Social welfare payments for returning Irish emigrants


You may need financial assistance when you return to Ireland. The Department of Social Protection (DSP) has a range of social welfare payments that provide financial support. This page gives an overview of those payments and how you can apply for them.

Before you return to Ireland, check if there are any benefits you can transfer to Ireland.

Crosscare Irish Diaspora Support Project has information on what to do if you are returning to Ireland in a crisis, especially if you are homeless.

You can also get information and advice from your local Citizens Information Centre in Ireland. You can also call the Citizens Information Phone Service (CIPS) from 9am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, on 0818 07 4000. If you are calling CIPS from outside Ireland, you should dial +353 21 229 8178.

Can I get a social welfare payment when I return to Ireland?

You may be able to get a social welfare payment when you return, depending on your circumstances.

Social welfare payments are available for:

Habitual Residence Condition

For certain social assistance payments, you need to show that Ireland is your main place of residence. This is called the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC). Some returning Irish immigrants can face difficulties with this requirement.

The term “habitually resident” generally means that you:

  • Can prove close ties with Ireland
  • Have been living in Ireland
  • Plan to continue living here for the foreseeable future

There are a range of materials you can provide as evidence to support your HRC application. Along with these materials, you will need to complete the HRC1 form (pdf) and send it to the relevant authority (for example, to the Child Benefit Section in the Department of Social Protection).

The Department considers 5 factors when deciding if you are habitually resident:

  1. How long you have lived in Ireland or any other country
  2. The reason you lived abroad
  3. The nature and pattern of your employment
  4. Your main place of interest
  5. Your plans to live in Ireland for the foreseeable future, according to the evidence provided

You can find out more about the 5 factors on the Department of Social Protection’s website.

Crosscare Irish Diaspora Support Project’s website also has a useful FAQ on the Habitual Residence Condition.

How do I qualify for a social welfare payment?

There are different types of social welfare payments available. Some depend on your income, and others depend on whether or not you have paid enough social insurance contributions.

Social insurance payments

If you have worked and paid social insurance, you may qualify for a social insurance payment.

When you apply for a social insurance payment, the DSP will check if you have paid enough social insurance contributions to qualify. You may be able to use your social insurance contributions from abroad. For short-term payments (for example, Jobseeker’s Benefit) your most recent social insurance contribution must have been paid in Ireland.

If you think you might qualify for a social welfare payment, you should apply.

Social assistance payments

If you have no income or your income is low, you may qualify for a social assistance payment.

When you apply for a social assistance payment, all your income is considered. This is called a means test. How your income is considered in the means test depends on the payment you apply for.

You must also meet the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC) to get a social assistance payment. Find more information on the ‘Habitual Residence Condition’ section above on this page.

Universal Payments

You can get a universal payment (such as Child Benefit), no matter your income or social insurance record. To qualify, you must meet certain conditions.

How do I apply for a social welfare payment?

You must fill in an application form and provide other supporting documentation, which the DSP assesses. The information and documentation you provide is different depending on the payment type and your personal circumstances.

You can apply online for some payments, such as Jobseeker’s allowance.

If you can’t apply online, you can get an application or claim form from:

To apply for a social welfare payment, you must have a Personal Public Service Number (PPS number).

How quickly will I get a social welfare payment?

You should apply for a social welfare payment as soon as you can. It can take several weeks for the Department to make a decision on your application for a payment.

While you are waiting, you can apply for an immediate payment of the Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA). SWA is paid if your income is below a certain limit.

Dáta an Leasaithe Deireanaigh: 1 Márta 2024