I travelled to Ireland from America for the first time in 2009, and promptly fell under the magic spell of this beautiful country. I returned on holiday every year for the next three, never able to get enough.
After a year of research and planning, I made the decision to retire and move to Ireland. I sold my home and car and most of my possessions and away I went, landing in County Kerry, a place which captured my attention and imagination on my first visit to Ireland, a place where I first thought “Wow! I’d love to live here!”
I’ve enjoyed more than two and a half years living in County Kerry, chatting with friends and neighbors, going for walks, gardening, enjoying sunsets, sunrises and the ever-changing weather; writing about Ireland, listening to Irish traditional music in the pubs, and occasionally traveling around the country. I’m an American, but I feel so Irish; Ireland is now my home.
As anyone with a bit of common sense would do, before pulling up stakes in California I made every effort to ensure I was a good candidate for legal residence in Ireland, even making numerous attempts to contact someone at Irish Naturalization and Immigration Services (INIS) to further clarify Ireland’s immigration policies, policies which were vague and confusing and tended to differ depending on who you talked with.
But the bottom line was clear: an individual must have adequate funds to be financially independent. Non-EU citizens are not generally eligible to be employed in Ireland, so working there wasn’t an option. After carefully researching living costs and preparing a budget; I was confident my chances for obtaining permission to stay were excellent. In Ireland, I secured housing, opened a bank account, and arranged for my US Social Security monthly retirement benefits to be deposited into that bank account, and I purchased the private health insurance required by INIS.
I then sent a letter to INIS in Dublin requesting permission to remain as no actual application for that purpose exists, along with carefully organized and explained documents, everything I believed would be needed to grant the permission I was requesting.
Much to my shock and dismay, two months later I received a letter from INIS denying my application.
I was given two weeks to leave the country or face deportation. I appealed that decision. After getting a local senator involved, and complying with a request by INIS to take the previously submitted financial documents to an Irish accountant to have them “verified,” I won the appeal. (The accountant had never been asked for such a service, but looked at the documents and wrote a two-line letter saying they were legitimate – and that will be €100, please. Apparently, American bank statements are so vastly different than Irish bank statements INIS cannot interpret them, it takes an Irish accountant to do so. Not!)
In January 2014, INIS granted me Stamp “0” permission to stay for twelve more months. I paid the required €300 ($342) for the privilege of those twelve months. In January 2015, before the expiration date of my permission, I applied for renewal. Permission to remain is not granted for longer than twelve months, so if an individual wants to stay longer, they must re-apply.
This time it took until April 2015 for INIS to act. They granted the renewal, and when all documents were finalized, and I’d paid another €300 ($342), I had permission to remain until May 2016.
However, there was something different in this letter. Yes, I could stay another year, but I was told I was not eligible to apply for any further extension of time and the decision was not appealable.
Beginning in June 2015, I sent inquiries to INIS, wondering why I was not eligible for renewal when my income and expenses were unchanged and I’d certainly demonstrated I could support myself as I’d been doing so for nearly two years. What had changed? Why was I accepted the first two years, but no longer? I requested INIS reconsider their position and allow me to apply for another renewal.
This time, it took several follow-up letters and finally, in February 2016, INIS responded. Seems things had become rather more cut-and-dried. Ireland wants retired individuals to have an annual income of €50,000 ($57,000) – more than most Irish citizens have – as well as a lump sum sufficient to purchase property in Ireland.
Now I am to leave on the specified date in May 2016 and provide evidence of my departure or face deportation and/or possibly being barred from re-entering the country in the future, even as a tourist. The letter from INIS indicates fear I might become a burden to the State because of my lack of wealth.
One wonders about the simple fact that non-EU citizens such as myself are not eligible for any social welfare benefits or services. Why doesn’t Ireland not only want, but welcome with open arms, folks like me? I calculate that since September 2013 I’ve contributed roughly €45,000 ($52,000) to the Irish economy, money earned in the USA. I’ve been a responsible, respectful citizen and a goodwill ambassador for Ireland, hosting visitors from America and Canada, and Germany, writing blog posts about the glories of living in Ireland, answering numerous questions from folks wanting information about the country, and have recently self-published a memoir about my time in Ireland.
My view of Ireland has now changed and become slightly tainted. My feelings for the land I so loved will forever be bittersweet. I will leave Ireland much like a lover leaves a failed relationship: with a very heavy heart.
As I wrote in my last letter to INIS acknowledging their rejection of me and enclosing a copy of my plane ticket back to the States in May: “Perhaps I – and the other non-wealthy, non-EU persons of independent means Ireland has or will reject – will be remembered and seen in a more positive light when it finally dawns on someone with the power to change the immigration laws that it is folks like us Ireland needs as immigrants, individuals who are giving to the economy, and taking nothing.
“Maybe then it will also be figured out that one simple rule could cure the government’s fear of those folks ever becoming a burden to the State. Require those you don’t deem rich enough to live in Ireland to pay a deposit sufficient to cover the expense of deportation. Problem solved; everybody’s happy. The land of 100,000 welcomes could then truly live up to its name.”
*Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, V. J. Fadely is an American with Irish ancestry. She retired from her career as a legal secretary in 2013, and after just one adventure in Ireland, she fell in love with the country. Three years and three visits later, she sold nearly everything she owned and moved from the Southern California suburbs to a small town in County Kerry where she has lived since September 2013. Fadely has written a memoir based on her time in Ireland, Chickens in the Garden, Wellies by the Door: An American in Rural Ireland, available through Amazon.com or her e-store. She has also authored a small booklet, Irish Bits & Pieces, a compilation of tips, information, and photos for visitors to Ireland, and has written for Untours, a travel company specializing in European holidays, and for Irish Culture & Customs. Find her on Facebook.