A returning Irish emigrant tells of the difficulties faced in trying to return home to Ireland

The Irish government often campaigns for Irish emigrants who left during Ireland’s recession to consider returning home. But with issues ranging from driver's licenses to employment to healthcare, many Irish looking to return home say the government doesn’t make it easy. This is the account of one Irish woman and the obstacles she and her husband faced on their journey home.

We just recently moved back from Brisbane Australia in April 2017 after being there for the past ten years. My husband and I are from a small Midlands town in Ireland.  We never realized how hard it was going to be, and after what we’ve been through I wouldn’t encourage anyone to come back.

After making the decision to return home I applied to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) for an overseas registration application which cost €350 (around $418) in December 2016 and started the process.

While in Brisbane I returned to university and completed a Bachelor Degree of Nursing. Once I graduated I secured a 12-month graduate program in the renal and liver transplant unit at the Princess Alexandra Hospital which is the biggest tertiary hospital in Australia. After the graduate program, I continued to work in the transplant unit. Over the years I continued to learn and expand my knowledge and skills.

Issues with NMBI

The woman faced problems in transferring over her nursing degree. Image credit: iStock.

The woman faced problems in transferring over her nursing degree. Image credit: iStock.

The application process for registration has been very stressful and frustrating.

The application comes in 5 sections. Section A was to be filled out by me, which I sent by registered post back in January. Once I knew they received it - I rang to check on it - I was told that once they signed for it, it takes 15 to 20 working days to process it. So, it sits there till then.

Next section was to be filled out by the university in Australia, costing me $315 to send my transcripts and course information to the NMBI. I had copies of everything myself but they wouldn’t accept it from me and it had to come directly from the university.

This took weeks and weeks to process. It was so slow.

Next step was that NMBI needed a copy of nursing registration from Aphra in Australia, which I had a copy of but again, NMBI wouldn’t accept it from me, needing it to be sent directly from Aphra which cost $50. Same process again once this was received, it would take another 15 to 20 working days to process it.

Read more: Top reasons to make the move to Ireland

Next step was for my boss to fill out employment reference form and yet again, I sent it by registered post and yet again, it took ages. Once they processed it, a representative sent me an email requesting that I should get my boss to confirm Part Form B employment reference form. This was in April, and the very same day my boss sent her an email confirming that he did send part form B to them {NMBI}.

Weeks passed, still no update. I rang NMBI to check if they received the email, no one could help me and they knew nothing about it. The girl on the phone from NMBI said because it came from the representative in assessment dept that they knew nothing about it because she had contacted me over email and didn’t update my file.

At this stage, five weeks had passed and I was getting so frustrated, I just kept ringing the NMBI and getting nowhere, until I made a complaint against the first representative. As the girl on the phone from NMBI said: “the email is probably sitting in her inbox and she never passed it on to be updated”.

Finally, after 7 weeks it was updated.

That same representative sent another email in July, requesting more information about the graduate program I had completed. I sent her several emails requesting what exactly she was looking for and received no reply. She wasn’t one bit helpful and never answered my emails. I had to ring the NMBI to find out what they were looking for, which still wasn’t helpful either.  

So yet again, I had to contact my boss and help him to figure out what exactly they were looking for. He sent a breakdown of clinical hours and theory hours, courses, simulations, which I completed in the 12 months of the grad program. NMBI wouldn’t accept the information by email and said it had to be sent by post. This took weeks to process yet again.

Over the whole process, it took nearly 9 months to finally get an answer from the NMBI that they are giving me two options:

  1. To complete an adaptation assessment course for 6 weeks in a hospital accredited by them.
  2. To do aptitude test at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin which costs €2,800 (around $3,340).

When I rang the NMBI to get more information about the decision letter, I was told that most people just pay the money and get it over and done with. NMBI sent a list of hospitals to ring to look for an adaptation course but it's outdated. The list had no contact numbers, just hospital names. My conclusion? It seems like they just want you to do the aptitude test and pay the €2,800. It’s all about money.

That is crazy money, after paying nearly $30,000 in getting a degree and not to have it be recognized in Ireland. Very stressful.

It wouldn’t encourage anyone to return home.

Battles with insurance made the journey home all the worse

Car insurance was another major issue for the couple moving home. Image credit: iStock.

Car insurance was another major issue for the couple moving home. Image credit: iStock.

After returning in April it has been an uphill battle dealing with the Irish system. So many issues between car insurance, social welfare office, banks, etc.

My husband got a quote of €6,500 ($7,700) for van insurance and finally got a cheaper quote for €2,500 (around $3,000).

I got a quote for a car insurance that was €3,500 (around $4,180) but luckily, I had a letter from Australia saying I’d had no claims bonus and got insurance for €860 ($1,027).

Dealing with banks was terrible. Before we left my husband was chatting to Bank of Ireland about their returning home package group and trying to organize a mortgage for an investment property. We were told that we need engineer reports and plans, which we obtained, and after getting them and paying €1,500 ($1,790) for the Bank of Ireland turned around and said can’t help you. Even though we paid off our mortgage, bought 20 acres of land and a site with full planning permission with house plans in the local town. Also having savings in the bank still didn’t matter.  

Even trying to set up a bank account was stressful for these returning Irish emigrants. Image credit: iStock.

Even trying to set up a bank account was stressful for these returning Irish emigrants. Image credit: iStock.

It took seven weeks to open a joint bank account, and there are still other issues. Too many to list.

Because we are out of the country for so long, I was told we wouldn’t be entitled to anything. I was told by the girl at the counter at the Social Welfare Office, that we were considered foreigners in our own country for the six months, even though we are Irish and born here.

Applying for a PPS number for our little one was painful, and they tried to tell me that  I didn’t need it till he starts school. But you need a PPS number for the GP card for child health benefits.

I finally got one for him and then applied for child benefit, but first had to show I had family connections here and give their names and PPS numbers, show proof that I plan to stay here, and show six months of bank statements from Australia. So much paperwork just to make sure my child can be healthy.

The move home has been expensive and stressful, we never realized how hard it was going to be.  

I wouldn’t encourage anyone to come back. Ireland seems so backward compared to Australia. Everything seems to be against us and it seems like we are being punished for having moved away.

Have you ever moved back to Ireland after an extended period living elsewhere? Did you encounter the same difficulties? Let us know of your experience in the comments section below.