Q: G, Australia
I have been living in Australia for the past four years and intend on moving home permanently in the next five weeks. Previous to coming to Australia I worked full time for over six years and have never claimed benefit before. Will I be entitled to Jobseeker’s Allowance while I am seeking work upon my return to Ireland?
A: Judy McAvoy, Crosscare Migrant Project
Jobseeker's Allowance is an income-based social welfare payment, rather than one based on PRSI contributions. You will absolutely be entitled to apply for this payment on your return and you should do so at your local social welfare office. It should be noted, however, that there is no automatic entitlement to social welfare. To qualify, you will need to satisfy both a means test and something called the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC). You will also need to show that you are capable of, available for, and genuinely seeking full-time work.
You will generally need to provide at least six months' worth of bank statements when applying for Jobseeker's Allowance. Cash income, capital from any savings/investments and any property you own (but don't live in) will be taken into account. You should ensure you can provide documentary evidence of these things. You can read more about the means test for Jobseeker's Allowance on CitizensInformation.ie.
Habitual Residence Condition (HRC)
The word "residence" tends to confuse people as it is used in lots of different areas. The Habitual Residence Condition is a rule that only relates to social welfare payments.
Here comes the not-an-exact-science-bit: to put it simply, HRC requires you to show that you have made Ireland your home again. It asks you to show that you have a strong connection to Ireland and also to prove that you have cut your ties abroad and moved yourself "lock, stock and barrel" back to this country. You will not automatically satisfy HRC just because you are Irish. You will need to complete the HRC1 form and the Jobseeker's Allowance form. We would also suggest that you add in as much supporting documentation as possible (more on this below).
When deciding if a person is habitually resident, the Department of Social protection considers five factors:
- where your “centre of interest” is
- your employment history
- the length and continuity of your residence in Ireland
- the length and purpose of any absence from Ireland
- your future intentions regarding remaining here
According to the Department of Social Protection Operational Guidelines
“a person who had previously been habitually resident in the State and who moved to live and work in another country and then resumes his/her long-term residence in the State may be regarded as being habitually resident immediately on his/her return”.
This means that as a returned emigrant, you can be found to satisfy HRC immediately on return if you can show that Ireland was previously your home and that you have returned with the intention of remaining here for the foreseeable future.
So what is the problem with HRC? Well, it is essentially a subjective test and the onus of proof is on you. This is why having a good level of supporting documentation and a strong cover letter (detailing your life in Ireland before you left, the reason you moved abroad and your reason for return/intentions for the future) is key. You can find useful tips on the kind of documentation you can provide on the Crosscare website.
Jobseeker’s Allowance applications can take some time to process. It is possible to apply for Basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance in the meantime and this can potentially be done right after you make your Jobseeker’s application. A means test and the HRC will apply to this too. We would strongly suggest having some savings to fall back on in case any issues arise.
It is a good idea for you to begin your job hunt before the move and keep copies of any email correspondence regarding job applications. This will not only show that you have been seeking work, it will also demonstrate your intention to make Ireland your home again for the purpose of HRC.
In cases where a person is refused a payment on return due to HRC, it is possible to place an appeal. We may be able to assist you with this. The best way to contact us is by email on firstname.lastname@example.org.