This article provides general information about opportunities for non-EU citizens for getting a business visa in Ireland. There are currently two programmes that provide immigration permission in relation to business activity: the Immigrant Investor Programme and the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme. We will also mention the Business Permission Scheme although this scheme is now discontinued.
Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP)
If you are a high-net-worth individual whose net worth is over €2m you may avail of the Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP). This scheme is designed for serious investors who are willing to invest a significant amount of money in Ireland.
There are four categories of investments available under the Immigrant Investor Programme:
- Enterprise Investment
- Investment Fund
- Real Estate Investment Trust
- Philanthropic Donation
Under this category an individual can invest in an enterprise based in Ireland. It can be an existing enterprise or a start-up established by the investor. A minimum investment of €1m and a 3 year commitment to the business is required.
As a part of the application process you will need to provide a detailed business plan for the venture. One of the main acceptance criteria is the projected number of jobs created in Ireland.
This option gives the investor the opportunity to invest a minimum amount of €1m into an investment fund approved by the Irish Central Bank. These funds have to be invested for a minimum of 3 years. A list of approved funds can be obtained from the Investor Unit at the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, 13-14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2.
Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)
Under this category, the investor will need to invest a minimum of €2m into shares of any of the Real Estate Investment Trusts listed on the Irish Stock Exchange. REITs provide a diversified property investment model. The amount of investment agreed on when applying for the scheme must remain unchanged for 3 years. After 3 years the investor is allowed to sell 50% of the initial investment. After 4 years, a further further 25% of the initial investment. All restrictions are lifted after 5 years.
Investors can also consider a philanthropic donation of at least €500k that has a clear public benefit in the areas of arts, sports, health, culture and education.
Successful application for the Immigrant Investor Programme results in an initial 2 year permission to stay in Ireland on Stamp 4. Stamp 4 provides unrestricted permission to work and set up businesses in Ireland. This permission is extended to the investor's spouse/partners and their children under the age of 18. Children aged 18 - 24 are also considered if you are going to attend full-time education.
Physical residence in Ireland is not a condition under IIP but you have to visit Ireland at least once a year. After two years you can renew your permission for a further 3 years. It is important to note that the success of your investment is not a condition of the renewal. If you meet the relevant criteria, after 5 years in the state you can apply for long term residency and citizenship by naturalisation. Participation in the IIP does not lift any of the requirements outlined in the rules governing long term residency and citizenship application.
Start-Up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP)
Non-EU entrepreneurs who have a promising business idea can apply for residency in Ireland under the Start-Up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP). The aim of this program is to entice people to relocate to Ireland to grow or fund their business. You can apply based on an already functioning business if it is less than six years old. Single applicants have to prove that they have access €50k either through self-funding or through external investment. When applying as a group, the values are €50k for the first applicant and €30k for any subsequent applicant. The business has to meet the criteria of a High Potential Start-Up.
High Potential Start-Up
A High Potential Start-Up aims at introducing an innovative and globally scalable service or product. Although there are no initial job targets, the projections in the business plan will have to show a path to creation of at least 10 jobs in Ireland and to reaching €1m in sales within three to four years.
Successful STEP applicants will receive an initial two year permission to stay and engage in business activities. Residency permission is automatically granted to their spouse and children under the age of 18. After two years the permission is renewable for further 3 years. After 5 years in the state the long term residency and citizenship by naturalisation become possible options.
For more information check out the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme guidelines document available from the INIS website [PDF, external link].
Business Permission Scheme
INIS no longer accepts applications under Business Permission scheme. Before it was discontinued in March 2016 it allowed non-EU nationals to open retail, catering and personal businesses.
Renewal of existing permission will be considered on a case by case s can be requested in writing, addressed to the Business Permission Unit of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service
For any updates please visit the Business Permission Scheme page on the INIS website [external link].