Two separate online petitions are calling on the Department of Justice and Equality in Ireland to change the current requirements for American retirees wishing to relocate to Ireland. The pettions are for those whose ancestors are too far back to claim citizenship, or non-Irish Americans who want to live there
Following a review of immigration procedures in 2014, the Irish Naturalization and Immigration Service (INIS) announced in March 2015 that retirees from non-EEA countries who wish to move to Ireland must have an annual income of at least $55,138 (€50,000)—$110,276 (€100,000) annual income for couples in order to acquire a visa.
That figure is way above the average retirement income for Irish pensioners which currently stands at $6,248 (€5,625), according to a recent survey from Standard Life.
The new rules left many Americans who had dreamed of spending their retired years on the Emerald Isle disappointed as, no matter what their savings, the lack of such a high annual income left them ineligible to carry out their plans.
“We are just ordinary people just looking to be happy in our golden years. Why should anyone anywhere not have a dream of that?” Elthea Stiegman, who established one of the petitions, told IrishCentral.
“To me I am going home to take the place of my great-grandparents who had to leave Ireland during the famine in order to survive. I guess in a way it is my way to pay back my heritage and go to a place that I truly feel is home for me.”
Stiegman established the petition “Let Americans Retire in Ireland.” She had been planning to retire to Ireland since 2005, traveling there in 2013 to establish a bank account and prove to the Irish government that she was serious about the move.
Sending out letters to many American and Irish politicians including Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd, who acted to seek clarity from the government on it, and Ambassador Anne Anderson, who has been very helpful.
Her campaign grew, eventually leading to a second petition named “Help the Global Irish Retire to Ireland,” established by Kevin Callaghan under the account name Annie Moore, a reminder of the history of Irish immigration to the US.
Annie Moore was the name of the very first person to pass through the quarantine station in Ellis Island, New York on the day it opened in 1892.
The two petitions now aim at convincing the Irish Government to change these requirements and continue to allow the older generation of Americans to repopulate areas of Ireland they believe are calling out for population growth and investment.
“The new immigration rules for retirees are likely to put a further chill on investment in Ireland’s rural countryside at a time when Ireland can least afford it. Should Ireland ignore this opportunity to help the economies of these rural areas so much in need of investment?” Callaghan’s petition asks.
According to a statement made by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald on the issue just last week, however: “The key financial consideration in respect of a retiree is that the person must have sufficient and sustainable resources to ensure that they will not now, nor in the future become a burden on the State. This is a fair and reasonable expectation on the part of the State and, in the case of retirees, the income level was set at €50,000 per person per annum.
“The applicant would also be expected to have a lump sum significant enough to cater for unforeseen circumstances, for example, health care and possible nursing home care in the future.”
Callaghan disagrees, however, and believes that there are reasonable changes to be made to the current system that will not completely lock out Americans from retiring in Ireland. These changes include: a distinct, separate immigration category for such retirees, the publication of a document clearly outlining the requirements, a path to citizenship (may retirees currently live on a Stamp 0 visa and are required to re-apply each year), and a policy with lower income requirements that takes into account all financial assets.
“Ultimately, Ireland must decide if retirees make a positive contribution to the Irish economy,” he states.
After being contacted by the petitioners in the past few weeks, Fergus O’Dowd, TD, this week raised the issue in the Dáil (Irish parliament) with Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, asking the Minister to explain the recent change for retirees in terms of income requirement, the change from Stamp 3 to Stamp 0, and if the Minister would make an exception for Americans retiring to the country given the long history between Ireland and the US.
“All States, including Ireland, operate immigration controls for well established reasons of public policy, including consideration of the economic impacts for the State,” Minister Fitzgerald responded.
“I requested officials in the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) of my Department to review the current policy position regarding the migration of non-EEA retirees to Ireland. That review is underway. As part of the review process there will be a public consultation which will seek the views of stakeholders in relation to the review's recommendations.”
Despite the concerns shown by the Justice Minister that retirees would become a burden on the state, Stiegman believes they would be anything but.
“The restrictions are probably due to the immigration issues of the world,” she states, “but also the issue that Ireland might be scared of having us as a burden to their health services. Yet, as outsiders we cannot be a burden. We have to have health insurance of our own to stay. And we cannot become part of any government services you offer to the citizens in Ireland.
“The only argument I see for Ireland not wanting the older generation is fear of the cost of the health services and the long term care. Again, we cannot be a burden if we have our own health insurance as it is required. However, circumstances could prevail when we need extra help and that might be what the government is looking at, those times of the unexpected issues.”
Having already purchased a home in Co. Cork for his retirement in the future, Callaghan also emphasises his belief that he would not become a burden on the state, telling IrishCentral that if it came to his pension money running out or not being able to provide for himself while living in Ireland, he would be happy to leave for the US again as he would accept those conditions.
Both petitions currently stand between 100 and 200 signatures and await the opportunity to take part in the public consultation once it becomes available.
Petitions: “Let Americans Retire in Ireland.”