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Overview

If you're planning to move to Ireland, this site will save you time, money and hassles.

It is not, however, an exhaustive guide to all aspects of Irish life. Rather, it concentrates on those things of most concern to Irish immigrants.

And this page? Gotta start somewhere....

Ireland

Population:

7 million cows, 8 million sheep, 4 million people. More than a third of the people live in the Dublin area.

Area:

70,282 sq.km There's plenty of open space once you get out of the five main cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, and Waterford.

Geography:

Ireland is an island. You can't get more than 150 miles from the sea. The place is WET! If you're not near a beach, then a lake or river isn't far. The Ordnance Survey of Ireland has steet maps and topographical maps of everywhere in Ireland available for sale here.

Location:

The key thing about Ireland's location is that Britain is close. In fact, the northeast 6 counties of Ireland are part of the United Kingdom. This is the part of the island that always made the news back when bombings were a daily occurence. Meanwhile, the peaceful and quiet 26 counties that make up the Republic of Ireland are what this site is about.

Peace in the North

People hear the word Ireland and still remember bombs and the peace process. Ireland is really two places - Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The Republic is the South, the 26 counties where peace has reigned for 90 plus years. The goings on up North do not affect the South save as a daily drumbeat of background news. The South is probably one of the most peaceful places on the planet.

Happily, up North things are looking up. A political settlement has been reached. Peace reigns and normality is, finally, normal. The North has become a popular travel spot for southerners. My wife and I spent a week there and can vouch for the warm welcome and value for money.

Language:

English is the language everyone speaks, but there's been an official push for decades to encourage the use of the traditional Celtic language called Gaelic. This is the everyday language in small bits of Ireland and you'll also find that road signs, television and radio use both languages. A fair percentage of the populace has some French, German, and more rarely, Spanish.

Currency:

Ireland's official currency is now the Euro. The Euro is not only Ireland's money, but works equally well in Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, and Portugal and, eventually all the newly entered eastern EU states like Poland and Estonia once they reach the required monetary targets. For more on the Euro, click here.

Need more info? Check these daily updated Exchange Rates.

Climate:

Not bad. Moderate year round with winter temperatures averaging 39 F and summer 61 F. It does rain a fair bit, but the weather is so changeable that a day that begins with showers often slides into sunshine.

Government:

Ireland is a parliamentary democracy. For the past three decades various coalitions of parties have ruled in turn. But, policy is notably stable since the populace is fairly uniform in its background and outlook. The Irish Government explains the details in their site or you can read my view of it here

The Economy and Jobs

Remember the tune "Money for Nuthin"? Who sang that song?

Dire Straits.

The song's title nicely sums up the current situation of top bankers. We keep shtupping them with money, and in return, we get... nuthin. And the band's name nicely sums up the current economy.

A start would be the overview of the economy.

The Job Scene:

The good news is that 85% of people are working. The bad news is that this figure doesn't look like changing for the better any too fast.

Everyone but the more highly paid civil servants is worried about their jobs. Ireland is still experiencing deflation and the government is committed to sucking tens of billions more out of the economy.

In a small country where a new plant with 80 jobs makes the national news, hundreds of thousands were added to the unemployment lists over recent years.

The optimists predict 13pc unemployment by 2014. The pessimists talk 18pc. The general fear is that the pessimists are too optimistic.

If you're looking for a job in Ireland, start with the Jobs page.

Work Permits

A brand new green card system was put in place in 2007. Under this system, if you have a job offer with an annual salary of €60,000 or more, you're welcome. Between €30,000 - €60,000 per year only people with in-demand skills qualify. We're talking jobs like computer programmer, nurse or medical practitioner or technician, engineer, materials surveyor, and so on. In summary, the scientific/technical end of things. Lacking these, non-EU/EEA citizens will have a hard time jumping the bureaucratic tape. Check out the info on the work permit page.

EU/EEA Citizens, spouses of Irish citizens and a few other categories can work here freely without a work permit or green card. (The EEA is the European Economic Area and includes all of the EU except Romania and Bulgaria plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).

