In January 2018, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) published new Guidelines for the Immigrant Investor Programme (the “IIP”). By way of brief summary, the IIP is a programme established in 2012 by the Irish government to facilitate non-EEA nationals and their families who commit to an approved investment in Ireland to acquire a secure residency status in Ireland. See our discussion of the IIP here.

The new Guidelines do not make many substantives changes to the IIP application; rather it appears that its aim is simply to make the application process more user-friendly and to clarify a number of points about the criteria and entitlements under the Programme.

Removal of Immigrant Investment Bonds and Mixed Investments options

Under the previous Guidelines, dated December 2016, there were six categories of eligible investments, two of which had subsequently been suspended – namely the Immigrant Investor Bond and the Mixed Investments. Under the new Guidelines, there is simply no mention at all of these two suspended categories, suggesting that they have been permanently removed as available categories of investment and will now not be available to investors. This leaves just the following 4 categories of investment:

  • Enterprise Investment;
  • Investment Fund;
  • Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT); and
  • Endowment

The Immigrant Investor Bond option, which has now been abolished, allowed the applicant to invest a minimum of €1 million in the bond issued by Ireland (acting through the National Treasury Management Agency) and was a Government guaranteed investment. This was a very safe option for investors and was particular helpful to investors looking for an easy and risk neutral investment option or those who were unsure of the Irish investment market.

The second option which has also been abolished, the Mixed Investment option, allowed the investment to comprise of a purchase of a Residential Property in Ireland with a minimum value of €450,000 combined with a €500,000 investment in the Immigrant Investor Bond, as set out above. Similar to the Immigrant Investor Bond option, this was a particularly attractive option for investors who wished to take up residence in Ireland and who also wanted a low risk investment opportunity.

It is disappointing to see both of these investment options abolished as they provided attractive and low risk options for potential investors.

Investments involving property

In terms of the other changes that the Guidelines introduce, some additional clarity is now available in Appendix 1 on the property investments which will and will not be eligible for the IIP. The guidelines reiterate that the primary goal of the IIP is job creation in Ireland and therefore stimulation of the property market alone will not be enough to fulfil the criteria of the IIP.

The Guidance now clearly states that the IIP does not have an option for office, commercial, industrial or residential property development or purchase. Further to this, Appendix 1 details potential enterprise investments which may be capable of qualifying for the IIP which have a property component. The Guidelines expands on the existing options for property-related investment. These now include:

  • Purchase of a partly completed property development and bringing it to completion with employment of construction professionals and those involved in fitting out new buildings for the purpose of providing social housing; and
  • Purchase or development of industrial buildings as part of an overall manufacturing or similar commercial proposal, where such purchase or development is required to develop the business in line with the business plan submitted as part of the application to the Immigrant Investor Programme.

Clarity on the application process

The Guidelines aims to answer some practical/procedural questions for applicants. For example, the Guidelines now note the following:

  • Cheques drawn from foreign banks cannot be accepted for the application fee. We recommend that application can only discharge the fee for the IIP by way of Irish Postal Order or Bankers draft drawn from an Irish Financial Institution;
  • The original application should be submitted by post and the application must also be emailed to IIP&STEPapplications@justice.ie by 5pm on the day of the deadline (see below). We would advise all applicants to ensure that all necessary supporting documentation is submitted at the time the application is made; otherwise the application will not be accepted. We recommended that those intending to apply for the IIP should be aware that some of the required documentation (such as the Evidence of Character) often take some time to obtain and therefore should be sought well in advance of submitting the application;
  • Funds must be from the applicants own resources and that under no circumstances will a loan provided to the applicant for the purposes of making an IIP application be considered an appropriate source of funding;
  • Where the immigration permission of the main applicant/investor is withdrawn by the INIS, this will result in the permission afforded to their family members in Ireland also being withdrawn; and
  • In circumstances where the funds for the IIP are being sourced from the proceeds of the sale of an asset, a verification letter from the legal advisor must now include details of the amount of money received in the sale net of any mortgage or other loan. Applicants should ensure that their legal advisors include this information in the declaration in order to ensure that it complies with the requirements.

A very useful checklist of additional supporting documentation that may be required for this process is contained in the Guidelines. Before finally submitting the application, all applicants should review this checklist to ensure that all necessary documents are included in the application.

2018 application windows

Those wishing to apply for either the IIP (or its sister Programme, STEP) should be aware that applications for the IIP and the STEP Programmes will only be accepted during the following time periods:

  • 10 January 2018 – 24 January 2018
  • 14 March 2018 – 28 March 2018
  • 09 May 2018 – 23 May 2018
  • 15 August 2018 – 29 August 2018
  • 10 October 2018 – 24 October 2018

The Evaluation Committee meet after each round of applications to assess the applications and decisions are usually issued approximately 4 months after they are lodged with INIS.

Focus on the objectives: job creation and economic development in Ireland

When preparing an application for the IIP it is useful to bear in mind the principle objectives of the programme: job creation and economic development in Ireland. Business plans submitted in support of any IIP application should include as much detail as possible about the job creation ambitions of the business and illustrate concrete plans about how to achieve this. It is now expressly stated in the Guidelines that a Business Plan required to be submitted under the Enterprise Investment category must also include details of how the investment in question will be used in the development of the business of the growth of jobs in Ireland. It is clear from this that the INIS wish to be made aware of the concrete plans of exactly how the investment funds will be used to achieve the objective of the IIP.

For further information on the IIP, please feel free to get in touch with any member of our immigration group.

Contributors to this article: Shaunagh Byrne, trainee at Philip Lee and Aoife Gillespie, head of immigration.