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Starting a business in Ireland - what type of visa do US citizens need?

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“I have a business idea that I would like to take to Ireland. I want to start a company there with my wife that I think would have potential, but my Irish roots go way back to Famine times. My wife’s great-grandparents were from Wexford – would that help us get a visa? What about if we had one of the certificates of Irish heritage?

“Would we be able to just go over there and start our business? I’m sure that we would need some type of visa, but I’m not sure what and would like some ideas on how to start. Is the Irish government making it any easier for foreign entrepreneurs to start up over there given the economic climate?”


Your question is very broad – what kind of business do you want to start, and how much money are you planning to invest?  These questions are important, especially as they relate to what type of Irish visa you might be eligible for.

The Irish government provides plenty of assistance for those wishing to establish companies in Ireland.  You should visit the website of Enterprise Ireland, the government agency responsible for attracting new start-ups, at www.enterprise-ireland.com.  There is information there about possible financial and tax incentives for those creating businesses in Ireland.

There are three types of business-related programs for foreign investors. There’s the Start-Up Entrepreneur Program for those with an “innovative” business idea and funding of at least €75,000 (roughly $100,000).

Then there’s the Immigrant Investor Program, which requires a minimum €500,000 investment (and up) in various areas, and finally, those with at least €300,000 can apply to receive what’s known as Business Permission.

Each of these programs has particular requirements, and each offers the chance of temporary Irish legalization for at least one year for the business owner, spouse and any children under 18.

For more information on business-related issues and visas, visit www.citizensinformation.ie, and www.inis.gov.ie. Though the starting costs are in the tens of thousands and more, the Irish government certainly encourages the investment and will work with you to ensure success.

Your wife’s great-grandparent link likely won’t be of use to you, unless her eligible parent formally registered as an Irish citizen through this great-grandparent prior to your wife’s birth.  The parent would have had to contact an Irish consulate to lodge his or her birth in the Foreign Births Register, which is the first step needed for a grandchild to obtain Irish citizenship.

The certificate of Irish heritage that you reference came into being last year and is fully supported by the Irish government.  Those with an ancestor born in Ireland are eligible to obtain a certificate (cost is roughly $52; visit www.heritagecertificate.ie), but the document itself does not confer any legal rights, nor does it allow the holder to legally reside in Ireland.

“The certificate provides recognition of the recipient’s ancestry by the government of Ireland. It offers no legal benefits or rights, but it is a beautiful item which honors the recipient’s ancestor(s) and symbolizes their connection to Ireland," the website says.

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