How Brexit Affects UK Immigration to Ireland
UK citizens are still allowed to live and work in Ireland without restrictions, despite the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. This is thanks to a long-standing arrangement between the two countries. However, the rules have changed for non-EEA spouses/dependants who wish to join a UK citizen living in Ireland.
Brexit guidelines – Memorandum of Understanding
The UK’s transition period formally came to an end on 31 December 2020. The UK is no longer part of the European Union (EU), meaning the rights of British nationals visiting or working in the European Economic Area (EEA) will be restricted. This caused some concern amongst British nationals living and working in Ireland. UK citizens have long been entitled to travel freely to Ireland, and to reside and work in the State, should they wish.
The UK’s exit from the EU therefore raised a number of questions, such as: will UK citizens need a visa to travel to Ireland? Will UK citizens need permission to work in Ireland? And what rights will UK citizens living in Ireland have?
Thankfully, these questions were all answered on 8 May 2019 when the Irish and UK governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding. It’s good news for UK citizens living in Ireland (and indeed, for Irish citizens living in the UK). Essentially, the agreement upholds the rights and privileges of UK and Irish citizens within the Common Travel Area. This means that anyone with a British passport can:
• Enter Ireland without a visa
• Live in Ireland on a permanent basis without having to get immigration permission
• Travel freely between Ireland and the UK
• Work in Ireland without having to get immigration permission
• Establish a business in Ireland and/or be self-employed
• Access healthcare in Ireland
• Access social benefits in Ireland
• Vote in certain Irish elections
Has the Common Travel Area been maintained?
The Common Travel Area (CTA) incorporates Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. It allows free movement of people between these countries, enabling UK and Irish citizens to travel, live and work in the CTA.
The Common Travel Area has been maintained following Brexit. The agreement predates the creation of the EU and has never been reliant upon EU membership. It’s a long-standing arrangement between the UK and Ireland dating back to 1922. In signing the Memorandum of Understanding, the British and Irish governments reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining the CTA. This has now been enacted into Irish legislation.
In practice, this means that if you are a UK citizen living in Ireland, you can continue to reside in the State without any restrictions. You do not need to do anything to maintain your privileges. If you are a UK citizen who wants to visit/live in/work in Ireland, then you can enter Ireland and remain for as long as you wish. You can get a job with an Irish company without having to get any immigration permissions. You are also entitled to most of the same privileges afforded to Irish citizens, including access to healthcare and social benefits.
Changes to work permit applications
British nationals who want to work in Ireland do not need a work permit. This was the case before Brexit, and thanks to the provisions of the Common Travel Area, this remains the case following Brexit. If you are a UK citizen wanting to work in Ireland, then you will be subject to the same vetting process as any Irish citizen. This will differ from employer to employer, as some require references and police checks. Aside from this, your ability to work in Ireland is not restricted, so long as it’s legal.
However, there is a change to work permit applications that employers must be aware of. In the past, any employer who was applying for a work permit had to show that at least 50% of their workforce consisted of EEA or Swiss nationals. For example, if a company wanted to employ a South African national, the employer would need to secure a work permit for that individual. The Minister for Employment, Trade and Enterprise would have to be satisfied that at least 50% of the company’s workforce were EEA or Swiss nationals before issuing a permit. This policy aims to protect domestic and European labour markets.
The UK’s exit from the EU means that it no longer falls under the remit of the EEA. The Employment Permits Act has been amended in light of this. Now, employers must show that at least 50% of their workforce consists of EEA, UK or Swiss nationals.
Recognition of qualifications
Another point of concern for UK citizens working in Ireland is the recognition of qualifications. Under the EU Directive on Recognition of Professional Qualifications, EEA nationals could have their professional qualifications recognised in another EEA state. Now the UK is no longer part of the European Economic Area, the UK and Ireland have made a separate commitment regarding the mutual recognition of qualifications. This is dealt with in the Memorandum of Understanding, which states:
‘It is acknowledged that the recognition of qualifications, including professional qualifications, is an essential facilitator of the right to work associated with the CTA. The Participants [Ireland and the UK] are committed to ensuring that within their respective jurisdictions, comprehensive measures continue to be in place to allow for the recognition of such qualifications, covering all relevant professions, in accordance with their national laws.’
As long as your professional qualification is recognised in the UK and is maintained according to your regulatory body, it will be recognised in Ireland too.
Non-EEA spouses/dependants of UK citizens living in Ireland
Therefore, the rights and privileges of UK citizens living in Ireland have remained unchanged. The laws have been amended to maintain many of the pre-existing arrangements between the UK and Ireland.
