The purpose of the Immigrant Investor Programme ("IIP") is to enable non-EEA nationals and their families who commit to an approved investment in Ireland to acquire permanent residency in Ireland.
The IIP was set up by the Irish Government in 2012. In 2017 the Irish Government Economic & Evaluation Service published a positive interim evaluation of the IIP. Further detail on the report can be found here.
The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service ("INIS") has confirmed that as of March 2018 a total of 708 applications have been approved generating investment of 507 million.
OVERVIEW OF THE IIP
There are essentially two components to an IIP application: the person and the investment. The personal criteria relate to the good character of the applicant, their net worth and the provenance of the funds to be invested. The investment component relates to the nature of the proposed investment.Individuals can apply to the IIP without committing any investment funds. As of January 2018, an applicant must choose one of four eligible investments to invest in and submit the required documentation as described in this bulletin.
The Department of Justice and Law Reform is due to update its IIP guidelines on or before 8 February 2019. All 2019 applications must adhere to the revised guidelines. The IIP will be open for applications from:
4 March 2019 8 March 2019;
20 May 2019 24 May 2019;
19 August 2019 23 August 2019; and
21 October 2019 25 October 2019.
Applications received outside of these periods will be returned.
The Department has announced that an independent review of the IIP will commence in the first quarter of 2019 and that the application windows may be varied upon its completion. A second review of the IIP guidelines will also be carried out following the completion of the independent review.
Once the application has been approved the investment may proceed and once the funds have been invested the investor and their family will be issued with permission to reside in Ireland. In January 2018, the IIP raised the minimum investment threshold to 1 million from 500,000. This investment must be financed from the applicant's own resources, rather than a loan or other such facility, and must be committed for a minimum of three years.
Successful applicants will receive permission to reside for an initial two years which will be extended for a further period of three years provided the applicant continues to meet the conditions of the scheme. After this initial five year period, the investor will be free to apply for residence indefinitely in five year tranches. Investment performance is not a condition for residence.
There is no minimum residence requirement other than that the persons concerned spend at least one day in Ireland every calendar year. The investor is not required to establish actual residence in Ireland. The IIP is about rights of residence that the investor may exercise as their business and family needs dictate.
The IIP does not provide for preferential access to citizenship. Successful applicants are free to apply for naturalisation in the normal manner. This process is set out in brief below.
The Department amended its IIP guidelines in January 2018, suspending two of the original six categories of investments: the Immigrant Investor Bond and the Mixed Investments. Further updated guidelines are due in February 2019. The current guidelines now provide for four investment options.
1. Enterprise Investment
A minimum of 1 million invested in either a single Irish enterprise or spread over a number of enterprises for a minimum of three years.
The enterprise can be a start-up or existing business but must be registered and headquartered in Ireland and the investment must support the creation or maintenance of employment. The purchase of publicly traded securities will not be considered an eligible investment. The investment must be made in the name of the applicant.
The most recent audited accounts must be submitted for existing businesses. A business plan must also be submitted for all businesses, indicating how the investment will help create or maintain employment. A template business plan is available on the INIS website.
This option facilitates investors who have their own investment or business strategy and see the benefits of Ireland as an investment location.
2. Investment Fund
A minimum of 1 million invested in an approved investment fund and held for a minimum period of three years.
The essential consideration in the assessment of a fund is the same as that of an individual enterprise investment; there must be an actual investment in Ireland which generates or sustains employment. We can provide details of these.
The monies invested by a fund must represent equity stakes in companies not quoted on any stock exchange and must be invested in accordance with the objectives of the IIP. The funds and fund managers must be regulated by the Central Bank. Fund managers must have an established record of managing regulated funds. There are a number of funds in Ireland which have been set up specifically with IIP investors in mind.
This option addresses a common difficulty with the IIP; many investors lack familiarity with the Irish market and business environment. It allows investors to avail of the services of approved professional investment
intermediaries. It should be borne in mind that an investment in commercial or residential property for the purposes of leasing to tenants will not be considered as an investment.
3. Real Estate Investment Trust ("REIT")
A minimum of 2 million invested in any Irish REIT, a company used to hold investment properties and listed on the Irish Stock Exchange, or spread across a number of different Irish REITs.
The full investment must be held for a minimum period of three years. During this period the number of shares approved must be retained even if their value rises above the original 2 million investment. After three years the investor may divest up to 50% of the shares purchased for the IIP and after four years the investor may divest no more than a further 25%. After five years there are no retention obligations.
No supporting documentation is required other than the personal requirements set out below.