As the newly joined states of eastern Europe fully integrate into the European Union, there is getting to be an ever increasing clampdown on work permits for non-EU nationals. Latvians, Poles and Lithuanians are now welcome. The rest of ye will find it ever harder to gain permission to work here.

Social Welfare:

Everyone working in Ireland or dealing with the government in any way (welfare, child benefits, health system) requires a Personal Public Service (PPS) number. All employees and self-employed workers who are aged 16 or over are liable for the Universal Service Charge. This newly instituted tax includes Pay-Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions, which are made up of Social Insurance, Health and Employment Levies. The Service Charge includes a pension levy which doesn't really go toward pensions but is a fancy name for another tax. Information on Social Welfare (Allowances, pensions, children etc.) is available from the Department of Social Welfare.

New residents of Ireland don't qualify for most social welfare payments. You have to be living here for two years before you can receive goodies like the children's allowance or many other benefits.

Tax:

The short version is this for 2012:

Single & Widowed Persons: No Dependent Children 2012
20% on first 32,800
41% on balance  
   
Single & Widowed Persons: Dependent Children  
20% on first 36,800
41% on balance  
   
Married Couples: One Income  
20% on first 41,800
41% on balance  
   
Married Couples: Two Incomes*  
20% on first 65,600
41% on balance  
   
* Excess over €41,800 (2011) non transferable between spouses  
   
Income Levy -Replaced in 2012 with Universal Social Charge  
2% on first 75,036
4% 99,944
6% on incomes over  

Personal Tax Credit  
Single Person 1,650
Married Couple/Single Parent 3,300
Widow(er) with dependent children
1st year of bereavement;
Year 2
€3,150 and Year 5 at €1,800
3,600
One Parent family 1,650

One major anomaly is the discrimination against families with only one income. This was a social engineering scheme to encourage/force more women into the work force. It was put in place when the boom economy needed more workers. Unfair? Of course! But, now that there are no jobs, it's a great source of government revenue.

The Tax page provides further information and more about tax agreements with foreign governments, as well as links to the Revenue Commissioners. There's also some pension and other information.

Minimum Wage

The minimum wage is €8.65 Euro per working hour. For an explanation of employee rights and more stuff than you want to know, go to the Department of Trade and Employment's Employee Rights pages . Among other matters, these pages explain the infinite gradations of lesser pay which workers under the age of 18 can claim as their due.

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Moving to Ireland

Visas and Passports:

Before you sell your house or something, make sure that you CAN come and stay in Ireland. Most western passport holders can visit Ireland for 90 days without a Visa, and citizens of the European Union can work in Ireland without a work permit or a passport - a national identity card will suffice. However, if you are not a citizen of the European Union, and even if you are, the best thing is to check out the passport and citizenship pages. If you're coming to Ireland and hoping to find work within the 90 day visa limit, check out the work permit page.

Cars:

Cars that have been more than 6 months in your ownership may be brought in duty free when you move here. You'll still have to pay Vehicle Registration Tax the same as everyone else. Check out the car pages. Car insurance fell in price in the mid-naughties and is now holding steady or rising a bit. Still, no one ever minds knowing ways to save money.

Pets and Animals:

It's increasingly easy, though expensive, to bring pets directly into Ireland without subjecting them to Quarantine. An EU wide Pet Travel Scheme and Pet Passport Scheme began on 1st January 2012. Or, you may be able to enter the country via ferry from Britain and avoid most problems. Here are the details. The summary is that usually your dog, cat and ferret has a microchip inserted and various vaccinations performed by your vet.

Ferrets?

Moving Checklist:

Go to the Checklist pages for help managing all the zillions of things you need to do.

Moving from the UK

There has always been a special relationship between Ireland and Great Britain - one that the Irish fought long and hard to break! Now that Ireland has been an independent nation for several generations, mostly only the positive portions of that relationship remain. Queen Elizabeth's visit to Ireland in 2011 was enormously successful and there can't be more than a handful of disgruntled stupids who still hold a grudge. Of course, that doesn't apply to international soccer games where no victory is sweeter than that over the ancient enemy.

