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Living Abroad in Ireland: Making the Move

© Steenie Harvey, from Living Abroad in Ireland, 1st Edition. Used by permission of Avalon Travel. All rights reserved.

Living Abroad in Ireland

It's worth pointing out here that all non-EU nationals need work permits to take up paid employment within Ireland. This isn't something you can obtain yourself—applications must be made by employers before a prospective employee even arrives in Ireland. However, if you have a historic entitlement to Irish or any other EU citizenship, then the door to employment is wide open.

Visas and Immigration

Citizens of the United States will not need a visa to enter Ireland. However, unless you're claiming dual Irish nationality, all non-EU citizens planning to stay in Ireland for longer than three months need to register with the authorities. You must obtain what is known as “Permission to Remain” from the minister of justice. This can be done by calling on your local An Garda Siochána (police) office in the district where you're living. Dublin is a bit different-here all formalities are handled by the Immigration and Registration Bureau, Garda Headquarters, Harcourt Street, Dublin 2.

“Permission to Remain” is affixed by way of a stamp in your passport. You will also be issued a residency document. There is no fee for registering. You need to supply the following documentation with your application for Permission to Remain:

  • A valid passport
  • Evidence (bank statements) that you have sufficient funds with which to support yourself and any dependents
  • Any information requested in connection with the purpose of your being in the state

Student Visas

In addition to the above documentation, individuals entering Ireland to study or to sit an examination must present to the immigration officer at the port of arrival a letter of registration from the relevant educational institution. It should verify the duration/nature of the course or examination and proof that all the fees have been paid. Prospective students must also provide evidence of full medical insurance to cover their stay in Ireland.

You will normally be given permission to remain for the duration of your stated purpose in the state up to a maximum of 12 months for any single period. This permission is renewable. People who have been issued work authorization/student permits will be granted residency for the duration of the work or study term.

The onus is on you to ensure that your Permission to Remain is not allowed to lapse. Once you have been legally resident in Ireland for five years, you may then apply to obtain a stamp giving permission to remain in the state for a further five years. During this period, there is no requirement to keep registering on an annual basis.

People who have been legally resident in Ireland for 10 years can then apply for a stamp giving them “residence without condition.” However, this entitles a person only to residency without going through all the red tape. All the other “alien” requirements such as work permits and business permission remain.


You will normally be given permission to remain for the duration of your stated purpose in the state up to a maximum of 12 months for any single period. This permission is renewable. People who have been issued work authorization/student permits will be granted residency for the duration of the work or study term.

The onus is on you to ensure that your Permission to Remain is not allowed to lapse. Once you have been legally resident in Ireland for five years, you may then apply to obtain a stamp giving permission to remain in the state for a further five years. During this period, there is no requirement to keep registering on an annual basis.

People who have been legally resident in Ireland for 10 years can then apply for a stamp giving them “residence without condition.” However, this entitles a person only to residency without going through all the red tape. All the other “alien” requirements such as work permits and business permission remain.


Irish citizenship is a valuable thing to have as it brings with it a whole range of economic and social benefits, including the right to live and work in any part of the European Union. And maybe one day your grandson may even play for the Irish soccer team—most of our heroes who wear the green jersey are in the team through the “Irish granny” rule. More prosaically, as an Irish citizen you'll have the right to vote (and be a candidate for elective office) in elections for both the European Parliament and at national level.

There are four ways to claim Irish citizenship:

  • Citizenship through birth in Ireland
  • Citizenship through descent
  • Declaration of postnuptial citizenship
  • Naturalization

Citzenship Through Birth

First, the easiest way to become a citizen of Ireland is to be born here, with at least one parent being an Irish citizen or entitled to Irish citizenship. However, having a child born here no longer confers automatic rights of residency to the foreign-born parents. In recent years, Ireland was flooded by economic refugees—and many women took advantage of the country's liberal laws by giving birth as quickly as possible. As a result of a Supreme Court decision, the immigration division no longer accepts applications for residency from individuals based purely on their parentage of an Irish-born child.

Citizenship Through Descent

If either parent was born in Ireland, you're automatically deemed Irish by right of birth (the jus sanguinis principle). There is no need to register a claim or even to take up residency to acquire citizenship. To obtain an Irish passport, all you have to do is to submit the necessary documentation to the nearest Irish embassy or consulate. Along with passport photos, you'll be asked to produce your own birth certificate, your parents' birth certificates, and their marriage certificate.

Again, you don't have to be resident in Ireland to claim citizenship through a grandparent. However, the procedure is a little different and needs to be undertaken by what is known as “foreign birth registration.” Applications are processed through the local Irish embassy or consulate, or (once you are resident in Ireland), through the Department of Foreign Affairs.

