Coming to set up a business or invest in Ireland
If you are an EEA or Swiss national you are entitled to come and work in Ireland either as an employed or a self-employed person. EEA and Swiss nationals do not require a business permission to establish a business in Ireland and they do not require a visa to visit, travel to, live or work in Ireland. Non-EEA nationals can establish a business in Ireland but they require permission to do so. There are 3 ways in which non-EEA nationals can invest or start a business in Ireland – see ‘Schemes for self-employed non-EEA nationals’ below.
If you are coming from outside Ireland to set up a business you will need information on a number of topics such as tax and legal requirements – see ‘Information and supports’ below.
Schemes for self-employed non-EEA nationals
Immigrant Investor Programme
The Immigrant Investor Programme provides a range of investment options which allows approved non-EEA investors and their immediate family enter Ireland on multi-entry visas and remain here for up to 5 years with the possibility of ongoing renewal. The investment must be good for Ireland, good for jobs and in the public interest. The funds must be legally acquired and owned, not borrowed, by the investor.
In order to be considered for the Programme, the proposed investment must be in one of the following categories.
- Endowment: €500,000 to a public project benefiting the arts, sports, health, culture or education. The endowment can be €400,000 per investor if it is pooled by at least 5 individuals.
- Enterprise Investment: In 2017 a minimum €1 million (was 500,000) aggregate investment into new or existing Irish businesses for a minimum of 3 years
- Immigrant Investor Bonds: A minimum €1,000,000 investment in a 5-year immigrant investor bond (suspended since 18 July 2016)
- Mixed Investment: A minimum €450,000 in property and €500,000 in immigrant investor bonds (suspended since 18 July 2016)
- Investment Fund: A minimum of €1 million (was €500,000) in an approved investment fund which would invest in Irish businesses and projects
- Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT): A minimum investment of €2 million in any Irish REIT listed on the Irish Stock Exchange. The investment may be spread across a number of Irish REITs.
You can read more information in the Immigrant Investor Programme Guidelines (pdf).
Start-up Entrepreneur Programme
The Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP) allows a non-EEA national with an innovative business idea and minimum funding of €50,000 to come and set up a business in Ireland. The aim of the Programme is to support High Potential Start-Ups which are defined as start-up ventures that are:
- Introducing a new or innovative product or service to international markets
- Capable of creating 10 jobs in Ireland and realising €1 million in sales within three to four years of starting up
- Led by an experienced management team
- Headquartered and controlled in Ireland
- Less than 6 years old
New 12-month immigration permission: From 15 March 2014 a 12-month immigration permission will be available for foreign national entrepreneurs attending incubators or innovation bootcamps in Ireland to allow them to prepare a STEP application. This 12-month permission will also be made available to non-EEA students who graduate with advanced STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) degrees in Ireland and wish to work on preparing a STEP application.
The STEP scheme does not apply to retail, catering, personal services or similar businesses - see 'Business permission' below. No initial job creation targets will be set as it is recognised that such businesses can take some time to get off the ground. There is detailed information in the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme Guidelines (pdf).
If you are not eligible for the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme or if you wish to start a retail, catering, personal services or similar business you should apply for a business permission. This is a written permission from the Minister for Justice and Equality that allows you to establish and engage in a business in Ireland for a certain period. Since 16 March 2016 the business permission scheme has been suspended while the business, start-up entrepreneur and immigrant investor schemes are being reviewed. Applications for the scheme received before 16 March 2016 are not affected.
If you are applying for a business permission to start a business in Ireland, you must meet the following strict criteria:
- You must have at least €300,000 of your own money to invest in business in Ireland.
- Your business must create employment for at least 2 Irish or EEA or Swiss nationals or at least maintain employment in an existing business
- Your business must add to the commercial activity and competitiveness of the State
- Your business must be a viable trading concern and provide you with sufficient income to maintain and accommodate yourself and any dependants without resorting to social assistance or paid employment for which a General Employment Permit would be required
Artists, writers or crafts people do not have to meet the capital and employment requirements. However they must show that they are well known in their field and that they can support themselves without the need for other employment or social assistance. In these cases they should contact the Department of Justice and Equality separately.
Successful applicants for the Immigrant Investor Programme and the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme and their immediate families will be granted residence permission for 2 years initially. Their immediate family means their spouse, civil partner or partner and dependent children aged under 18. This permission can be renewed for a further 3 years. After these first 5 years, the investor or entrepreneur can apply for long-term residence. If required they will be granted multiple entry visas for the same duration.
Usually, a business permission is granted for 1 year initially.Non-EEA nationals who are granted a business permission are entitled to live in Ireland for the duration of the business permission. They should check if they require a visa to enter Ireland.
Information and supports
If you are coming from outside Ireland to set up a business you will need information on a number of topics such as tax and legal requirements. You can find information about starting a business and being self-employed on this website, including details of legal structures and potential liabilities. You can read about the organisations, websites and publications that can help you in our document, Sources of information on starting a business.
The guide to self-employment, Toil and Trouble (pdf), is available on the Department of Social Protection website. Businessregulation.ie is a portal to help you identify the main regulations which affect your business. If you are self-employed and your income is reduced you can find out more in our document on self employment and unemployment.
IDA (Irish Development Authority) Ireland is an Irish government agency with responsibility for securing new investment from overseas in manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors. It can provide information about setting up a business in Ireland and may provide grants to companies wishing to locate in Ireland or expand their existing operations in Ireland.
Enterprise Ireland is an Irish government agency which is responsible for the development of Irish industry. It provides advice and financial support to High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) businesses. You can find information about starting a business in Ireland on its website.
Local Enterprise Offices provide supports such as advice and grants to local businesses (10 or fewer employees) that are starting up or in development. You can find information about their training programmes and start your own business courses as well as mentoring and financial supports on localenterprise.ie.
How to apply
Investor and entrepreneur programmes
To apply for the Immigrant Investor Programme you complete the investor application form (pdf) and pay a non-refundable application fee of €1500.
To apply for the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme you complete the entrepreneur application form (pdf) and pay a non-refundable application fee of €350.
The application forms and guidelines as well as a sample business plan template are available on the INIS website.
- Your passport and those of your spouse/partner and dependants (if applicable)
- Evidence of family relationships (if applicable)
- Evidence of funds
- Evidence of investment or details of start-up
- Police report or character report from risk management consultancy for yourself and for your spouse or partner (if applicable)
More information about the investor and entrepreneur programmes is available on inis.gov.ie.
You apply for business permission to the Business Permission Unit of the Immigration Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service – see ‘Where to apply’ below. Since 16 March 2016, the business permission scheme has been suspended.
You must include the following documents:
- Your valid passport or national identity document
- Your registration certificate if you are already residing in the State
- A statement of character from the police authorities of each country in which you have resided for more than 6 months during the previous 10 year period
- A business plan which addresses the above criteria for a business permission. The plan should be endorsed by a firm of accountants or other relevant professionals.
- Details of your skills and qualifications to undertake this business
- References from previous employers
- Original documents from your financial institution confirming you have at least €300,000 to invest in the business
- Details of where the business will operate.
Contact the Companies Registration Office to register your business - see 'Where to apply' below. You can register and file your documents such as your annual returns online with CRO using CORE (Companies Online Registration Environment).
You can contact your Local Enterprise Office to find out the supports available for setting up a business in Ireland - see 'Where to apply' below.
You can find out about registering for tax from your tax office – see ‘Where to apply’ below.
Where to apply
Contact your tax office
Contact your Local Enterprise Office
Contact your local development company (pdf)
Investment and Entrepreneur Unit
Department of Justice and Equality
Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service
13-14 Burgh Quay