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Unsponsored immigration

Highly skilled individuals

What unsponsored immigration routes are available for highly skilled foreign nationals to seek employment in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

There are no unsponsored immigration routes for highly skilled individuals as, in all instances, such employees must have a job offer from an employer to qualify for an employment permit (ie, they must be sponsored). If highly skilled individuals are married to or in a relationship with an Irish or European Economic Area (EEA) national, they can apply for an Irish immigration permit based on that relationship and will not need an employment permit.

Entrepreneurs

What unsponsored immigration routes are available for entrepreneurs seeking to establish a business in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

Non-EEA national entrepreneurs who want to establish a business in Ireland can apply under the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme. To be eligible for this programme, an applicant must have a proposal for a high potential start-up (HPSU) in the innovation economy and €50,000 in funding. A HPSU is defined as a start-up venture that:

  • introduces a new or innovative product or service to international markets;
  • is capable of creating 10 jobs in Ireland and realising €1 million in sales within three to four years of its establishment;
  • is led by an experienced management team;
  • is headquartered and controlled in Ireland; and
  • is less than six years’ old.

The programme does not apply to retail, personal services, catering or other businesses of that nature. If successful, the applicant and certain family members will be granted a two-year residence permit which is renewable for a further three years subject to continued compliance with the programme’s criteria. The programme does not facilitate a fast-track to Irish citizenship.

Investors

What unsponsored immigration routes are available for foreign investors seeking to invest in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

The Immigrant Investor Programme is available for non-EEA national investors seeking to invest in Ireland with a view to obtaining residency. This programme enables non-EEA nationals and certain family members who commit to an approved investment in Ireland to obtain residency. There are four eligible investment categories:

  • a minimum investment of €1 million in a single Irish enterprise or spread over a number of enterprises for a minimum of three years;
  • a minimum investment of €1 million in an investment fund approved by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service for a minimum of three years;
  • a minimum investment of €2 million in any Irish real estate investment trust listed on the Irish Stock Exchange for three years; or
  • a minimum endowment of €500,000 in a project of public benefit in the arts, sports, health, cultural or education sector.

Investors must have a net worth of €2 million. If successful, the applicant and certain family members will be granted residence for two years, which is renewable for a further three, subject to continued compliance with the scheme’s criteria. The programme does not facilitate a fast-track to Irish citizenship.

Ancestry

Are any immigration routes open to foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?

There is no entitlement to apply for an employment permit based on Irish ancestry or descent. However, a non-EEA national can apply for Irish citizenship on the basis of Irish ancestry or descent. This type of application is a discretionary application and, accordingly, there is no certainty that it will be granted.

Other routes

Are there any other unsponsored immigration routes?

The main unsponsored immigration routes are dependent on non-EEA nationals having a personal relationship with an EU or Irish national.

Extensions, permanent residence and citizenship

Extensions and status changes

Can short-term visa or work permit holders switch to long-term visas? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?

Short-term visa holders cannot change their visa status while in Ireland other than in exceptional cases. Non-EEA national employment permit holders can apply for long-term residency if they have been legally resident in Ireland for a minimum of five years (60 months) through a work permit, authorisation or visa. In submitting such an application, applicants can also apply, if required, to be exempted from employment permit requirements. The five-year residency requirement is calculated on the basis of the immigration registration stamps in an applicant’s passport. A spouse or dependant of an applicant for long-term residency can apply only on the basis that he or she has been in Ireland for a minimum of five years (60 months) as a spouse or dependant. A successful spouse or dependant is granted a Stamp 3 immigration permission, which does not exempt them from needing an employment permit to work.

The application procedure is paper-based and requires specific supporting documentation. An application will be granted only if the applicant:

  • meets the five-year residency requirement;
  • has an up-to-date permission to remain;
  • is employed; and
  • is of good character.

It takes six to eight months to process this type of application (although it could take longer) and the current processing fee is €500.

Under what conditions can long-term visas be extended?

See above.

Permanent residence

Can long-term visa holders apply for permanent residence? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?

Non-EEA employment permit holders can apply for long-term residency if they have been legally resident in Ireland for a minimum of five years (60 months) through a work permit, authorisation or visa. In submitting such an application, an applicant can also apply, if required, to be exempted from employment permit requirements. The five-year requirement is calculated on the basis of the immigration registration stamps in an applicant’s passports. A spouse or dependant of the applicant for long-term residency can also apply, but only on the basis that he or she has been in Ireland for a minimum of five years (60 months) as a spouse or dependant. A successful spouse or dependant is granted a Stamp 3 immigration permission, which does not exempt them from needing an employment permit.

The application procedure is paper-based and requires specific supporting documentation. An application will be granted only if the applicant:

  • meets the five-year requirement;
  • has an up-to-date permission to remain;
  • is employed; and
  • is of good character. 

It takes six to eight months to process this type of application (although it could possibly take longer) and the current prescribed processing fee is €500.

 Citizenship

Can long-term visa holders or permanent residents apply for citizenship? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?

Long-term employment permit holders and long-term residency permit holders can apply for Irish citizenship subject to being in a position to satisfy the criteria set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1957, as amended. An adult applicant must:

  • have been legally resident in Ireland for at least five of the previous nine years (excluding time as a student). This should include one year of continuous residence immediately before the application date;
  • intend to continue living in Ireland;
  • be of good character; and
  • attend a citizenship ceremony and declare an oath of fidelity to the Irish state.

Non-EEA national spouses and civil partners of Irish nationals must have been married for three years and have been living together in an ongoing marriage or civil partnership in Ireland for no less than three years, including one year of continuous residence immediately before the application date.

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