Returning to Ireland and COVID-19
The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has caused massive global social and economic disruption. Irish people living abroad have been impacted heavily by the crisis, with many concerned for relatives at home and unclear about their personal futures abroad.
The Government has published ‘Resilience and Recovery 2020 – 2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19’. This plan sets out 5 levels that correspond to the severity of COVID-19 in a location. Read more about the Plan for living with COVID-19.
This document aims to give you information on returning to Ireland during the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes practical, up-to-date information on travel advice, public health guidelines, employment rights and social welfare entitlements for people returning to Ireland.
Travel to Ireland
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFA) is advising against all non-essential travel overseas (including Great Britain, but not Northern Ireland), apart from countries on the Green List where the advice is to take 'normal precautions'. Previously the advice was to avoid all non-essential travel. For more information, read our COVID-19 travel overview.
What to do if you are abroad
DFA advise Irish citizens abroad to follow local public health advice and stay in regular contact with their family and friends. You can contact your local Irish embassy or consulate and register your contact details with the Department. DFA’s Consular Assistance Unit in Dublin can also be contacted by calling +353 1 408 2000. You can also follow DFA on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates.
A number of Irish organisations abroad support Irish emigrants. Many are continuing to operate by phone and email even if their public offices are closed.
What to do when you return to Ireland
Since Thursday 28 May, anyone arriving in Ireland from another country is required by law to fill in a Covid-19 Passenger Locator Form. This includes people arriving from a country on the 'COVID-19 green list' and people arriving from a country not on the 'COVID-19 green list'.
You fill in the form online. Each passenger aged 16 or over should fill in one form. If you are travelling with children under the age of 16 you should include their details on the form. They do not have to fill in their own form.
The information on the form may be used to contact you to check your location, or to contact you if there is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 on your flight or ferry.
- Fill in and submit the form to a relevant person
- Provide further information when requested
- Update your residence details if these change within 14 days of your arrival
- Not knowingly provide information that is false or misleading
There are penalties for not filling in the form or giving accurate details – you may be fined up to €2,500 or imprisoned for up to 6 months, or both.
If any of the information you provide on the form changes in the next 14 days, you must email firstname.lastname@example.org with updated information.
You do not have to fill in the form if you are:
- Arriving from Northern Ireland
- A transit passenger who will not be leaving the port or airport
- Holders of a Certificate for International Transport Workers, or drivers of a heavy goods vehicle who are in Ireland for work
- Aircraft crew, including pilots, in Ireland as part of your work
- Ship crew, including maritime masters, in Ireland as part of your work
- A foreign diplomat
You will only need to fill in part of the form, if you are not staying overnight in the State.
When you arrive, you will also need to restrict your movements for 14 days. You should avoid using public transport to travel to your final destination and ask a relative or household member to collect you instead. Read more about restricting your movements in ’Do I need to quarantine?’ below, including exceptions.
Do I need to quarantine?
Most people who arrive in Ireland from another country need to restrict their movements (sometimes called quarantining) for 14 days, including:
- Returning Irish emigrants
- People with no symptoms
- People who have tested negative for the virus in another country
The only people who do not need to restrict their movements are:
- People arriving from Northern Ireland
- Aircraft crew, including pilots, in Ireland as part of their work
- Holders of a Certificate for International Transport Workers, or heavy good vehicle drivers who are in Ireland for work
- Ship crew, including the maritime master, in Ireland as part of their work
- People arriving from a country on the 'COVID-19 green list'
If you are tested for COVID-19 during the first 14 days after arriving in Ireland, you must continue to restrict your movements even if you get a negative test result. If you test positive, you must self-isolate. Read ‘What to do if you develop symptoms of COVID-19’ below.
During the 14 days, you should stay at home and avoid contact with other people and social situations as much as possible. You must also avoid:
- Using public transport
- Visiting others
- Meeting people face-to-face who are at higher risk from COVID-19
- Going to the shop, unless you have to (wear a face covering if you do)
What to do if you develop symptoms of COVID-19
If you feel ill while you are restricting your movements, you should self-isolate and call a doctor. Do not go to a doctor’s surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Your doctor will assess you over the phone. If they think you need to be tested for COVID-19, they will arrange a test.
If you test positive, you should self-isolate immediately and call your doctor.
