EU/EEA citizens and social welfare payments

Introduction

You have the right to work in Ireland if you are a citizen of the EU, the EEA (Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland. While you are working, you can claim the same family benefits that are available to Irish citizens. If you lose your job, or you stop working because you are sick, you can apply for a payment to support you while you are looking for work, or recovering from illness.

The type of payment you can get depends on how long you have worked in Ireland and, in some case, how much money you (and your spouse or partner) have.

You cannot claim a payment if you have arrived in Ireland to look for a job. However, you may be able to import your unemployment payment from another EEA country for a limited time.

The EU has rules on how social welfare is co-ordinated between EU/EEA countries, including Switzerland. These rules apply to many of the payments available in Ireland.

This page aims to give you an understanding of your rights to social welfare in Ireland as an EU/EEA worker. We first explain the different types of payment and then explain your rights and how to access them.

Types of social welfare payments

Ireland has many different social welfare payments. There are EU rules about how payments are coordinated between countries. But each country also has its own rules. For example, the rate of payment and how long a benefit is paid for differs from country to country.

Most payments are either based on the contributions you have made through work, or based on your means (how much income, savings and capital you and your partner have).

Payments based on your social insurance (PRSI)

Some payments are based on your social insurance contributions (PRSI contributions). Your employer pays PRSI for you if you are an employee. If you are self-employed, you pay PRSI as part of your yearly tax return.

You can use the contributions you paid in another EEA country to qualify for these payments, but your most recent social insurance contribution must have been paid in Ireland.

Means tested payments

Some payments are based on your means. You can receive these payments if you do not qualify for a social insurance payment and satisfy residence rules. For some payments, the residence rules do not apply to EEA or Swiss workers. See ‘residence rules for means tested payments’ below.

Each payment has its own qualifying criteria and rules about who can qualify. Detailed information is available in our social welfare section.

EEA/Swiss workers and family payments

EU workers (including self-employed people) have the right to reside in Ireland. This applies to EEA and Swiss citizens also. If you stop working, you can keep your right to reside status for a period in some circumstances.

Family payments

While you are working you can claim family payments if you have dependent children living in Ireland or in another EEA country or Switzerland. You can claim Child Benefit if you have a child or children under the age of 16. This is paid regardless of how much money you earn. If your child lives in another EEA country or Switzerland, Ireland may pay the full rate or a ‘top up’. A ‘top ‘up’ occurs where the other parent of the child gets an equivalent payment from the country they live in.

Family payments for EU and EEA citizens
Payment Who is it for?
Child Benefit Parents of children aged under 16 (or under 18 if the child is in education, training or has a disability and cannot support themselves)
Working Family Payment Working parents who are on a low income. The amount you can get depends on how many children you have and how much you are paid.

The applicant must be employed (not self-employed) for at least 38 hours per fortnight.

One Parent Family Payment People who are parenting alone. The payment is means tested (based on how much money you have)
Domiciliary Care Allowance A parent of a child with a disability
Guardian’s Payment A person who is looking after a child because the child’s parents are dead, or have abandoned or failed to look after the child

Claiming social welfare if you lose your job or you are unable to work

You may need to claim a social welfare payment if you become unemployed or cannot work because you are sick or incapacitated.

Losing your job

You may be able to claim a payment when you become ‘involuntarily’ unemployed. This could be because:

  • You were on a temporary contract
  • You were dismissed from your job
  • The business you work for has closed down or reduced its workforce (redundancy)

If the business closed down or reduced its workforce, you may be entitled to a redundancy payment.

The type of payment you can get when you become involuntarily unemployed depends on how long were working in Ireland, or if you can use your social insurance contributions from another EEA country. You may be be able to getL

  • Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB) if you worked in another EEA country or Switzerland before you came to Ireland and have paid enough social insurance. Your most recent contribution must have been paid in Ireland.
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) if you satisfy the habitual residence condition (see below). This payment is based on your means.
  • Supplementary Welfare Allowance based on your means (and your spouse or partner’s means). You can claim this for up to 6 months if you worked in Ireland for less than a year, or for as long as you are looking for work if you worked in Ireland for more than a year.

Sick or incapacitated

If you are sick and unable to work temporarily, you can claim:

If you become incapacitated, this means you are unable to work permanently and have enough social insurance contributions you can claim Invalidity Pension. If you do not have the contributions to get the full rate of Invalidity Pension, you may be entitled to a reduced payment if you do not have enough Irish contributions, but have contributions from another EEA country or Switzerland.

Residence rules for means tested payments

Each social welfare payment has its own conditions. This page explains about residence rules only. You can read about the rules for each payment in our social welfare section.

Some payments are only available if you are ‘habitually resident’ in Ireland. The Department of Social Protection assesses if you have:

  1. The legal right to reside in Ireland
  2. A proven close link to Ireland.

EEA and Swiss workers (including those who kept their worker status when they stopped working) do not need to satisfy the habitual residence condition to get a family payment or Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

A close link to Ireland is assessed based on the following 5 factors:

  • Length and continuity of residence in Ireland
  • Length and purpose of any absence from Ireland
  • Nature and pattern of employment
  • Your main centre of interest
  • Your future intentions to live in Ireland as it appears from the evidence

You can read more about the habitual residence condition.

Pensions when you have worked in more than one country

You may qualify for a pension from Ireland when you reach pension age (66 for both men and women).

A State Pension (Contributory) is assessed based on your PRSI contributions. If you have not paid enough contributions to qualify for a pension, you may still qualify for an EU pro-rata pension. A pro-rata pension is based on your contributions in Ireland, other EEA countries, and countries that Ireland has a bilateral agreement with. Ireland pays you based on the proportion of these contributions that you paid in Ireland.

If you live in Ireland when you reach 66 and you do not qualify for the maximum State Pension (Contributory), you may be entitled to the State Pension (Non-Contributory).

It is possible to get a pension from more than one country if you meet the qualifying conditions for each country.

Different retirement ages

Pension age is not the same across the EU. This means you may reach the pension age in a country you worked in, before you reach the pension age in Ireland. Your Irish contributions cannot be assessed for your pro-rata pension until you reach the Irish pension age of 66.

For example, if you worked in France and Ireland, you may be entitled to a French pension when you turn 60. The years that you worked in Ireland cannot be used to increase your French pension because you have not reached the Irish pension age of 66. When you reach 66, you can claim an Irish pension, and your French pension may be increased, and you may also get a pension from Ireland.

Where to apply

You apply in the country where you live. You don’t need to make separate applications in each country you have lived in. If you live in Ireland, you make an application for an Irish pension (if you are reaching 66) or you fill in form EUP65 (pdf) if you want to apply for a pension in another country in the EEA.

Further information and contacts

You can read more about the Irish social welfare system.

The Department of Social Protection has a list of Intreo (social welfare) offices.

Page edited: 4 October 2021