Retiring to Ireland as a returning Irish emigrant
Many Irish citizens living abroad return to Ireland to retire. From pensions and residence rights, to healthcare and housing, this document outlines the key issues and practicalities you will need to consider to ensure your move home goes smoothly.
What is retirement age in Ireland?
There is no fixed retirement age for people in Ireland. However, if you are an employee, your retirement age will be set out in your contract of employment. The usual retirement age in contracts of employment is 65.
To apply for an Irish State pension, you must be aged 66 or over. For more information on pensions, see below.
Can I bring my family with me?
Not everyone has the right to come and live in Ireland. Your family member’s right to reside here depends on their nationality and their relationship to you.
- Irish nationals: Irish citizens returning to Ireland have an automatic right to reside here.
- UK nationals: UK citizens may live in Ireland without any conditions or restrictions. In May 2019, the Irish and British governments re-affirmed their commitment to preserving this arrangement, irrespective of the outcome of the ongoing Brexit negotiations. This means your British family members can live in Ireland in their own right.
- EEA and Swiss nationals: European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals and their families have the right to stay in Ireland for up to 3 months without restriction. If your EEA or Swiss adult family member plans to stay more than 3 months, they must be employed, self-employed or have sufficient resources (medical insurance).
- Non-EEA nationals: Citizens of certain non-EEA countries must apply for an entry visa before they travel to Ireland. You can find out if your family member needs a visa to enter Ireland. They must have permission to remain if they wish to stay here for more than 3 months. Your spouse, civil partner can request permission to reside in Ireland based on their marriage or civil partnership with you, an Irish citizen. Unmarried (de facto) partners also need to apply and be granted immigration preclearance before they can come to Ireland on the basis of your relationship. On arrival your spouse, civil partner, or de facto partner will then also then need to apply for permission to remain in Ireland as the de facto partner of an Irish citizen. Your child may be eligible for Irish citizenship, for example if you were an Irish citizen at their birth. Find out more about Irish citizenship and passports for children born abroad.
Where will I live?
If you plan to return to Ireland to retire, you will need to find somewhere to live.
Buying a home
Depending on your financial situation, you may be in a position to buy a home. If you are buying a home, there are also housing schemes and grants available, including the Housing aid for older people scheme to improve the condition of your home. Read more about the steps involved in buying a home.
Renting a home
If you return home to Ireland and have difficulty paying rent or buying suitable accommodation, you can apply for social housing support from the State. You will need to have somewhere to live in the meantime, even if it is with friends or family.
Your application for social housing will be assessed on your residency status, eligibility, need and availability in the area you would like to live in. You will also need to show a local connection to this area.
If your application is successful you will be put on a social housing waiting list. Once on this list, you can look for a place to rent and get the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) to assist you with the cost of this.
Safe Home Ireland and housing for older Irish emigrants
If you are an older, Irish-born emigrant living abroad, and you want to return to Ireland, but will be unable to provide accommodation for yourself, Safe Home Ireland may be able to help you find accommodation before you return. Find out more about the housing assistance that Safe Home Ireland provides.
More information and emergency accommodation
For more information, see our Guide to housing supports for returning Irish emigrants page, which includes information on emergency accommodation and how to access this support for people who are homeless.
Can I get a State pension?
If possible, you should apply for an Irish State pension, either Contributory or Non-Contributory, at least 3 months before reaching pensionable age (66 years).
State Pension (Contributory)
The State Pension (Contributory) is paid to people from the age of 66 who have enough Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions to qualify. It is not means-tested and you may have other income such as a personal or occupational pension and still receive a contributory pension. Like all other income, this pension is taxed, however you are unlikely to pay tax if it is your only source of income.
You can apply for this pension while you are still abroad.
State Pension (Non-Contributory)
The State Pension (Non-Contributory) is a means-tested payment for people aged 66 and over, who do not qualify for a State Pension (Contributory), or who only qualify for a reduced rate contributory pension based on their social insurance record. You must satisfy a means test and be habitually resident in Ireland to qualify.
You must be living in Ireland to apply for this pension.
Combining your social insurance contributions from abroad
If you have worked in more than one EU/EEA country, or in a country with which Ireland has a Bilateral Social Security Agreement, such as Australia, Canada and the United States, then your periods of insurance can be combined with Irish insurance to see if you qualify for a pension from each country.