However, Brexit has created some issues for UK citizens in Ireland – most notably those with a non-EEA or non-Swiss spouse, de facto partner, child or dependant.
Previously, EU Treaty Rights meant that UK citizens could bring their family members with them to Ireland. Now, family members of UK citizens do not have an automatic right of residence in Ireland. Unless they are from an EEA member state or Switzerland, they must apply for residency in Ireland. However, these rules will only be applied going forward. They will not be applied retrospectively.
Living in Ireland before 31 December 2020
This means that if your non-EEA/non-Swiss family member was already living with you in Ireland before 31 December 2020, he/she can continue to do so, provided they have a valid Irish Resident Permit (IRP) card. This is permitted under the Withdrawal Agreement. Your spouse or dependant will continue to enjoy all the same rights as they did before the end of the transition period.
Nevertheless, your family member must replace their IRP card. This must be done by 31 December 2021, regardless of the expiry date printed on their current card. The updated card will confirm that their rights in Ireland are protected under the Withdrawal Agreement.
Not living in Ireland before 31 December 2020
Non-EEA and non-Swiss family members who want to move to Ireland with a UK citizen after 31 December 2020 must apply for residency. This will impact many families who want to emigrate to Ireland.
The new rules are complicated. The requirements depend on various different criteria, including the nationality of your family member and the nature of your relationship. As a UK citizen living in Ireland, it is your responsibility to sponsor your non-EEA family member. You will have to satisfy certain financial conditions. Your loved one will also have to prove that they are of good character, amongst other things.
Who can join a UK national family member in Ireland?
People from the UK, an EEA member state or Switzerland are allowed to live and work in Ireland without immigration permissions. If you are a UK citizen and your loved one holds a passport from one of these countries, then moving to Ireland will be fairly straightforward for both of you.
But if your non-EEA (or non-Swiss) family member wants to reside in Ireland for more than three months, he or she will need to apply through a preclearance or visa scheme. This scheme has been in place since 1 January 2021 and is open to:
• Spouses of UK nationals
• Civil partners of UK nationals
• De facto partners of UK nationals (if you have been living together for two years)
• A dependant child of a of UK national or their spouse, civil partner or de facto partner
• A dependant parent (who is aged 66 or older) of a of UK national or their spouse, civil partner or de facto partner
If you fall into one of these categories, you can apply to join your UK national family member in Ireland. Under the scheme, you must show that you:
• Are a non-EEA or non-Swiss national
• Are being sponsored by a UK national
• Are ordinarily resident outside of Ireland
• Are of good character and good standing (i.e., you have a clean criminal record)
• Can evidence your relationship to the UK national sponsoring you
• Intend to live together permanently with your UK family member in Ireland
• Have medical insurance from a company authorised by the Health Insurance Authority of Ireland
As the sponsor, you must:
• Be a UK national
• Intend to be resident in Ireland or already be in Ireland
• Be self-sufficient, i.e., not on social welfare benefits
• Not have been completely or mainly reliant on benefits for a period of two years or longer immediately prior to the application
• Not have sponsored another spouse/civil partner/de facto partner in the 7 year period prior to the preclearance/visa application
• Be able to support your family members financially (see below)
• Be of good conduct
• Have a close and genuine relationship with the person you are sponsoring
To prove that you can support your family member financially, you must have a certain net income. This is subject to change and also varies depending on whether or not you will be accompanied by a child. For couples without children, you must have a net income of €20,000 per year, over and above any entitlement to State benefits. This figure increases according to the number of children/other dependants joining you.
How to get residency permission
If you are from a country that requires a visa to enter Ireland, you need to get a long stay D visa. Specifically, you need a ‘Join Family UK National Visa’. You must get this before you travel to Ireland. You will not be admitted to the country unless you can produce a long stay visa upon arrival.
If you are not from a country that requires a visa to enter Ireland, you must instead get a Preclearance Approval Letter. Again, you must do this before you come to Ireland, or you may be refused permission to enter.
Either way, the application process involves a significant amount of paperwork. You must provide a signed and dated application form, your passport and two passport sized photographs. Then you must provide evidence of medical insurance, six months of bank statements and a letter of application. You must also provide evidence of your relationship with your UK sponsor, police clearance certificates and evidence of fee payment (if applicable). Your UK sponsor must submit a variety of documents, including a letter of sponsorship, proof of accommodation and proof of funds.
Ask our Irish immigration experts
It’s perfectly understandable for family members to want to be together. However, the UK’s exit from the EU has changed the playing field slightly. To ensure your family members can accompany you to Ireland, please contact us at Gibson & Associates. We can advise what immigration permissions are required. If you like, we can then complete the application on your behalf, ensuring it is successful.