Moving to Ireland


As a South African without any EU passport or British ancestral visa, it’s difficult to get a job. Honestly, it’s really tough. There’s a lot of research involved. The first thing you’ll find out is that as plain old South Africans we can’t just go and work anywhere. Apparently the UK is ever tightening borders and we can now only go there as “talented” or “leaders” in a certain field, not even as skilled workers. I suppose this is partly due to their fear of immigrants, and terrible South African-British relations. There are many other non-European countries that you could try out though; New Zealand, Canada, Australia, South Korea… They all have their own pull factors.


The Conundrum

Usually, there’s a cyclical problem: it’s near impossible to get a job if your aren’t in the country, and you aren’t allowed to enter the country to look for a job. So, this is the first and main problem you’re likely to face and it isn’t an easy one to get around if you want to do things right. You can try and find out more about something called Work Seeker Authorisation but I think it basically means that you’re telling the State that you are entering the country to go for an interview. If you don’t have an interview, your only hope is the internet.


Work Permits

There are nine different types of work permits in Ireland. Even so, getting a job is complicated because for employers, hiring someone who needs a work permit (in this case, an non-EEA national) is expensive and there are a few hoops that the employer has to jump through. For example, when hiring non-EEA nationals, employers need to do a Labour Market Needs Test in order to prove that they are also hiring a good percentage of nationals from their own country.

General Employment Permits will need to have a Labour Market Needs Test done by the employer as part of the application. They also doesn’t have as many advantages as the Critical Skills Work Permit. Be aware that there are some occupations that won’t be accepted for any employment permits.

What will make it worth it for employers to hire outside the EU or EEA is if they can attract skilled workers that they have a shortage of in their own country or the EU. Each country most likely has a different skills shortage. For Ireland, you can find out about in-demand occupations and if you are in one of those fields, you might be able to apply for a Critical Skills Permit (I think they used to call it a Green Card).


Getting a Job

You can look on job websites and contact recruitment agencies, but most of them are looking for EU nationals and most likely won’t get back to you. Not very encouraging, I know. You could also try to send out your details directly to companies that you would like to work for. If you’re in the IT industry, you can take a look at a recruitment agency called Zartis. We found them to be really helpful.

Once you’ve had your Skype interviews and if you get a job offer, the next few weeks will fly, so hold onto your hat. You will have to fill out an application form (it’s a good idea to print it in colour otherwise the text field fillers that say “BLOCK LETTERS” will stand out too much). Anyway, so you fill that out and courier it back to the recruitment agency or employer – use a courier in case of surprise Post Office strikes. You’ll most likely need to send a colour passport photo with your application form as well. We just used PostNet and at that time I think the fastest service was about R350. Take note of that, because there are a few sneaky costs like this that can add up quite quickly.

The employer might pay the application fees, or you might have to (either five hundred or a thousand Euros depending on the permit and duration). The application takes about a month to process and if your application is rejected it might just mean that more information is required, not that your application wasn’t good enough. If this happens, you’ll have 21 days to appeal the rejection with supporting documents that might have originally been left out. You can request that the work permit is couriered back to you.

Note: As South African’s we’re generally fairly street smart, but just be aware that there are bad people out there who do sometimes take advantage of people – all over the world.


Getting to Ireland

Just for reference, some nationalities will need a visa to enter Ireland, but South Africans don’t need to apply for a short-stay (holiday) visa to visit Ireland. You just pitch up and introduce yourself to the Immigration officer at the airport. You would need your passport and return ticket. However, if you’ve ever applied for a Schengen visa, you’ll know that it feels like the Immigration offer could ask you for anything, so it’s best to be prepared. We took with our proof of accommodation for two weeks (until we could find a place to stay), proof of funds to show we were able to support ourselves (budget about 35 Euros per day per person), marriage certificate and travel insurance. We also got Police Clearance certificates to show that we had no criminal records, but it wasn’t actually necessary.

