It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been away, chances are you’ll need a plan of action before returning to Ireland. We’ve outlined some essential information below to help you plan your return.
We also also collaborated with Irish community Services Midwest, Chicago to bring you a series of short recorded videos talking through frequently asked questions on returning to Ireland with tips on how to prepare here.
We’d also suggest you take a look at the returning to Ireland section on the Citizens Information’s website for more detailed information.
- PPS numbers
A PPS number is a unique reference number that you need access public services in Ireland.
If you lived in Ireland before, it is possible that you already have a PPS number. If you have lost your PPS number, or you cannot remember what it is, you can contact Client Identity Services in the Department of Social Protection on +353 71 967 2616 (or 1890 927999 from within Ireland).
You will need to apply for a PPS number for yourself and your children if you do not have these. You can do this by making an appointment with your local PPS Number Allocation centre on your return. To save time book an appointment before you come back at www.mywelfare.ie. Once in Ireland, on the day of your appointment you’ll need to provide documentary evidence of your identity, your address, and why you need a PPS number.
In some cases, it is possible to apply for a PPS number before you return to Ireland (e.g. for taxation or Probate purposes, or if buying property). See gov.ie for more information on this.
For everything you need to know about PPS Numbers and how to get one as a returning Irish emigrant, see www.citizensinformation.ie.
The following short video provides an overview of registering for a PPSN on return to Ireland.
It is very important to arrange to have somewhere to stay on arrival. Rents and property prices in cities can be expensive so do your research beforehand. If you are planning on renting or buying, start your search at www.daft.ie or www.myhome.ie. The Citizens Information has lots of useful information about mortgages, local authority housing and more at www.citizensinformation.ie/en/housing/.
If you are age 57 or over, born in Ireland and you do not own your own home, Safe Home Ireland may be able to help you to source accommodation before your return. See www.safehomeireland.com to find out more.
The following short video provides an overview of sourcing housing in Ireland on your return.
Start your job search before you return – Many employers will facilitate remote interviews by phone or video call, so it’s best to try to start your job search online before your return. Make sure you have references from your overseas employers too.
The following short video provides on overview of seeking employment on return to Ireland.
Talk to people in the sector you’re interested in – This may seem obvious but these are the people who will be able to give you the best information on the kind of work you hope to do e.g. what the pay is like, where the best opportunities are, things to be aware of, etc. If you are still abroad and planning a return, you may be in a position to make a short visit first. If so, make some calls and arrange to meet others working in the same industry. You’ll learn a lot and it’s a good networking opportunity too! On return join business networks like IIBN or IACC and connect with like-minded people.
Help while you seek work – If you are unemployed on your return to Ireland, you may be eligible for a jobseekers related social welfare payment during your job search. Depending on how long you have been away, you may need to satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition and a means test. Read our article on applying for Jobseeker’s Allowance on your return to Ireland to find out more.
Check your qualifications and maybe up skill – If you studied abroad, you should check that your foreign qualification is recognised in Ireland. NARIC Ireland can provide information on this. If your qualification is not recognised, you may need to up skill on return. Similarly, if you studied in Ireland but feel you might benefit from more up-to-date training, you will find information on further education and training from the Education and Training Boards Ireland.
The following short video provides an overview of getting your qualifications recognised on return to Ireland.
If you have construction qualifications from outside Ireland, you should check with Solas if they are recognised here. While qualifications from the EU and UK may be recognised, those from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other countries outside of the EU generally are not.
Cast your net wide – You may be qualified or have experience in a specific field or industry but plenty of skills are transferable to other areas. Do some research, think outside the box and consider where else your talents and skills might fit. It could open up a great deal more opportunities to you. Talking to a recruitment company and registering with them may be a good way to do this. Some recruitment companies even offer services tailored to returning emigrants (like FRS Recruitment).
Persistence is key – Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say. Job-hunting takes time and it can be disheartening if you get knocked back. Keep asking for feedback and follow-up with recruiters. If things are getting you down and you need support, make sure to talk it out with someone and see www.yourmentalhealth.ie for tips on staying well.
If you are returning with children, start the application process for a school place well in advance of your return. Find a school at: www.education.ie/en/find-a-school.
Generally you must be living in Ireland for 3 of the last 5 years to be eligible for a student grant for college and for free fees. See the SUSI website at https://susi.ie/ for further details.
