Retirement Visa – Retiring to Ireland
Are you thinking of retiring to Ireland? Here’s everything you need to know. Find out how to retire to Emerald Isle, what the immigration laws allow, and all the other information you’ll need to make your move a success.
Why retire to Ireland?
Ireland is a popular retirement destination, and with good reason. It is an English-speaking nation with a high standard of living. It boasts excellent healthcare and accommodation to suit all budgets. The climate is temperate, with snow and extreme heat a rarity. It’s rich in history and culture, with stunning scenery and endless sightseeing opportunities. It also acts as the gateway to other countries, providing an excellent base for those wanting to visit the UK, Europe and places further afield, such as North Africa and Turkey. The locals are known for their warm welcome, and the population remains small – and safe. In fact, gun crime is practically unheard of. The cities provide a cosmopolitan flavour, but otherwise you’ll find a relaxed and slow pace of life.
When you take all these factors into account, retiring to Ireland is an attractive proposition. Furthermore, there are people scattered across the globe with Irish ancestry. If this is you, then you could retire to the Emerald Isle with ease.
So, who exactly can retire to Ireland?
While Ireland has a thriving expat community, it does not have an open border policy. There are rules around who is, and who is not, allowed to stay in the long-term. This is all depends on what kind of passport you hold.
Irish and UK passport holders
If you have an Irish or UK passport, you can enter Ireland without a visa. You can reside in the State without restrictions and can access State-funded services, including healthcare. Not everyone who holds an Irish or UK passport actually considers themselves to be ‘from’ Ireland or the UK. Indeed, you might have spent your whole life in the USA, Canada or Australia. But if you have a valid passport from one of these countries, then you have the right to live in Ireland for as long as you see fit, irrespective of your age.
EU, EEA and Swiss passport holders
If you have a Swiss passport, or you are from an EU/EEA member state, then you can also enter Ireland without a visa. If you are retired, then you can stay for up to three months. If you want to stay for longer, then you must satisfy certain conditions. Ultimately, you must not become a burden to the State. With this in mind, the immigration laws require that you have health insurance and sufficient resources to support yourself. You could be employed, self-employed or have a passive income.
You need to register your residence after your arrival in Ireland, during which you will have to provide proof of funds and health insurance. The requirements are not as onerous as those for non-EEA/Swiss nationals. You do not have to have €50,000 per person. However, you must demonstrate that you do not need income support, perhaps because you have a pension, real estate, employment or other income, such as stocks and shares. So long as you satisfy the conditions, you will be given permission to remain in Ireland.
Non-UK, EU, EEA and Swiss passport holders
If you are not from the UK, EEA or Switzerland and you wish to retire to Ireland, then you need to apply for something called Stamp 0 permission. This involves making an application through the Irish Naturalisation Immigration Service (INIS).
Stamp 0 permission
Stamp 0 permission is given in three different scenarios.
Firstly, it is given to people of independent means who wish to live in Ireland on a long-term basis. However, you can only take this route if you are able to show that:
• You have an income of at least €50,000 per year, per person (so if you are a couple, you will need €100,000 per year); and
• You have access to a lump sum of money to cover any unforeseen expenses. This should be enough to purchase a property in Ireland, meaning you’re looking at around €200,000 plus.
You will need to provide evidence of your income. This must be presented in euros and certified by an Irish accountancy firm.
Secondly, Stamp 0 permission is given to elderly dependent relatives who are joining a family member in Ireland. This family member must be legally residing in the State, and must have sufficient funds to sponsor their elderly relative.
According to guidelines published by the Irish Naturalisation Immigration Service (INIS):
“a sponsor of an elderly dependent relative will be required to have earned in Ireland each of the 3 years preceding the application an income after tax and deductions of not less than €60K in the case of one parent and €75k where 2 parents are involved.”
Again, evidence of this income must be provided, if a Stamp 0 permission is to be successfully obtained.
Finally, Stamp 0 permission is given to visiting academic researchers who wish to work in Ireland for no more than 12 months.
Some non-UK/EEA and Swiss nationals also need a visa to enter Ireland. If this applies to you, you must apply for Stamp 0 permission before entering Ireland. Once you have received your Stamp 0 Conditional Letter of Offer, you can make a visa application. Because you wish to stay for longer than three months, you require a long-stay visa – also known as a category D visa. There are different visas available. For retirement purposes, you will probably want a Stamp 0 visa (D-Reside visa) or a join a family member visa (D-Join visa), depending on your situation.
If you do not need a visa, then you can apply for Stamp 0 permission from outside the State, or you can apply once you arrive in Ireland.
