Why Should You Come to Ireland From South Africa?
Ireland is becoming an increasingly popular destination for South Africans looking to move abroad. It is a safe and welcoming country, with low unemployment rates and a high quality of life. If you’re thinking about emigrating to Ireland from South Africa, here’s what you need to know….
Ireland vs South Africa
The South African diaspora has seen South Africans move across all across the globe. Some 3,000 of them have chosen Ireland as their new home. But what does a move to the Emerald Isle really look and feel like – aside from applying for visas and work permits?
There are many differences between Ireland and South Africa. But there are some similarities too. A rich cultural history dating back thousands of years. A stunning coastline full of white sandy beaches and roaring surf. A sports-mad population who love to gather to watch rugby and Gaelic football. A smattering of bustling cities that sit alongside a strong rural community. And then there’s the weather. Like South Africa, Ireland has a temperate climate, although you can expect considerably more rain. There’s a reason the Emerald Isle is so green!
Even so, when you step off the plane in Ireland, there will be no doubt that you’re in a different country. South Africa is a vast place with deserts, mountain ranges, grasslands and sprawling cities. Ireland is 17 times smaller, with rolling hills, quaint villages and a comparatively tiny population (4.9 million, as opposed to 57.7 million in South Africa). But despite its diminutive size, Ireland is beginning to pack a punch on the international stage. Dublin plays host to the headquarters of Google, Facebook, Twitter, PayPal, Microsoft and other tech giants. Tech employees are flocking to the country, making for a young and vibrant population.
In some cities – particularly the capital – this is placing stress on the housing market because demand is outstripping supply. As a result, South Africans may find that rental rates are higher than they are used to. Other living expenses, like groceries, alcohol and eating out at a restaurant, are also more expensive. However, these costs are relative when you consider that wages are much higher in Ireland. According to Numbeo, the average monthly net salary after tax is 42,955.02R (€2,367.62) in Ireland, compared to just 19,445.93R (€1,071.83) in South Africa.
Numbers aside, South Africans will find Ireland to be an inclusive community. The country has long been welcoming immigrants from across the world, and recognise that immigration plays a key role in the economy. Above all else, Ireland is a safe place, and one that is attractive to young people, those looking to raise a family, and those wanting to retire. While Northern Ireland has previously been a place of conflict, the Irish Troubles are no longer a dominating factor in Irish life. Nowadays, crime rates in Ireland are extremely low and safety is the norm – something that many South Africans yearn for.
Benefits of emigrating to Ireland
If you’re thinking about moving overseas, you might have various countries on your list of possible new homes. So why choose Ireland over, say, Canada, New Zealand or the UK? Emigrating to Ireland has many benefits, including low unemployment rates, low crime rates, free schooling, excellent healthcare, convenient travel links and the possibility of dual citizenship.
Low unemployment rates
Ireland has experienced an economic boom in recent years. Thanks to tax incentives, a skilled workforce and its central global location, increasing numbers of businesses are setting up shop in Ireland. Employment rates have soared, and according to Macrotrends, just 4.93% of the population was out of work in 2019. By comparison, the unemployment rate in South Africa was 28.18% in the same year.
Jobs in technology, engineering, medicine and accounting are particularly numerous. Anyone working in these industries will have ample career opportunities. Small start-ups and big household names can be found operating in Ireland, so you can target your job applications depending on your personal preference.
Low crime rates
While South Africa is undoubtedly a beautiful place, it is certainly not considered to be a safe one. Muggings, car-jacking and knife crime are prevalent. Many South Africans do not feel comfortable in their own home, let alone walking down the street. This could not be more different in Ireland, where the crime rate was just 0.90% per 100k population in 2017. The crime rate in South Africa, on the other hand, stood at 35.90% per 100k population. This is a motivating factor for many South Africans looking to emigrate, particularly those who have children. Ireland is a safe and secure place to live, and to raise a family. Moreover, it is inclusive and non-judgemental. Many different cultures call Ireland home, and as the legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2015 shows, it is progressive and open-minded.
Public school education in Ireland is free of charge, including primary and secondary school. The standard of education is also excellent. In a 2018 study, Ireland was ranked fourth in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), coming ahead of many other OECD countries. South Africa failed to rank in the top 40 for either reading or mathematics. Free schooling is also rare in South Africa, where many parents are expected to contribute a fee.
Should your child become an Irish citizen, he or she will also be entitled to free university education. The opportunity to access higher education for free is a rare one, and will greatly benefit your child’s future prospects.