Children of Irish emigrants who have spent at least 5 years in school (primary or secondary) in Ireland may be eligible for the EU rate of fees for undergraduate study in Ireland. See the Department of Education website at www.education.ie or contact the relevant University for more information.
See the Citizens Information for more on schools, third level and further education at www.citizensinformation.ie/en/education/.
Once you are ‘ordinarily resident’ in Ireland, you are entitled to access public healthcare services in the same way as any other resident of Ireland. ‘Ordinarily resident’ means that you intend to live here for at least 1 year. More information on healthcare in Ireland is available at the Citizens Information at www.citizensinformation.ie/en/health/.
Depending on your income, you may be entitled to a Medical Card or a GP Visit Card from the Health Service Executive (HSE). Medical Cards allow you to access a variety of health services free of charge including visits to the GP and prescribed medicines for a small contribution. GP Visit Cards allow you to see a Doctor in Ireland free of charge, and are automatically available to children under 6 and people age 70 or over.
If you are considering Private Health Insurance, the website of the Health Insurance Authority of Ireland will help you to compare plans at www.hia.ie.
The following short video provides an overview of health insurance options on return to Ireland.
- Driving In Ireland
You may be able to exchange your foreign driving licence for an Irish one on your return, depending on where your licence was issued. Licences issued by EU member countries and other ‘recognised states’ (including Australia, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Isle Of Man, Japan, Jersey, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, New Zealand, Taiwan, Ontario Province of Canada, Manitoba Province of Canada, Newfoundland & Labrador Province of Canada, British Columbia Province of Canada) can all be exchanged for an Irish driving licence.
If you have a driving licence issued elsewhere (like the USA for example) and you will need to pass a theory test , get a learner permit, complete Essential Driver Training/EDT lessons (usually 12), and pass your driving test in Ireland before you can avail of an Irish driving licence. In this instance, if you have held a full foreign driving licence for at least 2 years, it may be possible to undertake a shorter course of EDT lessons.
For more information, see the National Driving Licence Service at www.ndls.ie.
Car insurance can be expensive for returned emigrants so do your research and shop around. A new protocol between the Department of Finance and Insurance Ireland means that since 2017, insurance companies will take overseas driving experience into consideration as long as you can provide proof of claims-free driving experience from abroad. Find out more on the Insurance Ireland website.
You’ll find information on car and vehicle registration tax at the website of Irish Tax and Customs – www.revenue.ie.
The following video provides an overview of applying for or transferring a driver licence and getting car insurance on return to Ireland.
- Social Welfare payments
If you think you may need to apply for a social welfare payment, here’s what you need to know. There are 3 types of social welfare payments in Ireland:
- Social Insurance Payments (e.g. Jobseeker’s Benefit, Illness Benefit, the Contributory State Pension) are based on your social insurance contributions. You may also be able to combine your Irish social insurance contributions with those you made abroad to help qualify this type of payment.
- Social Assistance Payments (e.g. Jobseeker’s Allowance, Disability Allowance, Non-Contributory State Pension) require you to satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC) & in some cases a means test. Some returning emigrants can have difficulties when applying for this type of payment so make sure you read this vital information for returning Irish emigrants about the Habitual Residence Condition.
- Universal Payments (e.g. Child Benefit) for which you must satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC).
You’ll find details of the criteria and application process for every type of social welfare payment at the website of the Department of Social Protection at gov.ie.
Transferring Social Welfare Payments from Abroad
It is possible to continue receiving a social welfare payment from another EU country (including the UK) when you move to Ireland in some cases. Contact the office that pays you for more information.
The following video provides an overview of applying for Jobseekers Allowance on return to Ireland.
- Returning with children
If you are coming back to Ireland with children under age 16, you can apply for Child Benefit as soon as you each have PPS numbers (see above) and an Irish address. The monthly rate is €140 per child, and you will need to satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition to qualify. Children between the ages of 16 to 17 may be eligible in some cases.
Read about other social welfare payments available to families (including Family Income Supplement, Maternity/Paternity Benefit, Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance) at the Citizens Information website.
Free GP visits for children under 6
GP Visit Cards allow you to see a Doctor in Ireland free of charge, and are automatically available to children under 6. Find out more here.
The following video provides an overview of applying for a medical card on return to Ireland.
