Disclaimer. If you haven’t read this series before please read this first.
I moved to Dublin, Ireland in August 2016. As such I wanted to provide information about moving to Ireland. This series is from the perspective of a Canadian on a Working Holiday Visa (which is a temporary visa that lasts 2 years for Canadians). If you’re from another country/want to get a permanent visa/plan to attend school in Ireland you’ll need to do further research. Here is a good place to start. I am not an immigration lawyer or expert and I make no guarantees your experience moving to Ireland (or any country) will be the same as mine. Failure to do the proper research and apply for the proper paperwork to move to a new country could land you in legal and financial trouble (including prison and being banned from the country). It’s up to you to make sure you are moving to Ireland (or any country) in a legal way. Nonetheless I hope this series will serve as a starting point and inspiration if you are thinking about moving to Ireland.
Ireland in this series refers to the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland is a part of the UK and has different rules about visas. If you are looking to work in Northern Ireland, you will need to research visas for the UK.
When You First Arrive
Chances are you’ll be flying into Dublin. Even if you’re planning to move elsewhere in Ireland (Galway, Cork, etc.) you might want to book a couple of nights in Dublin to get settled (and recover from jetlag). You could visit a site (like the Guinness Storehouse Tour), or take a free walking tour (plus tips), but I recommend not going crazy and spending too much money right now. Ireland isn’t a big country so even if you move somewhere else you can always come back to Dublin on one of your weekends off (once you start working).
The ceiling at the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology in Dublin. If you’re looking for something to do in Dublin that won’t break the bank all of the National Museums are free to visit.
After I had checked into my hotel I went out and got a sim card and a mobile plan for the unlocked phone I brought from Canada. You’ll need a local contact number when applying for jobs and places to rent so you’ll want to get this right away. You can use your accommodation address as a contact until you find a place to live. Tesco Mobile, Meteor, Three, and Vodafone are some of the mobile phone providers in Ireland. All these carriers have cell phones to buy if you don’t have an unlocked phone. If you can bring an unlocked phone from home, it will save you a bit of money up front. I pay about €35/month with Meteor for my plan (which includes 10gb data). If you do the Working Holiday Visa through USIT, you’ll get a sim card from 3 mobile (I didn’t realise that until it was too late, but I guess I have a spare sim card just in case).
If you’re settling in one of the major cities in Ireland (Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Galway or Limerick), you’ll want to get a Leap Card. This card is a reloadable card you can use on public transit. In Dublin, it works for the bus, the Luas (the tram), and the DART (local commuter train). There’s a €5 (refundable) deposit for the card, and then you can load it (minimum €5) with funds to use for public transit. Most convenience stores like Centra, Londis, and Spar sell Leap Cards. You can also buy them from the ticket machines at the DART stations in Dublin or at The Dublin Airport. When your funds are low, you can head back to one of these places and reload your card.
Now let’s talk about all the bureaucratic paperwork you’ll need to do when you get to Ireland. It’s important to know you’ll be doing this while simultaneously job hunting and rental searching. We’ll talk about those things in future parts of this series.
- What is it? A card that gives you the legal authorization to work in Ireland.
- Who needs it? Anyone who isn’t a citizen of the European Union, The European Economic Area, or Switzerland.
- When can you get it? You must get your GNIB card within 90 days of arriving in Ireland. Since you can’t work without your GNIB card, you’ll want to get it as soon as you can.
- How do you get it? You have to register online with the Irish Nationalisation and Immigration Services. If you are living in Dublin, you’ll register here. If you’re living elsewhere in Ireland, you’ll register here. You’ll get an appointment day and time where you’ll get your GNIB card.
- What do you need to bring to your appointment? Your passport, your authorization letter (that laminated one) and a credit card or debit card because you’ll need to pay €300. It may take time, so you’ll want to bring your phone or a book as well.
- What happens? They’ll check your details, take your photo and fingerprints and issue you a GNIB card. It could take an hour after processing to get your card.
When I came to Dublin, the online registration system wasn’t available, so I had to wake up at 5 am and go to the Burgh Quay Registration Office. I then had to stand in a queue for a couple hours. When I arrived at 6 am the queue was at the back of the building, and the office didn’t open until 8 am. Then I was given a number for standing in the queue. While I was able to go out for a few hours (because there were many people ahead of me) I spent an hour waiting to get my card after my details were processed.
Now you can book your appointment online, up to 10 weeks in advance. In fact, you have to book your GNIB card appointment online. According to the website, you must be living in Ireland to book the appointment. Of course, that could pose a problem if you go to book an appointment when you get to Ireland and nothing is available for 10 weeks. That’s 10 weeks where you can’t work, using more of your savings to live here. I’m not saying to book your appointment 8-10 weeks early while you’re still in your home country because you’re not supposed to do that. I’m just saying you need to take your circumstance into consideration and assess what risks you’re willing to take. That’s all I have to say about that.
- What is it? A unique letter/number sequence for you. You’ll use your PPS Number (PPSN) at any job you work at. You need your PPSN to get paid, to file your taxes, and for various social services. You also need this number to apply for your tax credit, so you don’t have to pay emergency tax (41%).
- Who needs it? Everyone, especially if you want to work and get paid for it.
- When can you get it? You can get your PPSN as soon as you have a job or even if you just have a job offer. You can get your employer to write a veritable company letter stating you work for them (or will be) to show at the PPS Office.
