving in Ireland to fill in a Public Health Passenger Locator Form. You may then be contacted during the 14 days after you arrive in Ireland to check that you are self-isolating.
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.
People who have returned to Ireland from abroad, apart from Northern Ireland, must self-isolate on arrival for 14 days. Self-isolation means staying indoors and completely avoiding contact with other people, including people you live with.
These measures are necessary to minimize your risk of contracting or spreading the virus.
How to self-isolate
Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people. If you live with others, they will also need to restrict their movements.
To self-isolate you must:
- Stay at home, in a room with the window open
- 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.
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.
What to do if you feel unwell
If you feel ill, you must not go out. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Your GP will assess you over the phone. If they think you need to be tested for COVID-19, they will arrange a test. The HSE also provides information on minding your mental health during the public health emergency.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- by email at email@example.com
- by phone at 071 967 2616 or 1890 927 999
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.
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:
- Crosscare Migrant Project is a Dublin based NGO providing information and advocacy support to Irish emigrants and people who have moved to Ireland. Contact Crosscare here, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +353 (0)1 873 2844.
- Safe Home Ireland is an Irish emigrant support service that provides a range of services to more than 2,000 people each year. Safe Home provides an advice and information service, outreach visits and housing assistance to eligible applicants. Contact Safe Home Ireland here; email email@example.com or call +353 98 36036.