FAQ: Moving to Ireland

Torc Waterfall, Kerry

Before moving to another country you would naturally have a lot of questions. And if you don’t you should. The weird thing is that no matter how many questions you ask yourself or try to get answers to beforehand, you kind of just uncover more questions and more answers as you go. For example, one technicality I didn’t think about before moving was the how my passport expiry date would affect my work situation. Or, the fact that finding work can be really, really difficult (I will post soon about how to stay sane while unemployed).

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Sometimes people email me asking for advice and I’m not in a position to be able to offer legal advice of course, but can only share my experiences. Here are some questions that I’ve put together over the last few years that might help some of you. Bear in mind that rules do change and that I’m not accountable for an misinformation.


Q: If I live in Ireland, will I still need a Schengen visa to visit the EU?
A: Yes, always. If you choose to live in a Schengen state instead of Ireland, you will be able to move between countries freely. A Schengen visa can only be obtained from embassies in Dublin so if you are living in Cork, travel will add to the application cost.


Q: I’ve never been to Ireland before, should I go on holiday there before moving?
A: We didn’t. We just went for it! It could be a good idea though to visit the cities where you hope to find work and speak to locals. Ask them about the job market, rental costs in different areas (Dublin and Cork are like little housing nightmares), traffic, the cost of car insurance and so on. You’ll also get an idea of the weather and a general feel of the place which can be reassuring. Some costs may shock you.


Q: Will we need to go to Ireland first to look for work before applying for a job?
A: If you want to work in Ireland but don’t have a job offer, as far as I know it’s probably not legal to go into the country on a holiday visa in search for work. Strictly speaking, you have to get a job offer from outside of Ireland. This is really tricky but if you are highly skilled, it should be possible. You can then enter Ireland with a work permit.


Q: How much money should I have saved to live in Ireland before I start working?
A: Roughly €1650 not counting car insurance.


Q: Why is living in Ireland so expensive? How should I budget? A: Honestly, I’m not sure. One thing that off-sets the expense though is the good salaries here compared to some other European countries. For a month, public transport could set you back by €80, food could cost you around €200 a month, garbage collection might come to around €30 per month but should be included in rent (€1000 per month or up for a whole city apartment), mobile internet from Three is €20 per month for unlimited 4G and electricity and gas could set you back by at the very least €25. You will also have to pay for a residency card which us another €300. A pint of beer will cost you a fiver and you might have to buy rounds so may the force be with you!


Q: Is it a good idea to own a car?
A: Car insurance will be super expensive; most likely around €2000 a year or more (your no claims bonus proof is not useful here if you’re from outside of the EU). You will also have to pay for parking costs or rent a parking spot in the city if you are driving in which adds up fast! You could get a good second-hand bike in the €200 – 400 range. The bus takes about as long as walking and is quite expensive all things considered. We used to own a car but much prefer living in the city and walking or biking around rather than driving. Rent a car for day trips.


Q: Can I bring my spouse with to Ireland?
A: If the main worker has a Critical Skills Permit, they will be able to support a spouse and the spouse can stay with them in the same house on that basis. The spouse can also apply for a free work permit that comes with its own limitations.


Q: How much do Critical Skills Employment Permits cost?
A: €1000. Most of this is refunded if the application is rejected and your employer should be able to sponsor you.


Q: What is I don’t have a Critical Skill?
A: You can apply for a General Employment Permit if you have a job offer of over 30 grand a year and the employer can prove that they could not fill this specific role with a potential EU employee. See more here.


Q: Can I bring my pets to Ireland?
A: Yes. For cats it will cost you about R15 000 per kitty! You can read more about that here. Dogs may be more expensive. I recommend not bringing your pets because it is pretty much impossible to find pet-friendly accommodation.


Q: Can I use my South African driving license?
A: Yes, but only for a year. You can apply to have your SA license exchanged for a Irish license. It costs about €60 to do so.


Q: Can I go on the dole? A: No, you won’t qualify for any unemployment benefits or social welfare as an immigrant as far as I know.


Q: What about health insurance? A: As an immigrant, it might be best to take out private health insurance if you can afford it! However, it might also be unnecessary. There doesn’t seem to be as big a difference between public and private as in South Africa.

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