Residence rights of UK citizens
The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020. The British government negotiated a withdrawal agreement with the EU which maintained the rights of UK citizens in other EU countries (and of EU citizens in the UK) until the end of 2020. This was known as the transition period and it ended on 31 December 2020.
In Ireland, British citizens have the protection of the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK. The British and Irish governments have agreed that the provisions of this agreement continue now that the UK has left the EU.
Rights of UK citizens in Ireland after 31 December 2020
If you are a UK citizen living in Ireland, you have many of the same rights and entitlements as an Irish citizen. UK citizens can:
- Enter Ireland without a visa
- Travel between the UK and Ireland
- Work without an employment permit
- Access the public healthcare system
- Vote in general elections
These rights are based on a series of bilateral agreements between Ireland and the UK that started in 1922. You can read more about the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the United Kingdom.
In May 2019, the Irish and British governments re-affirmed their commitment to maintaining the Common Travel Area.
The Common Travel Area is separate from EU law, and continues to apply since the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020.
What about my non-EEA family?
The rules for non-EEA family members of UK nationals who want to live in Ireland are different depending on whether they were living in Ireland before the transition period or not.
Non-EEA family who lived in Ireland before 31 December 2020
If you are a family member of a UK national and you lived in Ireland legally before 31 December 2020, you retain your residence rights in Ireland. This means that you can continue to live, work or study in Ireland.
However, you must exchange your current valid Irish Resident Permit (IRP) Card for a new one stating that these residence rights derive from EU Free Movement under the Withdrawal Agreement.
You apply through the online renewal system. When making your online application:
- You must confirm that you have been exercising EU Treaty Rights to reside in Ireland on or before 31 December 2020 and continue to do so
- You must provide proof of your identity and proof of your current residence
- You must submit your current valid Irish Residence Permit card and you will be issued a new one
You no longer qualify for free movement in the EU and if you are travelling to another EEA country, you should check if you need a visa.
You have until 31 December 2021 to apply.
Non-EEA family who come to Ireland from 1 January 2021
Separate arrangements have been put in place for UK nationals who come to Ireland after 31 December 2020 and wish to bring their non-EEA family members.
You have to apply for a visa or for preclearance (if you are from a country whose citizens do not need a visa to enter Ireland).
You must have a sponsor for your application. A sponsor must be:
- A UK citizen
- Living in Ireland, or intending to live in Ireland
- Able to support you financially
The sponsor must not have been mainly relying on social welfare payments in the 2 year period before your application. Also, they must have gross earnings (before tax and deductions) above the Working Family Payment rates for your family size in each of the last 3 years.
If you are the spouse or partner of the sponsor, they cannot have sponsored anyone else for residence in Ireland in the 7 years before your application.
Immigration Service Delivery (ISD) can also consider the conduct of the sponsor in Ireland (for example, if they have a criminal record).
Who can apply?
Your application is based on the relationship you have with the UK citizen sponsor. There are 3 categories of applicants:
Category 1 –Spouses, civil partners and de facto partners. A de facto partnership is when a couple lives together or is in a relationship that is like a marriage, but they are not married.
Category 2 –Dependent children. This can be the child of the sponsor, or the child of their spouse, civil partner or de-facto partner.
Category 3 –Dependent parents who are 66 or older. This can be the parent or parents of the sponsor, or of their spouse, civil partner or de-facto partner.
How to apply
To apply to come to Ireland as the family member of a UK citizen you must:
- Fill in an online form
- Pay a fee of €60
- Submit your application and supporting documents
Detailed guidance on how to complete the application form, what supporting documents you should provide, and where to how to pay the fee are available on the ISD website.
If your application is approved you will get a preclearance letter of approval (if you not visa required) or a ‘D’ long stay visa in your passport. This gives you permission to enter Ireland.
When you arrive in Ireland, you must register with immigration and get an Irish Residence Permit.
UK citizens and health services in Ireland
UK citizens who are resident in Ireland are entitled to health services in the same way as Irish citizens who are resident. This means that they may avail of public health services if they are “ordinarily resident”. This is an agreement between Ireland and the UK, and did not change with the UK's departure from the European Union.
Social welfare payments in Ireland
UK citizens living in Ireland are eligible to apply for social welfare payments in the same way as Irish citizens living in Ireland.
With all social welfare payments in Ireland, you must satisfy the rules for each scheme to qualify. For example, you must be habitually resident in Ireland to qualify for most means-tested social welfare payments.
Residence in the Common Travel Area is treated the same way as residence in Ireland for the purposes of the habitual residence condition (HRC). However, UK citizens who have recently moved to Ireland may find it more difficult to establish that their main centre of interest is in Ireland.
If you are currently getting a social welfare payment in Ireland, it will continue to be paid after the UK leaves the EU, as long as you continue to fulfil the qualifying criteria for the payment. The Department of Social Protection has published guidance on social welfare payments and Brexit.
If you are receiving a payment from the UK (for example, a British pension) you will continue to receive it after the UK leaves the EU.
Social contributions (PRSI in Ireland, and National Insurance in the UK) paid in the UK will continue to be assessed towards Irish pensions and other social welfare benefits.
Can I use my UK driving licence?
You can no longer use your UK driving licence to drive in Ireland unless you are resident in the UK and are visiting Ireland temporarily. If you live in Ireland and hold a UK driving licence, you must exchange your licence.
Can I vote in Ireland?
UK Citizens continue to be entitled to vote in national, and local elections if you meet the general requirements for voting (for example, you are over 18 years old). You are not entitled to vote in Presidential elections or referendums.
Since the UK has left the European Union, you are no longer eligible to vote in European Parliament elections.