Childcare and Schools
Child care costs vary from county to county and can be expensive. Start your research by reading this information from the Citizens Information website. Make sure you read about the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme which provides early childhood care and education for children of pre-school age (age 3 to 5 and a half).
It’s also important to begin the application process for a school place well in advance of your return. Find a school at www.education.ie/en/find-a-school. Read this information on financial help with going to school. The School Days website is also useful – www.schooldays.ie.
The following video provides an overview of childcare and school enrolment for your children on return to Ireland.
For more on returning home from abroad with children, read this guide from the Citizens Information.
- Returning with Non Irish Family Members
Coming home with a family member who is not an Irish citizen? They may need permission to live and work here so make sure you read this important information before you start planning your move back.
If you are returning with children or family members with Irish citizenship rights, such as having Irish parents, they will need to be registered on the Foreign Birth Registrar. See more information on the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The following video provides an overview of applying for Irish passports for your children for return to Ireland.
- Information for older people
If you receive a State pension from another country, check if it can be paid to you in Ireland by contacting the office that pays you. Occupational pensions can generally be paid to you no matter where you live, however make sure to contact your pension administrator to check this with them.
If you are age 66 or over and you have worked in Ireland previously and have a record of social insurance contributions here, you may be eligible for a State Pension (Contributory). You can apply for this BEFORE you return to Ireland.
If you do not have sufficient social insurance contributions to qualify for a State Pension (Contributory), you could apply for a State Pension (Non Contributory) once you are living in Ireland. You will need to satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition and a means test to qualify.
See our short video on pensions here.
Housing for Older Irish Emigrants
If you are age 57 or over, born in Ireland and you do not own your own home, Safe Home Ireland may be able to help you to access accommodation before your return. Call them at +353 (0) 98 36036 or email email@example.com to find out more.
Health and supports
Depending on your income, you may be entitled to a Medical Card or a GP Visit Card from the Health Service Executive (HSE). Medical Cards allow you to access a variety of health services free of charge including visits to the GP and prescribed medicines for a small contribution. GP Visit Cards allow you to see a Doctor in Ireland free of charge, and are automatically available to people age 70 or over.
If you are in receipt of a pension from another EU country or from the UK you may be exempt from the means test for the Medical Card as long as you meet certain criteria. For more information on this call the HSE helpline on +353 416 850 300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on how to apply, as well as information on other supports and care for older people, visit the HSE website at www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/4/olderpeople/.
Free Travel and other benefits
If you are over the age of 66 you may be able to get a Free Travel Pass, entitling you to free travel at any time on bus, road, rail and DART services operated by certain transport providers. The Free Travel Scheme also covers public transport services in Northern Ireland. See here for more on how to apply.
You may also be entitled to other benefits (e.g. Living Alone Increase, Household Benefits, National Fuel Scheme). See here for details.
- Supports if you have a disability or are caring for someone with a disability
The HSE website (www.hse.ie) contains useful information on support if you have a disability or you are caring for someone with a disability. The Citizens Information website (www.citizensinformation.ie) also details social welfare payments and other supports available if you have a disability or you are caring for someone with a disability.
- Returning to Northern Ireland
If you are returning to the north, you will find plenty of useful information on what to consider when returning to Northern Ireland at:
NI Direct (www.nidirect.gov.uk) a government services information site, with specific information on moving back to Northern Ireland from abroad
Citizens Advice (www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/northern-ireland/) with local offices for advice on rights and entitlements
Border People (borderpeople.info) who offer very useful for information on cross-border living and working.
Watch our conversation with Border People Podcast on returning to Ireland (September 2020) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJKjVm78Ffc&feature=youtu.be
- Where to find out more
Finding out about others experiences of return can be useful. Read these 10 tips from 400 recently returned Irish emigrants based on our ‘Home for Good?’ report.
For first-person stories and a detailed guide returning to Ireland see the Irish Times Abroad. You can also check out Ireland Move Club, a forum on returning to Ireland. You might want to join a Facebook community such as Irish Expats Returning to Ireland, Irish Women Living Abroad or Returning to Ireland. and Irish Women Abroad – Relocating in 2022.
More information on returning to Ireland can also be found at:
- The Returning to Ireland section of the Citizens Information website or call +353 21 229 8178 / Mon-Fri 8am-9pm Irish time
- The Global Irish website of Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade
- Safe Home Ireland