Residence rights of non-EEA nationals
Who has a right to reside in Ireland?
Irish and UK citizens have a right to reside in Ireland.
Ireland is a member of the European Union and EU citizens can live in Ireland under EU freedom of movement laws. This also applies to citizens of Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein (who are part of the EEA) and Switzerland. EU freedom of movement also applies to family members.
In addition, Ireland must process applications for international protection from people who arrive in Ireland and are seeking asylum. International protection applicants can live in Ireland while they are waiting for their claim to be processed. Ireland may accept refugees as part of international agreements and in response to crises. These people are known as ‘programme refugees’ and are granted the right to reside.
Other citizens need permission to remain in Ireland. This means that they must make an application to stay in Ireland for longer than 3 months. This page describes how this works in most cases, and links to more detailed information on how to apply.
Permission to remain is given for a fixed period, but can be renewed in most cases. The permission granted has conditions, depending on the reasons why you are staying in Ireland, for example, studying, working with an employment permit, joining your family. You must register with immigration and get an Irish Residence Permit. An immigration officer (or Garda) stamps your passport with the details of your permission to reside.
Permission to remain
The Minister for Justice has the power to grant a person permission to remain in Ireland.
Section 4 of the Immigration Act 2004 gives an officer acting on behalf of the Minister the power to grant permission to enter Ireland, and permission to remain here. They can also specify the conditions of that stay, like how long the permission is granted for and the conditions attached to the permission.
If you are coming to Ireland to live, you can read about:
- Visa requirements for entering Ireland
- Permission to enter Ireland
- Registration of non-EEA nationals
You can read about what to do if you are already in Ireland and your situation has changed on the ISD website.
Visas and permission to enter Ireland
Citizens of some countries need a visa to enter Ireland. If you hope to stay in Ireland for longer than 3 months, you apply for a ‘D’ visa. You should have proof to support your application. For example, if you wish to come to Ireland to study, you should have proof that you have enrolled in a course and have paid tuition fees. If you hope to come to Ireland to work, you should have already received your employment permit.
In most cases, you cannot change your purpose for being in Ireland after you have entered the State. For example, if you have been granted a visa (if needed) and permission to enter Ireland as a tourist for up to 3 months, you cannot apply for permission to work during the 3 months. You must leave Ireland and apply for an employment permit from outside Ireland.
You must register with immigration and get an Irish Residence Permit. If you have moved to Ireland to join your EU/EEA or Swiss family member, you must make a written application and wait to for ISD to invite you to register.
Moving to Ireland to work or to start a business
If you want to work in Ireland, you must have an employment permit, or have been granted permission to reside in Ireland that allows you to work.
Ireland has different types of employment permits. The most common are the General Employment Permit and the Critical Skills Employment Permit. If you plan to come to Ireland to work, you must apply for an employment permit before you come to Ireland.
If you already live in Ireland, you may be able to apply for an employment permit if you already have another permission to remain. This applies if you are:
- Studying in Ireland and have a Stamp 2 immigration permission
- Living as a dependent of an employment permit holder and have a Stamp 3
- Are on the Student Graduate Programme and have Stamp 1G
You don’t need an employment permit to work in Ireland while you have the following residence stamps:
- Stamp 1G
- Stamp 4, 4S, 4D or 4EUFAM
- Stamp 5
Students (on Stamp 2) can work up to 20 hours per week during term time and full time during holiday periods. The holiday periods are:
- June, July, August and September
- From 15 December to 15 January
Coming to Ireland to start a business
Ireland has immigration schemes for people who want to invest in Ireland, or to start their own business here.
You may be granted residence in Ireland based on your investments. This option is available for people who make substantial investments in either:
- An Irish enterprise (minimum €1 million invested for at least 3 years)
- An investment fund that is approved by the Irish Central Bank (minimum €1 million invested for at least 3 years)
- A real estate investment trust that is listed on the Irish stock exchange (at least €2 million invested for at least 3 years)
- An endowment to a project that is of public benefit to the arts, sports, health, culture or education (minimum of €500,000)
Starting a business
You can apply for the Start-Up Entrepreneur Programme if you have an innovative business idea and the required funding of at least €50,000.