A great deal of paperwork will need to be produced, both the original certificates and two copies of each document. You'll need your own birth certificate, the birth certificate of the parent you are claiming Irish ancestry through, and also that of your Irish-born grandparent. If his or her birth certificate is unobtainable, a baptismal certificate may be acceptable, though this is likely to slow down the process somewhat. You'll also need to produce marriage certificates for yourself (if applicable), parents, and grandparents. Death certificates are also required if a grandparent or the relevant parent is deceased.

Along with two passport-sized photos, you must also submit a photocopy of a current passport (if you have one), and photocopies of three more forms of identity such as a driver's license, social security number ID card, pay slips, or bank statements. You may have heard that Irish citizenship can be claimed through a great-grandparent. This was so until 1984. Unfortunately, the legislation was altered and it's no longer possible for great-grandchildren to benefit from the jus sanguinis principle.

Citizenship Through Marriage

Marriage is another route to Irish citizenship. It used to be that if you had been married to an Irish citizen for three years, you could also claim citizenship. However, the law has been changed. Now any nonnational who married an Irish citizen on or after November 30, 2002, can apply for citizenship only through the naturalization process.

Citizenship Through Naturalization

Ireland's Department of Justice handles applications for naturalization and citizenship is granted at the minister's “absolute discretion.” It's a slow process and generally takes between 18 and 24 months before any decision is reached. To be considered for Irish citizenship, the following criteria have to be satisfied: The applicant is resident in the state and is 18 years of age or older. During the preceding nine years, the applicant must have lived legally in the state for five of those years. The last of those five qualifying years must have been one of continuous residence, though an absence for vacations or business won't generally be regarded as a break in residence.

Applicants must satisfy the minister of their good character and also of their intention to live in Ireland after naturalization. The following documentation has to be submitted with an application, both the originals and a photocopy of each:

  • A passport
  • Garda Síochána certificate of registration (green residency permit book)
  • Birth certificate with a certified translation if not in English
  • If applicable, a marriage certificate-again with certified translation if necessary
  • Statement from the revenue commissioners that all due taxes have been paid
  • Depending on circumstances, details of personal tax, company tax, PRSI contributions, and VAT payments
  • Documentary proofs of financial status such as bank or building society statements
  • If applicable, pay slips or statement of earnings from an employer

Should the minister grant your application, you'll be required to stand in open court before a district court judge and make a declaration of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the state.

For more information contact the Department of Justice, Immigration and Citizenship Division.

Holding Dual Nationality

Unlike in some European countries, taking up Irish citizenship doesn't require renouncing another citizenship. Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs has no objection to anyone's holding dual citizenship, but it does advise individuals to clarify the position with home governments first.

Looking at it from the reverse angle, the U.S. government will not deem you to have committed an expatriating act simply by becoming a dual national. To lose your legal status as a U.S. national, you would need to have committed treason or have formally renounced your citizenship.

One specification is that you are required to use your U.S. passport when leaving or entering the United States. However, even if you decide to use your Irish passport when traveling elsewhere, you can still call on the assistance of U.S. embassies and consulates. Another point to note is that the U.S. government still expects its overseas citizens to file tax returns, even if no tax is payable. Even so, one congressional report estimated that around 61 percent of Americans living abroad are flouting this rule. In an attempt to keep track of its wayward citizens, every U.S. national applying for a passport is supposed to file an IRS information report listing foreign residences and other details that the taxman may find interesting.

Rights and Obligations of Citizenship

The main obligation for Irish citizens resident in the state is the requirement to undertake jury service if called upon to do so. As a citizen you'll have full voting rights which, for others, depends on status.

At present, only Irish citizens can vote in presidential elections or a referendum. The only resident foreigners entitled to vote in elections to the Dáil (the Irish Parliament) are U.K. citizens—that's because Irish citizens living in the United Kingdom also have the right to vote there. Voting in elections to the European Parliament is open to any resident holding citizenship of an EU member state.

However, you don't need to hold Irish or any other kind of EU nationality to vote in local elections—you simply need to be resident here and have your name on the electoral roll. Those who are entitled to vote only in local elections have the letter “L” after their names on the register.

A new register of electors is compiled each year. To get on the register, either contact your local council offices or fill in a form at the post office. The process of compiling the register starts in September/October and comes into effect the following February. To make sure you're on the electoral roll, you can check the draft register that is published on November 1. It's available for inspection in post offices, libraries, Garda stations, and local authority offices.

Moving with Children

It is undoubtedly a very good idea to include your children in any plans you have for relocating to Ireland. Take them with you on your fact-finding or house-hunting trips. When you do relocate, take the time to listen to what they have to say about their new school and friends. Keep track of their progress in their new school. If your children are very young it might help ease their tensions if you accompany them to school for the first few days.

