Immigration to Ireland

More than 40,000 people from around the world moved to Ireland to live and work in 2014, and this number continues to grow. Whether you’re a recent graduate hoping to spend a year in Ireland gaining some valuable experience, a professional looking to take your career to the next level, or are even thinking about making Ireland home for you and your family, you’ll find Ireland’s welcoming reputation is backed up by an open and simple immigration process.


Where you’re coming from

If you’re coming from the European Economic Area (EEA -countries of the EU and Norway, Iceland & Liechtenstein) or Switzerland, you’re in luck. You don’t need a visa for Ireland or a work permit. Just book a flight, it’s that simple.

If you’re coming to Ireland for more than three months from outside the EEA or Switzerland, you’ll find the process of moving to Ireland much more simple than it can be for other countries. You may need a visa for Ireland, depending on where you are moving from, and you’ll definitely need an employment visa.

A visa allows you to enter a country, while an employment permit allows you to work during your stay. The application processes for visas and employment permits are separate, and are granted by two different government departments.

If your spouse/civil partner is an EU/EEA citizen, then you might be able to skip the visa/work permit process. In this case, contact the issuing member state of the residency card for further information.


Visas for Ireland

A list of nationalities requiring visas can be found here. If your country’s not on the list, you don’t need a visa! If you are a national of one of the countries on the list, you will need a visa in order to travel to Ireland. If you’re intending to stay for less than 3 months, you should apply for a short-stay ‘C’ visa.  For those who plan to work and live in Ireland for more than 3 months, you’ll need to apply for the long-stay ‘D’ visa.

Visas to Ireland are issued by the Department of Justice and Equality. You can make your online application from your home country and submit your hard copy application and supporting documentation to the relevant Irish Embassy/Consulate/Visa Office. The visa fee is €60 and there may be other costs in gathering the documents needed for your application. You can generally expect a decision within 8 weeks from the date on which your application is lodged at the Embassy/Consulate/Visa Office.


Work Permits for Ireland

Employment permits are issued by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Once an employee holds an employment permit and is working, they have the same Irish Employment Rights as Irish citizens. There are numerous types of employment permits available, but for those looking to enter the tech industry, there are two main routes; the Critical Skills Employment Permit and the General Employment Permit.


The Critical Skills Employment Permit

This permit has replaced the Green Card for Ireland. This permit is only open to those in professions on the Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations List. This makes it a prime opportunity for those working in the tech industry, as many skills are currently in high demand in the Irish labour market, including web design and development professionals, programming and other ICT professions.

There are a number of advantages when choosing the Critical Skills Employment Permit route:

  • No labour market test is required, making the process faster and simpler
  • It allows the permit holder to immediately apply for their dependents to join them, and once in Ireland, dependents can apply for a Dependent/Partner/Spouse Permit allowing them to work. This application is free of charge
  • Critical Skills Employment Permit holders can apply for residency after just 2 years of living legally in Ireland. Other permit holders must wait 5 years

Annual remuneration for the job offered must be at least €30,000.

The applicant must secure a 2 year job offer, however they will only be expected to remain with the employer for a minimum of 12 months. After this period, the permit holder may switch employers if a new application for an employment permit is made. The applicant may switch to a similar job or a job in another area that is on the Eligible Occupations List.

The fee for this permit is €1,000 but if unsuccessful, 90% will be refunded to the potential employee.


The General Employment Permit

This permit allows the holder to take up employment in a wider range of fields, excluding those on the list of Ineligible Categories of Employment for Employment Permits.

Annual remuneration for the job must be at least €30,000. In certain cases, the required annual remuneration may be lowered to €27,000. These exceptions are as follows:

  • A non-EEA student who has graduated within 12 months from an overseas third-level institution and has been offered a graduate position on the Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations list
  • A non-EEA student who has graduated within 12 months from a non-EEA institution and has been offered a graduate position from the ICT Category on the Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations list

In both of these cases, in order to renew the permit, you must be earning at least €30,000.

The general employment permit can be issued for a duration of 6 months to 2 years and extended up to a further 3 years. Permit holders may be able to bring their dependents to Ireland after 1 year, but must be able to support them financially. They can apply for residency after 5 years.

There is a €500 fee for a permit of 6 months or less, and a €1,000 fee for a permit of 6 months to 2 years. If unsuccessful, 90% of this fee will be refunded to you.


Applying for an employment permit

You must receive a job offer before you can apply for an employment permit. You can apply for an employment permit yourself or your employer can apply for it on your behalf, but applications from recruiters or other agencies will not be accepted.  Employers may cover the cost of the permit. If an application is rejected, 90% of the fee is refunded.

Applications are made online and the current processing time of both Critical Skills and General permits is about eight weeks.

Refusals of employment permits

There are a number of reasons your application for an employment permit or renewal may be refused.

  • You entered Ireland as a visitor, and not an employee
  • You are in Ireland illegally or no longer meet the conditions under which you first entered
  • You are being deported or have been asked to leave Ireland by the Department of Justice and Equality
  • You are seeking employment with a non-EEA/Swiss employer who does not have permission to be operating in Ireland

All refusals for an employment permit may be appealed within 28 days.


Permanent Residency in Ireland

Generally, you can apply for residency after legally living in Ireland for 5 years. This includes General Employment Permit holders. However, as a nice advantage for techies, Critical Skills Employment Permit holders can apply for residency after just 2 years. Once you’ve been granted residency, you won’t need any further employment permits.

Be aware that your time spent living legally in Ireland is not based on dates of your visa or employment permits, it’s based on when you register with Immigration. This means it’s very important that you do this as soon as possible after arriving as delays in registering can cause serious complications when applying for residency or further permits/visas. In Dublin, you can register at the Garda National Immigration Bureau, and outside of Dublin you can register at your local Garda District Headquarters. There’s a €300 fee for each certificate of registration issued.


Citizenship in Ireland

After five years of residency and supporting yourself in Ireland, you may be eligible to apply for citizenship. Being a citizen in Ireland entitles you to apply for an Irish passport as well as to vote in all Irish elections and makes you a citizen of the EU. You can find out more about applying for citizenship at Citizens’ Information.