Immigrate to Ireland? Why and how to make the move to the Emerald Isle

Jan 26, 2021

So why should you immigrate to Ireland? With its popular and flexible Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP) and its generous ancestry citizenship policy, Ireland is gaining increasing attention from the world’s potential immigrants. As a developed english speaking nation that, unlike its larger next door neighbour, is still a member of the European Union – it may be seen as having distinct strategic advantages over both the UK and many of its European counterparts.

In this blog we’ll look at the pros and cons of a move to Ireland, and consider the routes you may take to becoming an Irish resident or citizen.

Why immigrate to Ireland?

1) Access to Europe and the UK

Unlike the UK, Ireland is still a member of the European Union. As a resident –  Europe  – with all its cultural gems and business prospects – is on your doorstep. As an Irish citizen you have free access to travel, live, and work throughout any of the EU’s 27 member states. Ireland has also used the euro as its currency in 2002, which further simplifies travelling and working across the continent.

It is also worth noting that once Irish citizenship is attained you also have a right to live and word in the UK under the common travel agreement.

2) Quality of Life

At the time of writing (January 2021) Ireland is ranked the second most developed country in the world by the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Index. This index considers various components such as health, education and standard of living. Life expectancy wise  – Irish men may expect to live to 80, whereas the ladies can expect an extra 3 years.

3) The landscape

Ireland has long been affectionately known as the Emerald Isle. It is famous for its vast stretches of  lush green countryside. Travel to the west for rugged cliffs and the dramatic atlantic coast line; visit the Cliffs of Moher or discover the charm of the Ring of Kerry. You may well choose to live in one of Ireland’s vibrant cities, however an escape to the country is never far away and with it a slower pace of life.

Medieval castle on the sea coast, Ireland

4) City life and Dublin

If you’re used to fast paced city living, city life in Ireland may come as a bit of a shock. Work life balance is highly valued in Irish culture and that inevitably comes with a more laid back, slower pace of life. Dublin presents the most international feeling city with an increasing multicultural feel and a more established city scene. However the restaurant and night scene is notably quieter than other European capitals.

The famous Temple Bar area in Dublin – lots of good pubs and all the craic…

5) Healthcare

2018 study states that Ireland provides the 11th best healthcare in the world. This is notably 12 places higher up the list than the UK!

Ireland has a Public Health system governed by the Health Service Executive (HSE). Free healthcare is available for those in certain age or income brackets. Otherwise you will be subject to subsidised fees for doctor visits or hospital stays.

However, there are often long waitlists for publicly funded medical treatments. Therefore many choose to take out private health insurance.

6) Education

Irish schools are of an excellent quality with secondary students in particular ranking among the best in the EU.

Cost wise Ireland provides a free year of pre-school for children (aged three to four years), and free primary (elementary) and secondary education.

At university level  – Ireland is amongst the world’s best and has seven top-level universities. Under the Free Fees Initiative it is also  free for Irish and EU citizens to attend University in Ireland.

Trinity College in Dublin is Ireland’s #1 university

 

7) Cost of Living

Quality of life is high in Ireland… but the cost of living doesn’t come cheap, particularly if choosing to live in Dublin. Here is a useful article which examines the various costs a family may encounter.

Taxation

Like the UK, Ireland has the attractive non-dom regime. Better still it is currently much more stable that the UK system which is vulnerable to the whims of the Chancellor. This means that as a foreigner resident in Ireland you can opt to go on a remittance tax basis. Therefore you only have to pay tax on your Irish income (dividends from any investment for instance). Your international earnings may remain untouched.

If you have any Irish income there are just two brackets 20 per cent and 40 per cent.

Corporation Tax rates in Ireland are amongst the lowest in Europe – part of the reason why giants Facebook, Google and Microsoft have based their European HQs there.

8) The Irish People

Ireland is becoming increasingly multicultural – especially in the larger cities. The Irish are famous for being friendly, welcoming and ready to engage anyone in good chat!

