Overseas? Everything you need to know about returning to Ireland during Covid-19
Your questions answered about visas, welfare payments, self-isolation and more
Are you planning to return home from abroad to live in Ireland? Photograph: Getty Images
1. I am abroad and I have concerns about the impact of Covid-19 on my situation where I live, who can I contact? Contact the Department of Foreign Affairs’ helpline +353 1 6131733. For further support you can contact your nearest Embassy or Consulate, and there are also Irish emigrant support organisations all over the world that may be able to assist you.
2. I am returning to Ireland soon, what must I do when I arrive? You will complete a public health passenger locator form which is to help with contact tracing, and you will be told to self-isolate for 14 days.
3. How do I self-isolate at home with my family/friends? The HSE has listed health guidelines to follow for self-isolation, including: stay indoors, avoid contact with other people, behave as if you have the virus if you have symptoms, people you live with will need to restrict their movements, stay at home in a room with a window you can open, keep away from others in your home as much as you can, check for any symptoms - call a doctor if they get worse, use your own towel, clean your room every day, if you have to share a bathroom with others, use the bathroom last and then clean it thoroughly, do not share any items you’ve used with other people, and if possible, have someone leave your food on a tray at your bedroom door.
4. What do I do if I develop symptoms? If you develop any symptoms on arrival or later at home, contact a GP to check if you should be referred for a free Covid-19 test.
5. How do the people I live with restrict their movements? Restricting movements means not having contact with any other people outside the home, not going to work or the shops, not using public transport, not having visitors at your home, keeping away from older people and anyone with long-term medical conditions and pregnant women. They can still go outside to exercise briefly alone within 5 km of your home, keeping 2 metres distance from other people.
6. If one of my family members/friends who I will be staying with has a condition that makes them at high risk of Covid-19, should I find somewhere alternative to stay for the first 14 days, or will I be able to access self-isolation units on arrival? There are no quarantine or self-isolation units available for people on arrival to Ireland. Self-isolation units are available for people who are referred by a GP or hospital. The current instruction is to self-isolate away from people who are classified as at high-risk, and if you have no alternative address, you can self-isolate in the home in your own room (see Q3). If you are very concerned about doing this, contact a GP at home for further advice.
7. I am returning home soon and will be homeless on arrival, as I have been out of Ireland for some time and do not have support networks in Ireland. How can I access emergency accommodation? Contact an Irish organisation near to where you are living now, who can refer you to supports, or contact Crosscare Migrant Project (00353 1 8732844 / firstname.lastname@example.org) in advance of arrival; we will advocate on your behalf with the homeless services to support your emergency needs.
8. I am returning from abroad with my non-EEA spouse, what immigration steps do we need to follow? This will depend if your non-EEA spouse is from a visa-required country or not. Since March 20th, the Department of Justice has temporarily stopped accepting new visa applications for Ireland due to Covid-19. However, certain priority/emergency cases will continue to be processed, including visas for immediate family members of Irish citizens (who are returning to their ordinary place of residence in Ireland). If you are in this category, then your non-EEA spouse must apply for a “D Join Family visa” online before returning to Ireland. If your non-EEA spouse is from a non-visa required country (for example the US, Australia), then they may enter Ireland with you without applying for a visa in advance. At the airport, your spouse should state that it is his/her intention to apply for residence based on being the spouse of an Irish national, providing your marriage certificate, and your spouse will be issued with permission to enter the State on that basis. Currently all Registration Offices in the country are closed due to Covid-19, so the requirement to register has been placed on hold until offices re-open. Until this happens, your non-EEA spouse can remain in Ireland lawfully, however it will not be possible for your non-EEA spouse to register with immigration and obtain “Stamp 4” permission to work. Follow updates from the Department of Justice.