Ireland has a public health service that is largely state-funded. So long as you can prove that you are ‘ordinarily resident’ in Ireland, and plan to be for at least a year, then you are entitled to access healthcare. If you qualify for a medical card, then almost all public medical services are free. If you’re not eligible, there will be some fees. However, these are subsidised by the government, ensuring costs are kept low.
There are also other healthcare schemes in Ireland to enable access to medical care. This includes the Drugs Payment Scheme, which caps the amount you’ll be asked to pay for prescription medication. There’s also the Maternity and Infant Care Scheme, which provides expectant mothers with free maternity care.
Logistically speaking, Ireland enjoys an enviable position. It’s easy to access the USA, the UK and mainland Europe. This makes it the perfect base from which to travel and explore the rest of the world. The standard annual leave entitlement in Ireland is 20 days (if you work a five day week), plus bank holidays, giving you plenty of time to vacation. This differs to other countries, such as Canada, where most employees get just 10 days’ holiday.
Ireland also benefits from being a member of the European Union (EU). If you do obtain Irish citizenship in the future, this entitles you to live, study and work in any EU member state. This freedom of movement opens the door to a world of opportunities.
It is useful to know that if you do want to become an Irish citizen in the future, then you won’t have to relinquish your South African passport. You can hold both at the same time, meaning you get the best of both worlds.
How to emigrate to Ireland from South Africa
These are just some of the reasons why you should come to Ireland from South Africa. But what about the how? How easy it is to emigrate to Ireland from South Africa? And how do you go about it? There are a number of different immigration routes available. The best one for you depends on your personal circumstances.
The easiest way to emigrate to Ireland is to obtain Irish citizenship. You will be eligible for Irish citizenship if:
• You have a parent, grandparent or great-grandparent who is/was an Irish citizen
• You were born in Ireland
• You have lived in Ireland for five out of the previous nine years
• You’re a naturalised parent applying on behalf of a child
• You’re the spouse or civil partner of an Irish citizen or naturalised person
• You’ve been a resident abroad in the public service
• You’re recognised as a refugee or a stateless person
If you are applying for citizenship by descent, then you need to prove that your relative was an Irish citizen.
Citizenship of the UK/EU/EAA/Switzerland
Thanks to certain treaties, passport holders from the UK, EU, EEA and Switzerland can live and work in Ireland without a visa or work permit. If you are already a citizen of one of these countries (or you are able to become one), then this could be your ticket to Ireland.
The Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP)
The Immigrant Investor Programme allows you to invest into a new or existing Irish business. To qualify, you will need to show that:
• You have a minimum personal net worth of €2 million and have evidence of these funds
• You are of good character
• You have a clean criminal record
If you are approved for the Immigration Investor Programme, then you and your nominated family members will be permitted to reside in Ireland for up to two years. This can be renewed for another three years, after which you’ll be eligible for permanent residency.
The Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP)
The Start-up Entrepreneur Programme allows innovative entrepreneurs to establish a business in Ireland. To qualify for a STEP grant, you must:
• Have €50,000 funding
• Have an innovative business proposal
• Be of good character
• Have a clean criminal record
If your STEP grant is approved, you and your immediate family members will be allowed to live in Ireland for two years. This can be renewed for another three years, after which you’ll be eligible for permanent residency.
If none of the above are applicable, then the most common way of emigrating to Ireland is to get a work permit. There are nine types of employment permit, the most popular of which are:
• A General Work Permit
• A Dependant/Partner/Spouse Work Permit
• A Critical Skills Employment Permit
• An Intra-Company Transfer Permit
Unless you are a dependant/spouse, you must secure a job offer first. Then you can get the relevant work permit from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. Your new (or current) employer may handle this for you. You will also need to get a long-stay ‘D’ visa. Subsequently, you may be entitled to a Stamp 4 visa. This allows you to reside and work in Ireland without an employment permit.
If you do not want to work in Ireland, then there are also other options available. For example, stamp 0 visas are granted to persons of independent means, and to elderly dependent relatives who are sponsored by a family member lawfully residing in Ireland. So, if you want to retire to Ireland, a stamp 0 visa could be the solution.
Contact our immigration practitioners
There is a strong South African community living and working in Ireland. If you want to join them, contact us now at Gibson & Associates. We can help you navigate the paperwork and the red tape. We’ll advise what options are open to you, explaining the easiest way for you to move to Ireland from South Africa. We have helped many South Africans in the past, and we’ll be happy to help you too.