Regardless of whether you need a visa, you will need to register with your local immigration officer following your arrival in Ireland. Stamp 0 permission lasts for a year, after which it can be renewed, provided that you continue to meet the relevant criteria. After five years you will be issued with a five-year visa.
Do you have Irish ancestry?
Given the restrictions placed on non-EEA/Swiss nationals, it may be better to obtain Irish citizenship, rather than rely on Stamp 0 permissions. Of course, this option is not available to everyone. However, if you were born in Ireland before 1 January 2005, then you are automatically an Irish citizen. This means you are entitled to enter, live and work in Ireland freely. If you were born in Ireland on or after 1 January 2005, these citizenship rights also apply if:
• You have at least one parent who was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth
• You have at least one parent who was entitled to live in Northern Ireland or the Irish State without a restriction on their residency at the time of your birth
• You have at least one parent who was granted refugee status in Ireland at the time of your birth
You may also be able to get Irish citizenship through descent. This is generally available to people whose parent, grandparent or great-grandparent was born in Ireland. Alternatively, if your parent was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth but he/she was born outside of Ireland, then you can register your birth with the Irish Foreign Births Register. If your registration is approved, you will become an Irish citizen, effective from the date of your registration.
If you do not have any Irish ancestry, you might explore the possibility of getting a passport from the UK, Switzerland or an EU/EEA member state instead. Otherwise, your only option as a non-EEA/Swiss national is to apply for Stamp 0 permission.
What else do you need to know?
If you’re hoping to relocate for your retirement, then there’s a lot of other important information you need to know, aside from immigration requirements. Retirees are often particularly concerned about healthcare provisions. You’ll also want to know more about the cost of living in Ireland, along with housing, social security and taxes.
Those who are ‘ordinarily resident’ in Ireland are entitled to access healthcare services, regardless of their nationality. ‘Ordinarily resident’ means that you have been living in Ireland for a year, or you intend to live in Ireland for at least one year. Depending on your income, you may be eligible to a medical card. This provides access to a range of healthcare services for free. Everyone else must pay per visit (although the costs are fairly reasonable) or get private health insurance.
Some people are required to have health insurance as part of their residency requirements. It is worth investigating the cost of a policy so you know what to expect.
The cost of housing varies drastically across the country. Dublin is the most expensive city, both in terms of property rentals and property purchases. According to Numbeo, the average cost of a one-bedroom rental apartment in Dublin’s city centre is €1,631 per month. Rural locations offer more affordable housing. You’ll find something to suit all tastes, including studio flats, coastal cottages and farms with agricultural land.
Social security entitlements/pensions
It is very likely that you can have your pension from your home country (or another country) paid in Ireland.
If you are eligible to a UK or EEA pension, then you can apply to have this pension transferred to Ireland, should you wish. The Citizens Information website also states that: ‘if you do not have enough social insurance contributions from another country and/or Ireland, you may qualify for an assistance-based payment that is relevant to your circumstances.’ This depends on your income.
You will need to file your taxes in Ireland, if you live in the country on a permanent basis. You may also have to file taxes elsewhere. For example, American citizens living abroad still need to file U.S. taxes. This is a complicated area of law it is important to speak to an immigration specialist/financial advisor. Your retirement income probably won’t be taxed if it’s generated outside of Ireland, but you may have to make other contributions. There are special tax arrangements for people over the age of 65.
Driving and public transport
If you have a driving licence issued by an EU/EEA member state, you can drive in Ireland on this licence for as long as it remains valid. After this, you can exchange it for an Irish driving licence.
People from the UK and from the ‘recognised states’ listed below can drive in Ireland on their current driving licence for up to one year. But if you reside in Ireland, then you should convert your licence to an Irish licence. The recognised states are:
• Canada (with the exception of certain provinces)
• Isle of Man
• South Africa
• Republic of Korea (South Korea)
• New Zealand
Everyone else can drive in Ireland using their current licence for up to 12 months. After this, it is necessary to apply for an Irish driving licence, which requires that you pass a theory and practical test.
It is worth noting that public transport is free to people who usually reside in Ireland and are aged 66 or over.
Your ability to work in Ireland depends on your residency permissions. This is something to bear in mind, should you want to earn an income during your retirement.
The cost of living
Ireland’s currency is the euro. The country has a strong economy and the cost of living is high in comparison to developing countries. It really depends on where you live, with cities such as Dublin being much more expensive than rural locations. You can use the site numbeo.com to compare the cost of living with your current place of residence.
Speak to our immigration solicitors
This is a very broad overview of the information you need to know if you’re hoping to retire to Ireland. For specialist advice, contact our immigration solicitors. We can explain the most viable immigration option for you, helping you get long-term access to Ireland.