- How do you get it? You have to register online with Welfare.ie. Like the GNIB card you should be living in Ireland when you make the appointment, but the appointment can take several weeks (mine took about 3). You can register for an account before you come to Ireland. I’ll leave it to you to decide if you want to risk booking an appointment (which could be changed/rescheduled) when you’re not in Ireland, even if you’re not supposed to.
- What do you need to bring to your appointment? Your passport and a proof of address. The proof of address can be a utility bill in your name, or another official document. Chances are even if you have found a place to rent you might not have a utility bill yet. In that case, the veritable company letter from your employer can double as your proof of address. Just make sure they have your correct address on the letter.
- What happens? They’ll check your details, take your photo and issue you a PPS card. The card doesn’t have your PPSN on it. That will be mailed to you within a week or so. Your PPSN is unique to you. Don’t lose it.
It’s crucial to get your PPSN as you can. You’ll need it for the next step getting your Tax Credit Certificate.
Tax Credit Certificate
- What is it? A letter/certificate you’ll get in the mail that indicates how much tax you’ll pay according to your income, and if you’re eligible for any tax breaks. It also takes you off the emergency tax payment plan, which is 41% of your income. You’ll want to get this right away, so you don’t have to pay the emergency tax.
- Who needs it? Everyone who works.
- When can you get it? As soon as you get your PPSN and have a job or job offer.
- How do you get it? You have to register online with Revenue.ie. Once you register the revenue office will send you a password in the mail within a week. When the password arrives go to your account online and change your password.
- Important: When you sign up for the Revenue account online it will default to sending you your tax information electronically. For your first Tax Credit Certificate, you’ll want this to be mailed to you by postal service. Why? Because if you are looking to open a bank account you’ll need a proof of address and for many people (myself included) the Tax Credit Certificate is the only proof of address a bank can accept (more about that in the banking section below). Go to your profile on Revenue.ie and uncheck the box to send information to you electronically. Once you get your Tax Credit Certificate in the mail you can go back into your Revenue.ie account and have them send information to you by email instead of by post.
- What do you need? You’ll need your account password (make sure to change it from the one sent in the mail), your PPSN, and your employer’s registered tax number. This is a tax number that’s unique to every employer. You should get it when you signed your employment contract. If you don’t know it check with your employer’s HR department or check your copy of your contract because it is likely in there.
- What happens when you change employers? You’ll get a P-45 form from your employer. This tells how much income you earned and how much tax you pay. There’s a part of the form you keep for your records. The other part of the P-45 you will give to your next employer.
As soon as you have your PPSN apply for your tax credit certificate. Chances are you might need it to open a bank account.
Opening a Bank Account
By far the most complicated bureaucratic process for me to do in Ireland was opening a bank account. One person, I talked to at the Revenue office joked that it would be easier to rob a bank than to open a bank account in Ireland (please don’t rob banks). The problem came from the fact I didn’t have a valid proof of address for a while. See I’m renting, but not directly from a landlord (I pay my roommate my portion of the rent), so there are no utility bills in my name and address. When opening a bank account, your mobile bill doesn’t count as a proof of address. Neither does a veritable company letter from your employer. A letter from your roommate or landlord (even a utility bill) stating that you live at the address on the bill doesn’t count. Think you can use the letter from the PPS office (with your PPSN on it)? Nope. The only thing you can use as a proof of address is your Tax Credit Certificate. Why? Because it’s an official government letter with your address and has your PPSN on it. Likely opening a bank account will be one of the last steps (in the paperwork department) that you get to do. Of course, if you have a utility bill in your name and address you can apply for your bank account right away.
There are several different banks in Ireland including AIB, Ulster, KBC, Bank of Ireland, and Permanent TSB. A great site to compare current accounts (chequing accounts) with various banks in Ireland is Bonkers.ie. To open an account with any bank, you’ll want to book an appointment your closest branch. At your appointment, you’ll need to bring your passport and your proof of address. Remember the proof of address will either need to be a utility bill in your name and address, or your Tax Credit Certificate that was mailed to you.
After your appointment, you’ll be given your account details. If your employer has direct deposit (and most do), you can give them your bank account details for payroll. It may take up to a week for a deposit to go through. You won’t get your bank/debit card at your appointment. Instead, they will first send you a pin number in the mail, and then a few days later they’ll mail you your card. As soon as you get your bank card and pin go to your bank’s ATM to change your pin. You’ll be able to deposit any cheques or cash you have (again there may be up to a 7 day waiting period).
It’s worth noting that there are no free bank accounts in Ireland. All of the banks charge maintenance fees, and some have fees for various transactions (like using your debit card, etc.). I opened an account with Permanent TSB, and I pay €12 every quarter for maintenance account fees, but I also get a bit of cashback every time I use my debit card.
Final Thoughts on Paperwork
All the paperwork, forms, and appointments you have to go through is definitely the least fun aspect of moving abroad. It can get confusing especially when you need a permanent address and might still be looking for a place to rent. Or you might find yourself in a situation like I was where I had applied for my PPSN, left my job, and hadn’t got my PPSN in the mail yet. My former employer couldn’t pay me for a few weeks while I worked on getting my tax credit certificate. I actually told them to hold off on paying me until I had this sorted because I didn’t want to pay the emergency tax. You can get the difference between what you should be paying in tax and your emergency tax rate back before you go home, but from what I’ve been told it takes time and is a pain to deal with. While usually I would have been paid by direct deposit I was able to get a physical cheque to deposit when I had my bank account opened. It was a bit stressful waiting for my paycheque, but that’s why you should have that extra money in your support funds.
In the next part of this series, I’ll go through looking for a place to live.
Have you moved abroad? Do you hate paperwork like I do? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.