Working in Ireland & a restaurant worker - visas explained

“I remember reading a while ago, maybe a couple of years ago, that Americans without any family connections to Ireland could travel there and work if they apply for a special visa exchange program between our country and Ireland. Is this still in effect, given that Ireland’s economy is so bad? I am Irish American with an Irish passport, and a friend and I were thinking of moving to Ireland to check out our opportunities there. I guess it would be very helpful if she had a working visa as I assume it would be hard if not impossible for her to get a job otherwise.”

The information you read in 2008 still stands today, even though the Irish economy has taken an almighty battering since that time. In 2008 Ireland and the U.S. signed a reciprocal visa agreement that allows citizens from both countries to travel to Ireland or the U.S. for 12 months on a working holiday visa.

Ireland has similar working holiday authorizations with a number of other countries, including Argentina, Japan, Canada and New Zealand.

U.S. applicants must be in college, or a college graduate within the last 12 months. (This also applies to Irish applicants wishing to come here for a year.)

Applications for the visa must be submitted to the Irish Embassy in Washington, D.C., or the Irish consulate nearest to the applicant’s residence. The application form and instruction can be found at the following link:

Applicants must have a bank statement showing that they have the equivalent of €1,500 (about $2,100) in funds that can be used in Ireland, and a return airline ticket, or else the equivalent of €3,000. They must also provide copies of current college transcripts or a degree, and an application fee of €250 (the embassy/consulate can provide relevant exchange rate information at the time of application).

Once the application is approved the visa will be issued for 12 months. It is not renewable or extendable once it expires.

“I am writing from Ireland. I am sure that you’ve received this question many times before, but I’d like to move to America this year to live with an aunt and uncle who own a successful restaurant that I could work at. Is there a way of doing this legally? I would still like to travel back and forth to Ireland for the holidays.”

Yes, we’ve received the question before, and the answer is pretty much the same – there really isn’t a quick and legal way that this can be accomplished.

Your aunt and uncle can’t really do much for you in the way of visa sponsorship, either through the family or employment connection. There is a green card category for unskilled workers, but it takes years to obtain one of these visas and the paperwork and effort is substantial.

You don’t provide much information about yourself – age, educational background – but perhaps you’d be eligible for an internship program. You should also apply for the annual DV-1 green card lottery that the U.S. conducts each fall.

Check out the U.S. Embassy’s wesbite in Dublin,, and also the student resources in Ireland such as USIT.


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