One of the positives is the special treatment on travel between the two countries. For citizens of either nation, simply producing a driver's licence will suffice for direct travel via plane or ferry. For another, pets can move freely between the two nations without quarantine. For more, see the pet pages. Students from the UK and Ireland may apply to each other's universities and colleges. College fees for Irish students in the UK are the same as those for British students - and vice versa. There's also the ability to transfer social welfare payments as long as you can produce a paper trail.

Joe, a bulletin board user, sums it up nicely: "Coming from the UK is fairly straightforward. UK citizens are treated a bit "better" than other citizens. You will need to register for a pps number (national social insurance number) - you will need birth cert and photo id or passport AND evidence of either work/claim/residency/tax liability/education history in the UK AND evidence of address. Details on PPS requirements here."

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Living and Working in Ireland

Apartment Rental

While you get your feet on the ground, you'll be wanting to rent a place. This subject is dealt with on the housing rentals page where I look at ranges of accommodations in all the major cities and their availability. Here are some general guidelines. 99% of rentals come furnished. If you're bringing your own furniture over, you may need to store it somewhere. Storage details can be found on the checklist pages.

Building Your Own House

For information about building your own home and the different construction choices, click here.

House sizes have grown precipitously since the Celtic Tiger boom first started roaring. So have house prices which tripled and in some cases quintupled in the past decade.

As deflation hits the housing market hard, prices are tumbling. Builders are dropping prices and existing house prices have dropped 50 - 70%.

The best estimate is that there are 300,000 empty residential units throughout Ireland, not counting seasonally empty holiday homes. That's roughly one empty house per 15 people including babies and children.

Education:

It's excellent! Students leave primary school knowing how to read, and they graduate secondary/high school with superb grounding in academic subjects or technical subjects. The reasons for this fine showing include the stability of family life and communities in Ireland as well as extremely tough, but fair, national tests which students must pass if they want to advance to any higher education.

There are several pages about Irish education and some sample questions from the exams. See if you can answer them!

Money:

Ireland is a Euro-pean country and in 2002 the Euro became the common currency. For more about the current monetary state of affairs, look at the Euro page.

For examples of moving costs and information about opening a taxfree Irish bank account and matters financial, check out the money pages. There's also information about methods of transferring funds into and out of Ireland.

Health:

Ireland's health care system is free to every resident in Ireland. European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) citizens living in Ireland are also automatically entitled to public health coverage. However, private insurance is strongly advised since waiting lists for those without insurance sometimes stretch for more than a year.

Visitors from EU countries are also entitled to free urgent medical care so long as they present their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which can be obtained from their own health services before visiting Ireland. Visitors from the United Kingdom don't need the EHIC, so long as they obtain treatment at a public hospital or doctor participating in the General Medical Service scheme. 

For tons more information on the Irish Health Care System and a discussion of private insurance, residency proofs, and health statistics check the Medical pages.

Religion in Irish Life:

92% of the Republic of Ireland's population is Roman Catholic. Catholicism plays a large part in most public schools where the kids normally start each class with a prayer and whole schools celebrate mass occasionally.

However, religious discrimination is practically non-existant in the Republic of Ireland. In the early 1990's, a rural Irish constituency elected a Muslim representative to the Dail or Parliament and both Dublin and Cork have had Jewish Lord Mayors.

Religion in the schools and religion in the society as a whole are discussed.

Emergency Phone Numbers:

The emergency phone numbers in Ireland are 999 or 112. The 999 number seems to be standard throughout much of Europe.

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Miscellaneous

Electricity:

A complex subject, this. A starting point is the Overview page about electricity. The short of it (a pun!) is that the standard voltage in the Republic of Ireland is 220 VAC at 50Hz and Irish plugs are big, ungainly 3 pin affairs - type 1363.