Bringing your children to Ireland isn't likely to produce any major problems. Crimes against children are rare. Depending on the age group, kids in Ireland face the same sort of problems at school as they would in the United States. Although there is little danger of a child turning up at school with a gun, you do get instances of bullying and of high school kids being targeted by drug dealers.

If you have very young children and intend to work here, then child-care will be important. Unfortunately, at the moment, crëche facilities in Ireland can only be described as abysmal and expensive. In Dublin, if you can find one with spaces, a crëche is likely to be charging €100-150 ($124-186) a week.

Other than basketball, your kids will have to get used to a new set of sports. Gaelic games are popular, as is soccer, but there is little in the way of tuition in sports such as tennis. You would need to arrange that privately. Teenage culture will not be much different either. Most of the U.S. rap stars are popular here as well. One potential problem you will have to keep an eye on, though, is “teenage drinking.” Ireland does not have the same tough laws as some U.S. states. Although a voluntary “prove your age” card system has been widely adopted by publicans, teenage drinking remains a problem.

Moving with Pets

Ireland has strict rules and regulations on the importation of pets. If you intend to bring a dog or pet from any countries other than the UK, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man, you must have an import license. In order to obtain one, the animal must:

  • be put in approved quarantine in Ireland for at least six months
  • be put in approved quarantine for one month, then in approved private arrangements for a further five months. Depending on the facility you can provide for the animal, the “private arrangements” could be a quarantine facility in your own back garden.

However, the “private option” is feasible only if the animal has been vaccinated against rabies and has a current certificate. For an animal to be “quarantined” at your own residence, you'll need to obtain prior approval from the Veterinary Inspectorate of the Department of Agriculture and Food before bringing the pet to Ireland. The pet (and the premises) will be subject to further inspection by private veterinary surgeons during the five-month period. You should apply for approval of private quarantine premises at least three months before bringing the animal to Ireland.

At present there is only one public quarantine facility: Lissenhall Quarantine Kennels and Catteries, Lissenhall, Swords, County Dublin.

What to Take

Briefly, in the words of one American friend who moved here some years ago: “as little as possible.”

Apart from clothing and some personal items, everything else you will need can be sourced in Ireland. The trauma and cost involved in shipping all of your household belongings across the Atlantic is probably not justified. However, if you do want to move everything, there are some things to bear in mind. To start, remember that the average-sized Irish home is smaller than you are used to. So you will need to decide if you want to bring any or all of your furniture. If you are bringing electrical goods, you will need to buy transformers in the United States to take account of the different current in Ireland.

Use your airline allowance to the maximum, although you will probably find it will not be enough for all your clothing. Use FedEx or UPS for other essential items, as they can normally make deliveries to Ireland within 3-4 days. If you are planning on bringing all your furniture, crockery, and so on, then you will need to plan well in advance. Shipping goods across the Atlantic can take 5-6 weeks.

There are hundreds of relocation/shipping agencies throughout the United States that will ship to Ireland. Although it will be time-consuming, the best place to begin your search for a mover is in the shipping/freight-forwarding section of your local telephone directory. Choose at least three companies that can provide all the services you need. You will need to decide just exactly what you want done. Will you want them to pack for you, provide packing materials, pick up your consignment, handle customs clearance, arrange for delivery, and maybe even unpack? Arrange a time for each of them to visit your home, consider the options, and prepare an estimate.

You will need to use discretion on what to ship overseas. Unlike a domestic move, when you are likely to take everything, you need to consider the economics involved. For example, apart from the fact that the electrical system in Ireland is different, do you really want to take an aging freezer or washing machine with you? How much do they weigh and what will it cost? Will you be able to get them modified or serviced in Ireland?

My American friend certainly regrets shipping over her king-sized bed. She's searched in Waterford, in Cork city—she's even made a special shopping trip to Dublin. But she still cannot find king-sized sheets to fit. Although “king-sized” beds are sold in Ireland, they are anything but king-sized in American terms.

If you have not yet decided on the location of your permanent new home, you may have to consider putting some of your goods into storage on arrival. Check with your chosen freight forwarder to see if it can organize this for you.

Customs and Excise

If you're relocating from outside the European Union (e.g., from the United States), you're allowed to import, duty-free, any belongings that you have owned for at least six months. You can continue to import your personal possessions for up to one year after relocating. The only real proviso is that should you decide to sell any of your imported belongings within the first year of residence, duty becomes liable to be paid. There are some items that you'll not be allowed to import—handguns, for example.

Related Topics
Living in Ireland: Resources and Articles
More from Living Abroad in Ireland
 True Expatriate Stories
 Making the Move
 Moving to Ireland
 Visas and Immigration
 Holding Dual Nationality
 Moving with Children
 Moving with Pets
 What to Take
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