When entering Ireland for work purposes, don’t forget to bring your original work permit. You can enter Ireland without a return ticket. If you have a Critical Skills Permit, your spouse can also enter without a return ticket (you will need your marriage certificate though). The Irish Embassy in South Africa refused to help me with this and they hung up on me after telling me that I definitely need a return ticket. I eventually emailed someone very helpful in the Irish Justice System who confirmed that I wouldn’t need a return ticket and there were no issues at Immigration.

If the Immigration Officer is happy with your permit, marriage certificate and passports and you’ve told him your intentions, and answered his questions as directly and simply as possible, then he’ll put a stamp in your passport mentioning that you should stop at the GNIB (Garda National Immigration Bureau) before a certain date and register there (we were given three months).


Permission to Remain

You’ve just paid for a plane ticket and a bunch of other things, but now you’re going to have to get ready to pay for your right to remain in the State. In 2015, this was 300 Euros (per person). That’s about a month’s rent in South Africa, ouch.

The GNIB in Cork has minimal queues, which is really nice. I’ve heard that life’s not so easy in Dublin. I think the Cork office opens at 10:00, closes at 12:00 for lunch until 14:00 and then remains open until 16:00. The ladies that I met there were friendly and helpful. As far as I remember, you’ll need to bring your money (paying with a credit card is fine), proof of residence and passport. They’ll also take a photo of you, so make sure not to look like you usually look for passport photos (bad).

The application for your GNIB card then goes off to Dublin and within two weeks it should be back at your local GNIB for collection. They won’t contact you to let you know, so make sure to set a reminder for yourself. If you don’t collect it in time, it will go back to Dublin and you’d have to re-apply. And you don’t want to be in a situation where that happens and you’ve run out of the time given by the Immigration Officer at the airport awaiting a new card. If you are ever in a situation like that though, where you’re technically in the country illegally, I think the best thing would be to get advice directly from the GNIB. They are likely the only people who could help you.



The Stamps

On your card you will probably either get a stamp 1 (permission to remain in the state to work with a permit) or a stamp 3 (permission to remain without being able to work). The card should be valid for a year. Remember to renew your GNIB card about a month or so before it expires because you don’t want to be caught betwixt and between.

I currently have stamp 3. As a spouse to someone with a Critical Skills Work Permit, I can apply for permission to work (stamp 1). There will be no cost for my first work permit, but the GNIB card will be re-issued for another 300 Euros.

If you love Ireland so much that you decide you want to stay another year (two years in total) and you have a Critical Skills Permit, you can apply for Long Term Residency with means you can stay in the country until a specified date and won’t need a work permit (stamp 4). As far as I know, the same is not true for the spouses or dependants though. You can read more about the stamps.

The Order of Things

1. Get a job interview and if required get Work Seeker Authorisation
2. Get the job (resign from your current job too)
3. Courier through the application form
4. If the application is rejected, appeal with the required documents
5. Check the application progress and have the original permit couriered to you
6. Book your tickets to Ireland with your supporting documents and permit
7. Register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau as soon as possible
8. Collect your GNIB card from the GNIB on the date mentioned to you
9. Save more than you spend
10. Toughen up for your first day of work


Useful Papers

  • You’ll need to have a passport that has an expiry date a long way off and a good few free pages
  • A marriage certificate, unabridged (this can take two months or more to arrive from Home Affairs)
  • Your unabridged birth certificate (also just in case, this can also take a while to get from Home Affairs)
  • You might want to get a Police Clearance Certificate from SAPS although this isn’t really required, no one has asked us for it.
  • Your driver’s license (South Africans can drive in Ireland for up to a year, but exchanging it for an Irish license will halve your insurance premiums)
  • Bank statements showing that you have enough money to support you until your first pay check
  • Proof of paid for accommodation until you can find a place to rent.
  • Travel and medical insurance for up to three months if possible
  • Well, that’s all for now. if you’ve got any questions or if there is some info I missed, or maybe things just worked out differently for you in your move to Ireland, I’m all ears.


Leave a Reply