If you're moving from America you'll need step down transformers and adaptor plugs and still a lot of your stuff won't work here. If you're moving from continental Europe, you're likely only to need inexpensive adaptor plugs, and your gear will work just fine. Adaptor plugs do what they say - they enable the prongs on your electric gear to fit into the wall. Most shaving sockets also support 110 VAC with the 2 pin international shaving plug. Many hotel rooms provide hair dryers.

Phones, Modems, Mobile Phones:

Happily for visitors from the US, the Republic of Ireland uses the American modem standard (US RJ-11). Even so, all sorts of problems relating to hardwired phone systems could arise, so better consult our phone page.

Well over 4.5 million mobile phones are circulating among the 4.5 million Irish people, and the number increases daily. The system is modern, digital, and the dang blasted masts that carry the signals disfigure an ever increasing number of Irish hills.

The American cell phone system is not compatible with the European and those of you with older phones will probably have to purchase a mobile phone when you get here. Prepay packages start at around 60 Euro which includes a basic phone and 60 Euro worth of calls. Smartphones from just about anywhere work in Ireland when roaming is enabled.

Public and National Holidays

  • New Year's Day (January 1), if falling on a weekday, or if not, the next day.
  • St Patrick's Day (March 17), if falling on a weekday, or if not, the next day.
  • Good Friday - the Friday before Easter.
  • Easter Monday - the day after Easter.
  • May Holiday - the first Monday in May.
  • June Holiday - the first Monday in June.
  • Summer Holiday - the first Monday in August.
  • October Holiday - the last Monday in October.
  • Christmas Day, if falling on a weekday or, if not, the next Tuesday.
  • St Stephen's Day (December 26), if falling on a weekday or, if not, the next day.

Smoking:

Since March 2004 smoking has not been permitted in any public place. That includes, most controversially, pubs. Studies show that cigarette smoking, which took a dramatic fall when the ban came into effect, is on the rise again. The biggest group of new smokees are teenage girls. (Until someone comes up with a diet pill as effective as nicotine and tar, these stats will probably keep on rising.)

One possible good outcome of recession/depression will be that fewer teens will be able to afford the habit. In 2012, the average cost of a pack of 20 cigarettes reached roughly €9. Smuggling cigarettes has become a huge criminal activity.

Alcohol and Other Drugs

Alcohol is Ireland's number 1 problem aside from bankers who are bleeding us dry. The increase in personal wealth was, often enough, literally flushed down pub toilets. I keep track of the resulting mayhem in occasional stories via the newsletter.

High prices in the pubs have led to a boom in off-license liquour sales, and home drinking - never before a serious Irish concern - is suddenly the rage. Nonetheless, traditional sessions in Irish pubs are still the preferred social forum of the Irish people. And right fun a lot of them are if the clientele is not too blitzed.

Being an addictive society doesn't stop with legal drugs. Ireland's young are Europe's number one per capita consumers of marijuana (20% of the populace has tried, though this figure seems way too low to me based on the easy availability in colleges) and number two for ecstasy (8% have used). Cocaine and heroin use are not as common, but every town in Ireland can now boast a few users. Inner city Dublin, Cork and Limerick are the home of the greatest number of hard drug users. It has been estimated that up to 5% of the populace has tried cocaine and many have become regular weekend warriors.

Again, hard times should affect these figures. Or, as has happened throughout the country, break-ins should increase.

Shopping:

Ireland is a modern consumer society. You can get everything from Japanese sushi seaweeds to Arabic pita breads, Indian curries to good old meat and potatoes. Ditto for designer clothes, electronic goodies, and computer games. And the stores stay open to help those of you awash with cash.

Most cities have at least one late night where shops are open later. Thursday night till 8pm is the most common. Many suburban supermarkets are open until 9pm on weekdays. Most towns and cities have convenience stores which open until 10pm seven days a week.

Sunday openings have become common among the big department-supermarket chains in the last few years. Just before Christmas, most stores are open to 9 or 10pm and some of the big multiples keep their stores open 24 hours the last few pre-Christmas days.

