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 more difficult than you might expect.
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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 people. Bear in mind that rules do change and that I’m not responsible for any 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 Schengen countries freely. A Schengen visa can only be obtained from the relevant embassies in Dublin (country of longest stay or first entry). So, if you are living in Cork, travel to Dublin will add to the application process 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 might have a bit of a housing shortage), 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.


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. I’ve blogged a bit about working in Ireland in more detail.


Q: How much money should I save to live in Ireland before I start working?
A: Roughly €2000 not counting car insurance. It’s best to determine your major costs and find out what they will be ahead of time.
Q: Why is living in Ireland so expensive? How should I budget?
A: One thing that off-sets the expense is the good salaries here compared to some other European countries. Here are a few estimates for monthly costs in Cork:
  • Public transport: €80
  • Food: €200
  • Garbage collection: €30 per month but should be included in rent
  • Rent: up to €1000 per month for a city apartment (many people just rent out a room)
  • Mobile internet: €20 (Three.ie offers unlimited 4G)
  • Electricity: €35
  • Gas: €30 (winter costs are way more than summer!)
  • Residency card: €300
  • Car rental: €50 per day
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 is usually super expensive for South Africans without an Irish driver’s license or a no claims history (your no claims bonus proof is not useful here if you’re from outside of the EU).  It could set you back by around €2000 a year or more. You will also have to pay for parking costs or rent a parking spot in the city if you are driving in.
You could get a good second-hand bike in the €200 – 400 range instead of a car. The bus takes about as long as walking around the city. A bus trip costs about €2.50. We used to own a car but much prefer living in the city and walking or biking around rather than driving.


Q: Can I bring my spouse with me to Ireland?
A: If the main worker has a Critical Skills Permit, their spouse can stay with them in the same house on that basis. The spouse can also find out more about working in Ireland here.
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 if I don’t have a Critical Skill?
A: You can apply for a General Employment Permit if you have a job offer of over €30 000 a year and the employer can prove that they could not fill this specific role with a potential EU employee (a Labour Market Needs Test). 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 near 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 an Irish license. It costs about €60 to do so. Read more about this on the National Driver License Service website.
Q: Can I go on the dole?
A: No, you won’t qualify for any unemployment benefits or social welfare as far as I know.
I hope this is helpful to you. If there are any other questions that you think I should add to this list, email me to let me know.

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