9. I am returning from abroad with my non-EEA de facto partner (not married), what immigration steps do we need to follow? Since November 2019, non-EEA de facto partners of Irish citizens are required to apply for immigration preclearance before travelling to Ireland. This applies whether you are coming from a visa-required country (eg Thailand, Algeria), or a non-visa required country (eg the US, Australia). If the immigration preclearance is granted, and your non-EEA de facto partner is from a visa-required country, he/she will also need to apply for a “D Join Family visa” before travelling to Ireland. If your non-EEA de facto partner is from a non-visa required country, then he/she can enter the State with you with the original preclearance approval letter. Currently all Registration Offices in the country are closed due to Covid-19, so the requirement to register has been placed on hold until the offices re-open. Until this happens, your non-EEA de facto partner can remain in Ireland lawfully, however it will not be possible for he/she to register with immigration and obtain “Stamp 4” permission to work. Follow official updates from the Department of Justice.
10. I am returning with my child who does not have an Irish passport yet, what immigration steps do I need to follow? If your child’s passport is from a non-visa required country (eg Australia, the US) he/she can enter Ireland with you using this passport, it is not necessary to apply for an Irish passport. If your child’s passport is from a visa-required country (eg Algeria, Pakistan) there are two options - apply for an Irish passport for your child through your local Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence before returning to Ireland, or apply for a Long Stay D Join Family visa for your child to return to Ireland using their non-EEA passport. You should contact your local Irish Embassy or Consulate to see what the relevant process is in your country of residence.
11. I have lost my income and will need to apply for income supports on return, what social welfare payments can I apply for? The Pandemic Unemployment Payment introduced during the pandemic is set up to support people who have become unemployed in Ireland and is not available to people returning to Ireland. You can apply for Jobseeker’s Benefit or Jobseeker’s Allowance depending on you satisfying the criteria. For Jobseeker’s Benefit, you will need to have earned a minimum of 104 weeks PRSI contributions, 13 weeks of which must have been since 2016. For Jobseeker’s Allowance, you do not need to have the PRSI contributions, but you will need to satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC) proving that you are resuming permanent residence in Ireland and that your “centre of interest” is once again in Ireland.
12. How do I apply for payments? As public offices are closed, you can make an application for Jobseekers payment online (www.gov.ie) for which you will need to set up a ‘MyGovID’ account that can now be set up with just an email address. Alternatively, you can request forms by post from your nearestIntreo Office when you are home. You can also apply for a Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA), an interim payment whilst waiting for a decision on a primary payment like Jobseeker’s Allowance. An application for SWA must be made by post. We advise keeping copies of all originals for all applications.
13. Do I need a Personal Public Service Number (PPSN) to apply for a social welfare payment? Yes. To access your old number contact the Client Identity Section on 00353 71 967 2616. If you never had a PPSN and you need to apply for one for yourself, your partner or your child, temporary arrangements for applications can be made via post or email. You can submit scanned images or photographs of each of the completed REG1 form, ID, and proof of address, (utility bill, letter from landlord, etc.). The Department will issue the PPSN by post to your address in Ireland.
14. Will I be taxed on earnings I made abroad? No, you are only taxed for earnings made in Ireland or from an Irish based company. (See this ‘Ask the expert’ article for more information).
15. Can I apply for assistance to pay rent if I am unemployed? Rent Supplement is only available for people who have been renting accommodation in Ireland already. You can make an application for social housing by downloading an application from the local authority website for your area and sending via post with supporting documents. If you are approved, you can receive a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) to assist with paying rent once you have a lease and whilst you are in receipt of social welfare.
16. I am returning with children, can I claim Child Benefit? Yes, Child Benefit in Ireland is a universal entitlement and is based on residence in Ireland, therefore you will need to satisfy the Habitual Residence Condition, which determines that you have resumed permanent residence in Ireland and your centre of interest is once again in Ireland. (See Q12. For more information about applying for a PPSN for your children, and applying for Child Benefit, see this article ).
17. Can I apply for GP Card or a Medical card? The medical card is means tested based on having an income below a basic rate (eg €266.50 per week for a couple with children) and other essential outgoings, or if you are in receipt of social welfare, or qualify under other schemes and medical conditions. To apply, you need to register with a local GP and make an online or postal application. If you do not qualify for full medical card, you will be assessed for a GP visit card only. See hse.ie/medical-cards for further information on how to qualify, lists of GPs and how to apply online.
Danielle McLaughlin is Irish Abroad Networking Officer with Crosscare Migrant Project in Dublin. If you are returning to Ireland and have further queries or need assistance, you can contact Crosscare on 01-8732844 or email@example.com