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Visiting Ireland: See what it's Really Like.

Tourism and Culture:

Ireland is blessed with a rich history and culture, friendly people and a beautiful landscape. It's an extremely popular tourist destination and it's not hard to see why. Bord Failte's (the Irish tourist board) fantastic website will point you towards lots of things to see in Ireland, but do not let it be your only reference. The Irish Hotels Federation's site is the other major booking point for Irish travellers. There are many excellent local guides and some are listed below.

Kerry Insight | Dublin Tourism | Guide to Galway | Guide to Limerick & Clare | Local Ireland |

Getting here:

Ireland has three major airports: Dublin, Cork and Shannon. Aer Lingus was the State owned airline until 2007 when it went public. Ryanair, based in Ireland, has become Europe's largest and fastest growing short-haul airline. They're cheap and plentiful out of the three big airports.

There is also plenty of ferry transport to Ireland. Irish Ferries, Irish Stena Sealink and Brittany Ferries run daily services between Ireland, Britain and France, depending on the time of year.

An Open Skies agreement with the United States was signed. The result has been increased routes into and out of the US and Europe.

Check Bord Failte (Irish Tourist Board) for a wealth of information about tour operators and Irish tourist offices abroad.

Aer Lingus Airline | Delta Airlines | Ryanair
Stena Ferry Information | Irish Ferries | Brittany Ferries
Bus & Train Timetables
Cork Airport
| Dublin Airport | Shannon Airport

G. reports another way to arrive in style: "We crossed 'over the pond' on the QE2 in 2001. It's a great experience but expensive. More recently the Queen Mary 2 has come online -- a wonderful ship, also expensive.

The least expensive way to make a transatlantic crossing is in the spring, around April, on what is called a "repositioning cruise." This is when the big cruise ships leave the Caribbean for summer ports in Europe. All the big companies offer these trips, usually about 10 days, and they dock in various ports in the UK and Europe.

You may also be thinking of going on a freighter, an old, romantic notion but not a cheap one. Here's a link to a site about traveling that way."

Festivals and Happenings

These days, every podunk Irish village is guaranteed to hold a festival sometime between May and October. And I do mean every village! Places with 200 people celebrate their heritage or walking opportunities or music or oysters or whatever. There are hundreds and thousands of happenings.

The single best source for all the significant happenings is the Irish Tourist Board site, What's On pages.

Duty free/Customs:

Duty-free and Tax Free goods were abolished throughout the European Union as of the summer of 1999. It's another triumph of the free market, they tell us, though I haven't noticed any drop in airport shop prices.

Information on bringing goods into the country from outside the EU is available here. For those of you bringing goods into Ireland from within the European Community, click here. Certain goods like firearms and animals may not be imported or may only be imported under license. If you're not sure, get in touch with Customs and Excise (Dublin - (01) 8734555) or the Office of the Revenue Commissioners (Dublin - (01) 6792777).

Here are the relevant government documents and much discussion about Customs requirements for folks moving to Ireland. The summary is that when you present proof that you are moving to Ireland personal goods owned for 6 months or more can be imported duty free.

If your personal goods are a shipping container's worth of Levi's, expect some hassles.

Avoid Credit Card Hassles

Aine warns:

The credit card / ATM route is definitely the way to go - but contact your credit card company and tell them that you will be traveling overseas. Otherwise, they may refuse it because it is outside your usual pattern. This happened to us at (of course) an extremely awkward time! When we called in to find out why our card was declined they chided us for not telling them in advance that we were going to be traveling. Service with a smile (not).

Also, bring 2 cards, making sure that both are in good standing- you don't want to get caught out!

ATM machines are abundantly available in any town in Ireland. Laser/debit cards work worldwide and you can use yours to purchase petrol, groceries and hotel rooms. Most supermarkets and petrol stations work like mini-banks and you can pick up some extra "cash back" when purchasing groceries and filling your car.

 

 


 


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