An investment in a REIT provides an investor with a lower-risk property investment model in which the investment is diversified into a pool of properties. The debt limits within REITs reduce exposure to negative equity risk. REITs are exempt from corporation tax and are required to distribute the majority of profits each year and so generate a regular stream of income for investors.
A minimum endowment of 500,000 in a project of public benefit in the arts, sport, health, cultural, or educational field (or 400,000 each if more than five investors apply together).
The endowment will be regarded as a philanthropic contribution and investors will receive no financial return. A business plan must be submitted, detailing how the investment is going to be utilised by the beneficiary and how it will be of public benefit.
This option facilitates those who wish to engage in philanthropy. It is also the most straightforward option as no further financial obligation is required after the endowment is made.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
The IIP is open to non-EEA nationals with a net worth of over 2 million. Applicants must be a good character and not convicted of a criminal offence in any jurisdiction. The funds used for the investment must come from the applicant's own resources and not financed through a loan or other such facility.
Eligible Family Members
Residency under the IIP is also available to spouses/partners and children under 18 years of age for whom the applicant and/or their spouse or partner has legal guardianship. In certain cases children between the ages of 18 and 24 will be considered where they are unmarried and are financially dependent on their parents.
Evidence of Net Worth
The applicant must demonstrate that they have a legally acquired minimum net worth of 2 million. In addition to this declaration, the applicant must provide an explanation of all financial activities for the previous 12 months including their income, investments and loans.
Evidence and Provenance of funds
The applicant must provide evidence of the funds that are to be used for the proposed investment, evidence of the provenance of those funds and evidence that the funds are transferrable to Ireland and convertible to euros.
INIS have a list of specific information they require in relation to the following four sources of funds: business and investment activities, deeds of sale, inheritance, and divorce settlements. If the funding has been received from an alternative source the applicant must provide original documentation and independent supporting documentation as evidence.
Statement of Character
The applicant must submit a statement of character, both for themselves and for any family members over the age of 16, from the police authorities of each country in which they have resided for more than six months during the previous 10 years.
Successful applicants and their family members over the age of 16 will be required to submit an affidavit attesting to their good character and affirming that they have no criminal convictions. A declaration on behalf of children under the age of 16 should be contained within the affidavit of the investor.
Private Medical Insurance
Successful applications who wish to reside in Ireland on a permanent basis must demonstrate that they have private medical insurance that will cover all major medical expenses in Ireland.
SUMMARY OF THE PROCESS
DISCOUNT FOR EDUCATION EXPENSES
Investors may avail of a discount on their investment for any educational expenses that they intend to commit to in Ireland. The expenses must be for the investor or family member in an Irish University or Institute of Technology; they must be indicated as part of the application process; and the expenses are subject to a maximum allowable discount of 50,000.
Successful applicants for the IIP, and their spouses and dependent children, who are from visa-required countries, e.g. India or China, will be required to obtain an entry visa prior to arriving in Ireland. Successful applicants will be entitled to apply for a multi-entry visa once their letter of approval from INIS is received, enabling them to travel in and out of Ireland from the date that they secure their multi-entry visa, subject to renewal of the visa.
The IIP does not provide visa-required nationals with an entitlement to travel to and within the UK (including Northern Ireland) or the rest of the European Union without an entryvisa (if required). Holders of a Stamp 4 obtained through the IIP will be required to apply for visas to enter other countries as required.
There are certain agreements between UK and Ireland with respect to immigration, for example, the "British Irish Visa Scheme" which allows Chinese and Indian citizens to travel to and around the Common Travel Area on a single visa (as opposed to requiring separate Irish and UK visas). It remains to be seen how immigration will be impacted in the context of Brexit.
Applicants for Irish naturalisation must be continuously resident in Ireland for the 12 months prior to application and have been resident in Ireland for a period of four of the preceding eight years. Residence must be lawful and the person must also be physically resident for the period. While a person can be regarded as physically resident in Ireland and still travel abroad for business or leisure, any significant absences may require further enquiries and the application may be refused.
Investors and their family members who exercise their right not to reside in Ireland under the IIP will not fulfil the residency requirements for naturalisation.
In order to be granted Irish citizenship through naturalisation, an applicant is generally required to meet each of the following criteria, in addition to the residence requirement above.
(a) Applicants must be of full age (i.e. 18 years or older, or married if younger than 18);
(b) A pplicants must be of good character (the Garda Sochna are asked to provide a report on the background of all applicants);
(c) A pplicants must intend in good faith to continue to reside in the State after naturalisation;
(d) Applicants must make a declaration of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State.