Social Welfare & Habitual Residence

You can apply for a social welfare payment if you need a bit of support on your return to Ireland.

Unless you have a minimum amount of Irish social insurance contributions (usually made in the last 2 years), you’ll have to satisfy a means test as well as the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC) before you can be granted a payment.

HRC means you’ll need to prove that you have made Ireland your home again. Here’s what you need to know about how to do this:

  • What is the Habitual Residence Condition?

    The Habitual Residence Condition (HRC) is a condition that you must satisfy in order to be eligible for most means tested social welfare payments in Ireland. It came into effect from May 1st 2004 following the enlargement of the European Union.

    When deciding if you are habitually resident, the Department of Social Protection considers 5 factors:

    1. Your ‘main centre of interest’. This is based on things like:
      • whether you own or lease a home here,
      • where your close family members live,
      • whether you belong to social or professional associations here, and
      • any other evidence or activities indicating a settled residence in Ireland
    2. The length and continuity of your residence in Ireland and in any other country
    3. The length and purpose of any absences from Ireland
    4. The nature and pattern of your employment
    5. Your future intention to live in the Republic of Ireland for the foreseeable future

    It is possible to be found habitually resident, even if you do not meet all the five factors, especially if you can demonstrate that your future intentions are to remain in Ireland. However, it is very important to provide as much information as possible to support your application.

  • Do I have to live in Ireland for 2 years before I can satisfy this condition?

    No, you can be found habitually resident immediately on your return if you can show you are resuming your previous residence here. There is no ‘2 year rule’.

  • How can the HRC affect me as a returning Irish citizen?

    As the HRC is not based on nationality, you will need to satisfy this condition if you are returning to Ireland and applying for certain payments. It applies to both Irish citizens and Non-Irish citizens.

    According to the Department of Social Protection Operational Guidelines, ‘returning Irish migrants or those resuming habitual residence can be regarded as being habitually residence immediately on their return to the State‘. This means that if you lived here previously, you could be found habitually resident on your return once you can prove that you have returned permanently and that your ‘centre of interest’ is once again in Ireland. It is up to you to provide evidence of this to satisfy the Department.

    Furthermore, these guidelines state that in certain circumstances a person may have maintained their ‘centre of interest’ in Ireland despite living and/or working abroad – for instance: ‘If a person is working abroad and returns home at regular intervals to visit family or because they have maintained a home here it is possible that their centre of interest is still in Ireland‘ in which case ‘it could be argued that they never ceased to be habitually resident in Ireland‘.

  • For which payments must I satisfy the HRC?

    You must satisfy the HRC in order to qualify for the following payments:

    • Back to Work Family Dividend
    • Jobseeker’s Allowance
    • Jobseeker’s Allowance Transitional payment
    • State Pension (Non-Contributory)
    • Blind Pension
    • Blind Welfare Allowance
    • Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Non-Contributory) Pension
    • Guardian’s Payment (Non-Contributory)
    • One-Parent Family Payment
    • Carer’s Allowance
    • Disability Allowance
    • Supplementary Welfare Allowance (other than once-off exceptional and urgent needs payments)
    • Child Benefit (not means tested)
    • Domiciliary Care Allowance
    • Rent Supplement

    You’ll find information on how to apply for all of these payments at the website of the Department of Social Protection.

  • Do I need to complete a form?

    Yes, you will need to complete and submit a ‘HRC1’ form with each of your applications for any of the above payments. This form is available at your local social welfare office or online at

  • What information can I provide to support my application?

    Try to provide as much documentary evidence as possible to show that you are resuming your previous long-term residence here and that your ‘main centre of interest’ is once again Ireland. This could include information such as:

    • Proof to show you have given up accommodation abroad (e.g. proof of ending your tenancy or selling your home)
    • Proof of ending a job abroad, if applicable
    • Proof of terminating any residency based benefits abroad or transferring transferable payments, if applicable
    • Proof of travel documents such as a one way ticket
    • Proof of transporting your belongings back to Ireland (e.g. excess baggage fees, removal or shipping receipts)
    • Proof that your visa for the country you are returning from has expired, if applicable
    • Proof of closing bank accounts abroad
    • Proof of opening a bank account in Ireland
    • Proof of registering to vote in Ireland
    • Details of family members in Ireland
    • Any other evidence of intentions to remain in Ireland for good. For instance
      • Letters of support from family members confirming your permanent return to Ireland, proof of renting a property in Ireland,
      • Proof of seeking employment in Ireland (both prior to and following your return),
      • Proof of enrolling your children in school here,
      • Proof of registering with a GP,
      • Proof of exchanging your driving licence,
      • Proof of joining any local groups …etc.

    We strongly suggest including a cover letter with your application detailing your circumstances, including information about your life in Ireland before you left (e.g. where you lived, worked, went to school/college etc.), why you left Ireland and the reason for your return.

    It will also be important to describe the ties you have cut with the country you are leaving and explain how the supporting documents relate to this (e.g. “As you can see from the enclosed letter, I have ended my tenancy in London”).

    Contact us if you would like more information about this.

  • What happens if I am refused a payment because of the HRC?

    If you are refused a social welfare payment on the basis that you do not satisfy the HRC, you should be issued with a written refusal providing full reasons for the decision.

    You have 21 days from the date of the refusal letter in which to submit an appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office in Dublin. In your appeal letter you should address the reasons given for the refusal and detail why you believe you are habitually resident in Ireland in line with the ‘5 factors’.

    Remember that a negative decision in respect one or more of these factors does not automatically disqualify you from being considered habitually resident. If you feel that you strongly satisfy one or more factors, you can provide further evidence in respect of these in your appeal.

    The website of the Social Welfare Appeals office is and the address is Social Welfare Appeals Office, D’Olier House, D’Olier Street, Dublin 2.

    Please note that it can take months for appeals to be processed, therefore it is advisable to put in detailed information with your application to ensure full details are available to the person processing your claim in the first instance.

  • Where can I find more information on the HRC?

    More information on the HRC is available from the Department of Social Protection’s website at

    You’ll find the Department of Social Protection Operational Guidelines at

    You can also download and print A guide to the HRC for returning Irish emigrants – January 2019 which contains all the above information.

    If you or anyone you know is a returning Irish emigrant who has been affected by the Habitual Residence Condition contact us on +353 (0)1 873 2844 or by email at

Page last updated: 20.04.2022