Moving to Ireland to study
International students are students from outside the EEA (the EU, plus Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein), UK and Switzerland. If you want to be an international student in Ireland, you must:
- Enrol in a college
- Pay your fees
- Apply for a visa (if you are from a visa required country)
- Register with ISD (if you are staying for more than 90 days)
Enrol in a college and pay your fees
You must choose a course that is eligible for a student visa. You must pay your first year fees in full before you arrive in Ireland if the fees are less than €6000. If the fee is more than €6000, you must pay at least €6000 towards your fees.
Apply for a visa
You should check if you need a visa to enter Ireland. You apply for a short-stay (C) visa if your course is less than 90 days long, or a long stay (D) visa if your course is longer than 90 days. ISD has detailed information on student visa applications.
Register with ISD
If you are staying in Ireland for more than 90 days, you must register and get an Irish Residence Permit (IRP).
Read about residence rules for international students.
Joining your family
If your spouse or partner, or another family member, lives in Ireland, you may be able to apply to join them.
In many situations, the family member must show that they can support you financially and satisfy eligibility criteria.
EU and EEA citizens have the right to be joined by their family under EU law.
People with international protection status can apply for family reunification on behalf of their close family members.
Applying for international protection means the same thing as claiming asylum.
You can apply for international protection in Ireland if you have come to Ireland to escape persecution in your own country.
You can also apply for international protection if you cannot return to your country because you have a well-founded fear for your safety.
While you are waiting for a decision on your application, you can stay in Ireland. If your application is approved, you get international protection status, which is either as:
- A refugee
- A person with subsidiary protection
If you are not given refugee or subsidiary protection status, you may get permission to remain if the Minister for Justice decides that you can stay in Ireland for another reason.
Some people come to Ireland as programme refugees. This means that the Irish Government has decided to allow them to live in Ireland following a request by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The table below describes the main immigration laws that are currently in place, with a brief description.
|Aliens Act 1935||Gave the Minister for Justice the power to make an alien’s order,
to restrict the entry of ‘aliens’, place restrictions on their
movement and deport and/or exclude them from Ireland. Also created
immigration related offences.
An ‘alien’ was someone who was not a citizen of Ireland. Since 1999, citizens of the UK are also not considered ‘aliens’ under the Act.
This Act was never repealed, but later laws replaced the parts dealing with deportations, entry to the State and registration.
The power to deport and exclude people through an alien’s order was declared unconstitutional in 1999.
|Immigration Act 1999||Sets out the law on deportations and what the Minister must consider
before making a deportation order. Also sets out Garda powers to arrest
and detain people who have committed offences under the Act.
The Minister must give notice of the intention to deport (known as a Section 3 notice). The person can then give reasons as to why they should not be deported and other requested details. The Minister may then issue a deportation order or grant the person permission to remain.
|Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000||Made it a criminal offence to assist a person to enter Ireland
illegally, where the assistance is given for gain.
Declared that certain immigration decisions are final, and may only be appealed by way of judicial review to the High Court. This includes deportation orders, refusals of permission to remain applications and refusals of entry to the State.
|Immigration Act 2003||Allows for carriers (for example, airlines, ferry services) to be
penalised for not checking immigration documentation of passengers.
Allows for the removal of people who have been refused permission to enter Ireland, or are in the country unlawfully for less than 3 months.
|Immigration Act 2004||Sets out the law on entering Ireland, permission to remain and
registering. Also provides for the requirement to have valid
documentation and to show your passport or IRP if requested by an
immigration officer or Garda.
Sets out ‘approved ports’ for entering Ireland.
Gives the Minister for Justice the power to make orders setting out which nationalities need a visa before travelling to Ireland.
|International Protection Act 2015||Repealed the Refugee Act 1996.
Sets out how applications for international protection are processed.
Provided for the creation of the International Protection Office and the International Protection Appeals Tribunal.
Further information and contacts
The Immigration Service Delivery website has detailed information about immigration schemes and permissions.