As a new arrival in Ireland you’ll quickly become acquainted with the term “craic”. Craic means good times and good conversation – and arguably no-one is better at this that the Irish.

The predominant religion practiced by the Irish people is Catholicism with 78% of the population identifying as such. Historically this a higher level of conservatism but this is becoming increasingly relaxed with the legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2015 and abortions have been permitted since 2018.

Good craic!

9) The Culture

Ireland is famous for its pub culture  – and it has been argued that – unless you like a drink – your cultural options are limited in the Emerald Isle. It has however been the birth place of numerous Nobel Prize winners, musicians, storytellers, and actors. Its innumerable literary figures include Jonathan Swift,  Bram Stoker, W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, Roddy Doyle, Maeve Binchy, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett. It also has an active love of sports – particularly its native Gaelic football and hurling. 

How to immigrate to Ireland:

1) The IIP

The Immigrant Investor Programme (“IIP“) allows non-EEA nationals and their families to acquire permanent residency in Ireland through a commitment to an approved investment.

How to apply to the IIP

Application consists of the consideration of two components

A. The person applying

You must be able to prove your good character, your net worth and the provenance of the money you will be investing. Criteria include:

  1.  The individual must have a net worth greater than €2 million. To demonstrate this you must provide an account of all financial activities for the previous 12 months. This should include income, investments and loans.
  2. Individuals must be a good character; you must not have been convicted of a criminal offence in any jurisdiction. In the application process you will need to submit a statement of character from the police authorities of each country they have resided in for a period of six months or more over the past ten years. This should be done for every family member over the age of 16.
  3. The individual needs to show evidence of the funds that are to be used for the proposed investment. There must be proof of the provenance of those funds. The funds must be transferrable to Ireland and convertible to euros.

B. The Investment

The nature of the investment. It must fall into one of four categories :

1) Enterprise Investment

The guidelines suggest that a minimum of €1 million must be invested in Irish enterprise for a minimum of three years. The investment may either be in a single enterprise or spread over a selection. The enterprise must be registered in Ireland, with its HQ within the country, and it may either be a start up or an established business. The investment should support either the creation of employment or the maintenance of existing roles.

In order to apply for this investment type, the latest audited accounts must be submitted for the business(es) in question, along with a business plan projecting how the investment will create / maintain employment. An example may be found here.

2) Investment Fund

This route requires a minimum of €1 million to be invested in an approved investment fund. The money must be held in this fund for at least three years. The fund will be approved if, similar to the Enterprise investment, it’s proven that it is a direct investment in Ireland which generates or maintains employment.

Other criteria include:

  1. the invested money must represent equity stakes not quoted on the stock exchange;
  2. the money must be invested in accordance with the objectives of the IIP;
  3. the funds and fund managers must be regulated by the Central Bank.

There are various funds currently operating in Ireland which have been set up with IIP investors in mind.

3) Real Estate Investment Trust (“REIT”)

This requirement involves a minimum of €2 million to be invested in any Irish REIT and held there for at least three years. A REIT is a company used to hold investment properties.

The number of shares approved by the IIP must be retained through the three year period – even if their value rises above the original investment value. After the three year period the investor may take up to 50% of the shares, with a further 25% liberated at 4 years. After five years all share may be divested if the investor so wishes. An advantage of this type of investment is that it may be considered lower risk that a typical property investment model; the debt limits inherent to REITS decrease the investor’s exposure to the risk of negative equity. REITS are also exempt from corporation tax and distribute most of their annual profits therefore generating regular income for its investors.

4) Endowment

The most straightforward of the options – and an attractive one for those with the cash available and the desire to engage in philanthropy. However you must expect to receive no financial return.

This route requires a minimum endowment of €500,000 in a project of public benefit. This might be in the arts, sport, health, cultural, or educational field. To apply a business plan should be submitted explaining how the investment will be used and how it will be of public benefit.