You can find out more about combining social insurance contributions from abroad. If you are getting a pension under EU Regulations or a Bilateral Agreement, you may also be eligible for the Household Benefits Package.
Increase in payment for adult and child dependents
If you’re receiving a State pension, you may get an increase for a dependant adult such as a spouse, civil partner or cohabitant. This is known as an Increase for a Qualified Adult (IQA). You may also be entitled to claim for any child dependants.
How to apply
To apply for a pension or any other form of State benefit in Ireland, you will need a Personal Public Service number (PPS number). This number is a unique personal identification number that is essential for applying for State benefits and services in Ireland.
You will also need to complete the relevant application form and return it to the relevant address with documentary evidence as required. Forms are available from your Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office, post office or Citizens Information Centre.
You can find detailed information about the regulations governing access to pensions in Ireland in the pensions category of our website.
What other State benefits can I get?
You may be entitled to apply for other benefits in Ireland.
If you are receiving an Irish State pension, you may also be entitled to:
- Living Alone Increase
- Household Benefits Package
- Fuel Allowance
- Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme
- Rent Supplement
- Island Increase
- Centenarian's Payment
- Carer's Support Grant
What health services am I entitled to?
Both private and public health services are available in Ireland.
Public health services
Public services are supported by the State and the Health Service Executive (HSE) is responsible for the delivery of public health services. You are covered by public health services if you have been living in Ireland for at least a year or you intend to live here for at least one year. This is called being ordinarily resident in Ireland. Read more about accessing healthcare on your return to Ireland.
Medical cards and GP visit cards
Depending on your income, age and situation you may be eligible for a medical card which entitles you to access certain public health services at no cost.
If you are not eligible for a medical card, you may qualify for a GP visit card. These entitle you to visit your doctor free of charge. Again your eligibility will depend on your age, income and situation.
Private health services
Private health services are provided by individual health professionals or healthcare companies. You usually pay the full cost of private health services unless you have private health insurance. For help with comparing private health insurance, use the Health Insurance Authority’s Health Insurance Comparison tool.
How will I get around?
There are many ways of getting around when you return to Ireland, including public transport, driving, cycling, taxis and more.
Full driving licences from all other EU member states (and some other countries) are recognised for use in Ireland. You may also be able to convert your driving licence to an Irish one. Your age determines how long your licence will be issued for. Read more about the rules on licence duration.
If you want to bring your car to Ireland you need to know about importing a car and implications for Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT).
Free Travel Pass
If you are aged over 66 and living permanently in Ireland you are entitled to free travel on public bus and rail transport under the Free Travel Scheme. Some people under age 66 also qualify.
Public transport services vary across the country, so the services available to you will depend on where you live.
Can I work?
Most legislation dealing with the protection of employees in Ireland does not have an upper age limit. This means that if you are working in retirement, you have the same employment rights as everyone else. If you decide to work part-time, you can find out about employment rights of part-time workers.
If you are under age 66, you may be able to do some part-time work and keep your entitlement to part of your Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance. If, however, you are getting any social welfare payment other than the State Pension (Contributory) or Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Contributory) Pension, working can affect your entitlement.
Will I have to pay tax?
If you are moving to Ireland you need to know about residency for tax purposes. There is a specific definition of residence for tax purposes depending on how many days you spend in the country each year.
Tax on your belongings
If you’re returning to Ireland for an extended period of time, you will need to ship your belongings home and you may need to pay certain import taxes on your items. Read more about what taxes you may have to pay when shipping your belongings back to Ireland.
Pensions and tax relief
You can find out about income tax credits and reliefs and how pensions are taxed.
There are some special tax arrangements for people aged 65 or over and tax relief is available for certain medical expenses including nursing home costs.
Tax on your savings
Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) is deducted from the interest you pay on savings in banks, building societies, etc. This happens whether or not you would normally be liable for tax. If you are aged 65 or over or your spouse or civil partner is aged 65 or over, or if you are permanently incapacitated, you may not be liable for DIRT if you are exempt from income tax.
Tax for people aged 65 and over
If you are aged 65 or over, you must pay income tax in the normal way. However, there are tax exemption limits and some extra tax credits available to people aged 65 or over. For more information, see Older people's tax credits and reliefs.
What about other supports?
There are many organisations providing supports retired people, including around active retirement, campaigning, and support for older people (including carers).
Discover the range of organisations available in Ireland.