Do you dream of moving to Ireland from the United States? It isn’t impossible, but you have a lot of hard work ahead of you. May the road rise to meet you as you embark on your journey.

There are a few ways that you can either legally live and work in Ireland as an American, or become an Irish citizen. You can get a visa if you plan to study, work, or have a lot of cash to retire. Becoming an Irish citizen is a bit more tricky, but we’ll get into that.

However you plan to get to the Emerald Isle, you’ll have to pass through immigration first.

Immigrating to Ireland

As a non-EEA national, you’ll need permission to visit and stay in Ireland. The process is similar to visiting for a vacation: you’ll need a passport and will be screened by the country’s customs, which is administered by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS).  As a citizen of the United States, you can enter Ireland without a visa for tourism or business stays for up to 90 days.

Since your dream is to live in Ireland, this 90 day period won’t cut it. Also, Ireland can and will refuse entry to visitors who cannot sufficiently demonstrate their travel intent. Travel intent means a general explanation of your plans, and evidence of sufficient funds to support your stay.

To stay beyond 90 days, you need to notify officials and request permission under several established “schemes” for staying in Ireland. You can seek permission to remain in the country for study, work, or retirement. Permission to stay under these schemes takes the form of an endorsement to your passport. Beyond permission to stay with a visa, certain individuals may be able to seek Irish citizenship.

Moving to Ireland to Study

If your purpose in Ireland is educational, you may be able to obtain permission to remain in the country as a student for a specified period.  As a U.S. citizen, you’ll need to be enrolled in a full-time course of study. Eligible programs are listed on Ireland’s Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP). Full-time means a minimum of 15 hours per week study time. This is a comprehensive list of various undergraduate and graduate programs, listing the individual institution and program of study.

Enrollment in these programs doesn’t guarantee admission to Ireland, as the same necessary preconditions for other types of entry apply. When applying for a student visa, you will have to provide the following documents and proof:

  • Acceptance letter from an ILEP school and program.
  • Proof of ability to pursue the course of study through the English language, unless the program is for those studying the English language.
  • Evidence that the course fees and tuition have been paid.
  • Proof that you or a sponsor has sufficient funds, presently €7,000. Also, you’ll need to prove that you’ll also have €7,000 for each year of studies, in addition to course fees.
  • Documentation of private medical insurance.
  • Explanation of gaps in educational history.

The student visa is intended for those who are looking to study in Ireland, then return to their country of permanent residence. INIS will require you to confirm that this is your plan. So, moving to Ireland for studying is possible, but it is not a stepping stone to a more permanent residence (unless you happen to meet the lad or lass of your dreams, but more on that later).

Moving to Ireland For Work

Another method for gaining admission to the Emerald Isle for more than 90 days is by obtaining a work permit. With a long-term employment permit or work visa, U.S. citizens can remain in the country for work purposes. The exact duration and terms of your stay will depend on the type of work that you will be doing, and your specific circumstances.

To get an Irish work visa, you must first have a job offer or employment contract. In general, approval is limited to work that is highly specialized, involves a considerable degree of skill, or relates to a profession where there is a significant shortage in the country.

In other words, you probably cannot get a work visa for a menial or routine job. Some areas where there is a need for foreign workers include emerging technologies, but work visas aren’t just for tech workers. Here is a list of the current in-demand highly skilled occupations:

  • Engineers
  • Management specialists
  • Health care workers
  • International marketing experts
  • Natural and social science professionals

Where does one get started in finding an Irish job? Since you need a job offer, it’s a good idea, of course, to plan well in advance for this transition. When applying for work, you should be candid about your citizenship and need for assistance in navigating the paperwork with INIS. Once you have a job offer or contract, you will need to provide contact information from the company to INIS.

As in the United States, there are numerous online outlets for job searches. Irishjobs.ie is a popular site that lists employers and opportunities. There are a whole host of other sites, such as:

  • Firstaff.ie
  • Jobs.ie
  • ie.indeed.com

Indeed has a strong Irish footprint, with offices in Dublin that employ over 900. The tech sector in Ireland has been hot for many years and is not showing signs of a slowdown. So, while we noted that the in-demand jobs aren’t all related to tech, it remains an active area for continued growth and opportunities

Retiring in Ireland

What if you are done with school and working, and want to retire to Ireland? How much money do you need? Although the country is not known for hot sunny beaches and palm trees, Ireland is full of beauty and can provide an idyllic retirement location. However, there’s more to Irish retirement than hopping on a plane.

Just like Ireland asks a lot of questions and has numerous requirements to visit, study or work in the country, it also holds potential retirees to a high standard. The Irish government does not want you to become a financial burden. So, if you can meet the monetary threshold of €50,000 per year, per person, and also have enough liquid cash reserves to cover unanticipated expenses, you might be able to obtain what is called a Stamp 0 visa. This is a low-priority visa. In other words, you can expect the application process to take a long time.

Becoming an Irish Citizen

What about citizenship? Irish citizenship may be available to you through family, marriage, or Ireland’s naturalisation process. Irish naturalization laws are pretty complicated, partly because of the nation’s history with the United Kingdom. If your parents or grandparents were Irish citizens, you might already be an Irish citizen too. You also may be able to become eligible for citizenship through marriage to an Irish citizen for three years.

Also, if you have at least five years of “reckonable residence” in Ireland, you may be eligible for consideration into the country’s naturalisation process. The catch is, however, “reckonable residence” excludes periods under a work or student visa in most cases.

Where to Live When You Move to Ireland

Finding a new home, in Ireland is relatively easy, as there are scores of sites and other resources for finding homes, including daft.ie, myhome.ie, and Realtor.com’s international site.

Major cities, such as Dublin and Galway are relatively expensive, with homes and apartments being in line with costs in big cities in the United States, such as New York and Los Angeles. As with the United States, you can find housing bargains off the beaten path. If you are unfamiliar with neighborhoods and areas, it may be helpful to speak to a real estate professional who can provide expert guidance.

Additional Considerations When Moving to Ireland

Lastly, there are a few things to keep in mind when moving to Ireland, no matter what your purpose or goals may be. First, Ireland is not the same place as Northern Ireland. Ireland is its own country, while Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. Your visa or citizenship in Ireland does not confer rights in Northern Ireland or the U.K.

Also, taxes can be much higher in Ireland than in the United States. This is important for those earning money in Ireland, but also can impact retirement and general living, as higher taxes can make the cost of living more expensive.

Ireland is a picturesque country that is attractive to students, workers, and retirees. It may not be easy to make your Irish residence dream come true, but it is possible with some planning, work, and diligence.

If you want to make it happen, you will. Just heed this Irish proverb: “Your feet will take you where your heart is.”

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Kevin Wheatley