A Risk Free Application Process

One of the most attractive qualities of the IIP is how it is managed. You may apply to the IIP without committing any money. You only proceed with the investment / endowment once your application has been approved.  Once the investment has been made the investor and their family will be issued with permission to reside in Ireland. This process is much more applicant friendly than the golden visas of its European counterparts.

A further boon of the IIP is that you may apply for an allowable discount of up to €50,000 for educational expenses. These must be either for the investor or a family member in a university or Institute of Technology. This should be indicated as part of the application process.

Your resident status in Ireland

Successful applicants of the IIP will receive permission to reside in Ireland for two years. This will be extended to a further three years as long as the applicant continues to meet all requirements. 

After the initial five year period the investor may apply for residence indefinitely. This will always be measured in five year periods. Further investment is no longer a condition of residence.

Immigrate to Ireland: Minimum residence requirement

IIP applicants are not required to establish actual residence in Ireland.

Becoming an Irish Citizen

Whilst the IIP does not provide preferential access to citizenship, it does enable the route to a future application if desired. If you are interested in citizenship a combination of factors would apply. This includes a minimum of 6 weeks physical presence every year. If you would like to find out more about the relevant factors in Irish Citizenship applications get in touch.

Freedom of movement through the EU as an IIP investor

Unfortunately the IIP does not provide visa-required nationals with an entitlement to travel to and within the UK and the rest of the European Union without an entry-visa (if required). Certain agreements exist between the UK and Ireland easing the flow. For instance the “British Irish Visa Scheme” allows Chinese and Indian citizens to travel between the two countries on a single visa. Of course you may apply for Irish citizenship after a 5 year residency. If granted you have all the freedom of movement it permits.

immigrate to ireland for beautiful countryside

Mountains and lakes in the Killarney National Park, Ireland

2) Ancestry Citizenship

Despite Ireland’s population equalling just 4.5 million  there are over 15 million Irish passports in circulation. This is due to Ireland’s brilliantly open policy in granting citizenship to those whose family tree includes ancestors from Ireland. It also allows dual citizenship. Therefore, if you have an Irish ancestor you have a simple, affordable and direct route to becoming an Irish citizen, and all the open access to the EU that comes with it. You can claim the right to Irish citizenship if a parent or grandparent was born in Ireland – check your eligibility here.

Do you have Irish ancestry further back in your family tree? You may have the ability to ask for the discretion to access for Irish Association. If you would like more advice on this route then get in touch for more information.

3) The Common Travel Agreement: an opportunity for the British to regain European status via Irish Citizenship

When the Republic of Ireland was formed the Common Travel Agreement came into being. This enables UK citizens full access to live and work in Ireland, and the Irish to live / work in the UK. The later formation of the EU and the Treaty of Rome opened up Ireland’s corridor yet further – to the EU’s 27 member states.

Following Brexit, UK Citizens can no longer freely live and work across Europe, however as the Common Travel Agreement still stands they are free to apply for Irish residency. Therefore a route to Irish Citizenship remains open to those Brits who don’t have the ‘luck of the Irish’ (ancestor!). They simply need to retain Irish residency (along with the associated physical stay requirements) for the obligatory five years. If you would like to find out more about the logistics of this route get in touch. 

How The Common Travel Agreement gives Irish Residency the extra edge

The Common Travel Agreement also means that the Irish residency permit (acquired through the IIP) is arguably the best out there. Not only does it allow a low risk application process but, if later used to facilitate the journey to citizenship, it allows the most freedom of movement. As an Irish Citizen post Brexit you are able to live and work thorough-out the 27 EU states and the UK. Compare this to the Portuguese golden visa; if you similarly followed through with a citizenship application – the UK is no longer an option. So the Ring of Kerry trumps the Algarve… though admittedly the sunnier days are in shorter supply!

If you would like to find out more about the IIP or applying for Irish ancestry citizenship then get in touch. 

 

 

 

 

 

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