Self-isolation means staying indoors and completely avoiding contact with other people, including people you live with. You should only stop self-isolating if:
- You have had no fever for 5 days
- It has been 10 days since you first developed symptoms
If you live with others, they also need to restrict their movements.
For more information, see the HSE’s guide to self-isolation.
As part of the Government's framework for living with COVID, there are some restrictions on travelling around Ireland depending on where you are travelling.
Public transport services are running but you should only use public transport for essential journeys. If you have to use public transport, wearing ayou must wear face covering is mandatory. Read about using public transport during COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption to driving licencing, testing and National Car Test services in Ireland. You can find out more about this in our document on Driving and Transport during COVID-19.
As part of public health measures during COVID-19, if you have an Irish driving licence that is due to expire between 1 March and 30 June 2020, your licence is automatically renewed for a further 4 months.
Learner permits that are due to expire between 1 March 2020 and 31 October 2020 are automatically renewed for 4 months.
If you have a valid full foreign driving licence, you can drive on this for up to 12 months while visiting Ireland. If you plan to stay in Ireland for longer than 12 months, you should apply to convert your foreign driving licence for an Irish licence if you are eligible, or go through the driving test process to get an Irish driving licence.
Importing a vehicle
All vehicles brought into Ireland are subject to Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) and must be registered. Vehicle registration inspections are currently suspended due to the public health emergency. For more information on importing a vehicle to Ireland, including details of VRT exemptions and when VRT testing will resume, read about Importing a vehicle into Ireland.
The HSE provides health information on COVID-19, including:
- The symptoms and causes of COVID-19 (coronavirus)
- When to call a doctor
- How to protect yourself and others
- Groups at increased risk from COVID-19 (coronavirus) and what they should do
- Pregnancy and coronavirus
If you develop symptoms on your return to Ireland, you need to self-isolate and phone any local GP. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. The GP will assess you over the phone. If they think you need to be tested for coronavirus, they will arrange a test.
The HSE also provides information on minding your mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Depending on your circumstances, you may need financial assistance when you return to Ireland. The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) has a range of social welfare payments to provide financial support.
You must have a Personal Public Service (PPS) number to apply for a social welfare payment. If you have worked in Ireland before you may already have a PPS number. You can get your PPS number from DEASP’s Client Identity Services:
- By email at email@example.com
- By phone at 071 967 2616 or 1890 927 999
If you, your partner or your children do not have a PPS number, you can apply for one by email as part of new special measures during the COVID-19 outbreak. You must download and fill out the REG1 form and send it to with a scanned image or photograph of your identity document (passport, driving licence, ID card) and proof of address (utility bill, letter from landlord to PPSN@welfare.ie.
Applying for social welfare
The Returning to Ireland section of our website gives information on how to access social welfare as a returning Irish emigrant.
If you are applying for a social assistance payment, you need to show that Ireland is currently your main place of residence. This is called the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC). You do not have to have been living in Ireland for a certain period of time to be considered habitually resident. You can read more about returning Irish emigrants and the HRC. Crosscare Migrant Project’s website also has useful FAQs on the HRC and you can also contact them for support if you are having difficulty with your application
People who have lost employment outside Ireland are not eligible for the new COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment upon returning to Ireland because the payment is only for people who have lost employment in Ireland. They may access other social welfare payments such as Jobseeker’s Allowance and Basic Supplementary Allowance. Anyone in crisis, or without any income can apply for an Exceptional Needs Payment.
If you are returning from abroad it is important to try to have somewhere to stay on arrival. The Returning to Ireland section of our website has more housing-related information and advice for returning emigrants.
Any Irish emigrants returning to Ireland who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or in any other crisis situation should contact the local council in the area they are returning to. The following support organisations may also be able to give you more information and advice by phone or email:
- Crosscare Migrant Project is a Dublin based NGO providing information and advocacy support to Irish emigrants and people who have moved to Ireland. Contact Crosscare here, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +353 (0)1 873 2844.
- Safe Home Ireland is an Irish emigrant support service that provides a range of services to more than 2,000 people each year. Safe Home provides an advice and information service, outreach visits and housing assistance to eligible applicants. Contact Safe Home Ireland here; email email@example.com or call +353 98 36036