Retiring to bucolic Ireland is an increasingly costly option
By Ray O’Hanlon
A petition urging changes in Irish law dealing with non-Irish people wanting to retire in the Republic is being circulated this week.
The petition is not being aimed exclusively at U.S. citizens, but the predicament faced by one U.S. citizen, Jane Fadely – which has been aired in the Irish Echo and other media outlets in recent weeks – closely reflects the petition’s argument and its requests, which are addressed to Ireland’s Minister for Justice and Equality.
The author of the petition, an American who is known to the Irish Echo, has requested that his name be withheld for the time being.
The individual has been planning to retire in Ireland, but is not now certain that this will be possible.
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In a preamble, the petition states in part: “Ireland has for many generations been a draw for foreign visitation. The great beauty of the country and the warmth of its people make it not only a great tourist destination but also a desirable place to live.
“It is entirely sensible for any nation to control its borders and the flow of people crossing into and through it. Current immigration policies in Ireland do not grant non-EEU nationals the absolute right to live in Ireland. This policy is understandable and quite reasonable.
“However, it seems equally reasonable that persons of independent means that are interested in retiring to Ireland, AND can reasonably demonstrate their positive impact on the Irish economy, should be given consideration for long-term residency status.
“Ireland’s economy is just beginning to recover after many years of severe recession. Increasing foreign investment in Ireland would greatly help this recovery especially if such investment were made by persons of independent means who can demonstrate they will never be burden on the Irish State, who agree not to take jobs away from Irish citizens and who will make considerable investments in Ireland if offered long-term residency status.
“Unfortunately, there is currently no visa category for long-term retirement status in Ireland.”
The statement goes on to state that new rules created in March of 2015 by Ireland’s Department of justice had tightened the requirements for residency in Ireland for retirees.
“These rules are much more restrictive than previous rules and are causing many retirees to leave Ireland under threat of deportation,” it states.
“Also, many people that were planning to retire to Ireland are now cancelling their plans.
“Among the rule changes are the re-categorization of retirees as short-term residents similar to tourists and other temporary guests rather than long-term residents entitled to apply for permanent residency and a path to citizenship.
“These new rule changes also require very high income and cash requirements for applicants wanting to retire to Ireland. For example, a retiree to Ireland must now document retirement income of at least €50,000 per person and €100,000 per couple.
“These figures far exceed the average income of Irish pensioners and working Irish families. More importantly, these figures far exceed the costs necessary to live in Ireland in order to avoid becoming a burden on the Irish State. Additionally, other forms of retirement wealth such as real estate holdings, stocks and bonds, bank accounts, etc. are ignored under these new rules.
“Ireland decided many years ago to create immigration programs for entrepreneurs that encourage investing in Ireland in exchange for permanent residency and a path to citizenship.
“Although the rules for retirees have been tightened over the last few years, these rules for entrepreneurs have actually become looser over the same period. For example, recent rule changes now allow foreigners categorized as entrepreneurs to invest €500,000 (previously €1,000,000) in certain Irish businesses. Such investors qualify for long-term residency and are given the right to work and a path to citizenship. They only have to spend one day each year on Irish soil. There are no income or health insurance requirements. After a provisional 2 year and 3 period, such persons need only extend their residency permission every subsequent 5 years at which time they may also apply for citizenship.
“A retiree, however, might invest the same €500,000 in a home, arrange for their foreign pension and other income to be deposited directly into an Irish bank account, pay Irish taxes on this income, and spend much of their retirement income in Ireland on goods and services.
“They also agree NOT to work or to receive any State benefits, to maintain a permanent residency, to obtain full comprehensive private health insurance for the entire period of their residency in Ireland, and to reapply for “permission to remain” in Ireland each and every year. Such retirees often own their Irish homes and cars debt free. They support local businesses and participate in their local communities. In exchange, such retirees only receive what amounts to a one year tourist visa known as Stamp 0.
“According to the Irish Naturalisation & Immigration Service (INIS), Stamp 0 is ‘a low level immigration status which is NOT intended to be reckonable for Long Term Residence or Citizenship. It is granted to persons who have been approved by INIS for a limited and specific stay in Ireland.’
At best, these new rules will have a chilling effect on foreign investment to Ireland especially in the real estate, consumer spending and tourism markets. At worst, Ireland will lose many millions of Euros in foreign investment that could endanger the current recovery.”
The petition asks the Minister for Justice and Equality to consider a list of changes to current immigration policy with regards to non-EEU retirees.
The list reads: 1. Establish a separate and distinct immigration category for retirees that takes into account the significant contributions such persons make to the Irish State, its economy and its culture.
2. Establish an immigration status that allows retirees to qualify for long-term residency in Ireland and a path to citizenship similar to current programs in place for entrepreneurs.
3. Establish an immigration policy for retirees that takes into full account all of their financial assets such as savings, real estate and other investments, rather than simply their income.
4. Reduce the income requirements for retirees to figures more in line with average wages and costs related to retirement living in Ireland.
5. Eliminate the double counting of income requirements for couples (currently €100,000 per year) and other family units living under the same roof.
6. Apply any of the above rule changes to anyone wishing to retire to Ireland, not just those already in Ireland.
The petition statement concludes: Ultimately, Ireland must decide if non-EEU retirees contribute more to the Irish economy than they receive in benefits.
“If Ireland decides that retirees do indeed have positive value, contributing to the Irish economy without increasing the burden on the Irish welfare system, then Ireland should establish immigration rules that welcome such people.
“If retirees are welcome in Ireland, many retirees will come.
“If retirees are not welcome, or if the rules make it difficult for retirees to reasonably qualify, retirees will not come and alternatively will look to reside in other countries with more reasonable policies.
“It is a two-way street. No one is looking for charity. The current situation appears to be a lose-lose scenario for both sides. Let’s try to work together and create a win-win scenario for all.”