The Irish Department of Justice has announced a public consultation procedure seeking comments from the general public on the controversial new rules for retirees to Ireland from outside of the European Economic Area (non-EEA), as set out in March 2015.
The rules, Ireland’s first-ever set policy for non-EEA members wishing to retire in Ireland, stipulated that retirees must have an annual income of at least $55,138 (€50,000) — or $110,276 (€100,000) annual income for couples — in order to acquire a visa that would allow them to live in Ireland for longer than the 90-day holiday visa.
The new rules were met with a wave of criticism and two online petitions with a combined total of more than 1,000 signatures. In response to this criticism the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) was called upon to review the immigration policy for non-EEA retirees.
“I recognize that many non-EEA nationals who seek to retire in Ireland may wish to do so on foot of a special connection with or affinity for this country,” said the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald.
“At the same time, we must ensure that the wider public interests are protected. I encourage all those with an interest in this matter to contribute to this consultation.”
In the new proposals outlined in the INIS review, individual applicants would now have to prove an annual income of $45,000 (€40,000), while $67,455 (€60,000) would be the minimum for a couple.
Under the current rules applicants must demonstrate that they have savings equal to the price of a a house in Ireland (estimated at $225,000/€200,000). The proposed new rules would lower the savings threshold to $112,000 (€100,000). If a retiree easily surpasses one of the two criteria the failure to meet the other may be sufficient.
What isn't changing is that the visa that the retiree gets is a "Stamp 0," which requires that the application be made within Ireland and must be renewed annually. It should not be confused with a permanent move.
After five years living on a Stamp 0 visa retirees may then apply for a Stamp 3 visa which would allow a longer period of time between applications. The review outlines that there will be no path to residency or citizenship for a non-EEA retiree, an option also not granted to an Irish citizen wishing to retire to the US.
Although accepting that the new proposals are a step in the right direction, many critics of the new rules are still unhappy about the proposed changed rules, believing they do not go far enough to accommodate potential non-EEA retirees.
“While I appreciate any improvement in Ireland's immigration rules for non-EEA retirees, I don't think it goes near far enough,” retiree Jane Fadely told IrishCentral. US citizen Fadely had living happily in Co. Kerry until the 2015 changes meant she had to leave.
“I strongly disagree with setting financial requirements without concern as to where in the country a person will be living ... Even reducing the annual income from 50,000 to 40,000 euros is still too high for many retirees and far exceeds what is needed to live in many areas of Ireland,” she said.
“One of the most glaring things that stands out: there is not a word included which addresses the situation of folks like me who arrived and obtained permission to remain before the new March 2015 rules and to whom those rules were not supposed to apply, but INIS applied them, anyway, and refused permission.
“Ireland needs to address the issue of individuals in my category, taking into consideration the fact that because they would not allow me to stay, I had to spend a large sum of money I'd otherwise still have safely in the bank.
“In me they lost a staunch supporter of Ireland and a goodwill ambassador, not to mention the money I spent every month,” Fadely concluded.
Finances are also still an issue for Kevin Cunningham, a founder of the petition “Help the Global Irish Retire to Ireland,” which has 460 signatures to date. Cunningham has been planning his Irish retirement for some time.
Within the Department of Justice review, they outline that Irish immigration policies often aim to attract significant investment to the state or to address a shortage in the labor market and as retirees cannot work or establish a business in Ireland, they would not fall under this bracket.
“I respectfully disagree that retirees do not make significant contributions to the Irish economy, perhaps even more than many immigrant investors,” Cunningham wrote in an email to IrishCentral.
“In comparing Irish immigration schemes, a person can achieve permanent residency and a path to citizenship simply by investing as little as €500,000 in an approved Irish business.
“By contrast, a retiree living full-time in Ireland contributes much of their annual income to Ireland in the form of consumer spending, VAT, stamp duty and other payments. They are not entitled to work and therefore do not compete for jobs with local people. In addition, many retirees will purchase a home, often for sums greater than €500,000. Therefore, over say a 15-20 year period of retirement, the average retiree will probably invest much more than the €500,000 required for an investor.”
He also disagrees with the review’s assertion that a “desire to live in Ireland does not confer the right to do so.” Outlining their reasons for the non-EEA retiree requirements, the department writes that the Irish government has the right to control immigration into the country and has no responsibility to other citizens.
“It is acknowledged that any policy analysis in this area may appear somewhat impersonal given that we are talking about people’s lives,” the review reads, while explaining that, “all sovereign countries have a right and duty to control immigration and to apply policies that reflect what the State determines to be the appropriate balance of interests.”
Cunningham counters that the state already affords the right of citizenship to those who can prove they have an Irish parent or grandparent and should consider a special category for those who can prove similar but more distant links.
“Please consider a special category of retiree who only seeks permanent residency and a possible path to citizenship who can prove an unbroken link to their Irish heritage regardless of the number of generations that have past,” he asks. “I am sure you would agree that such persons are far less likely to become a burden on the Irish State.”
Other suggested changes include a mandatory pre-clearance allowing retirees to apply online from the home country, an age limit on applicants ranging from 60-75 years old, proof of good health before arrival, an application fee, and a quota of 200 accepted applicants per year.
The department puts the most emphasis on a proposal for a proven connection to Ireland through family ties or links to friends and Irish groups, although a naturalized son or daughter is not accepted. Ireland already offers citizenship to those who can prove the Irish citizenship of a grandparent but those whose roots in Ireland begin further back can only apply for a stamp 0 and will need significant proof.
Whether you agree or disagree with the new proposals, the public consultation is now open until October 31, 2016. Let us know you thoughts on the requirements in the comments section, below.
Submissions may be emailed to [email protected] or may be posted to Retirees Review Immigration Policy Room 501(5th Floor) Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service 13-14 Burgh Quay Dublin 2 D02 XK70.
The full review can be read here.