Are you a visionary entrepreneur eager to tap into Ireland’s thriving ecosystem and set up your venture? Or perhaps you represent a multinational corporation aspiring to establish a strategic foothold in Europe? Whatever your aspirations may be, the Irish Business Visa Program offers a transformative pathway that could lead to boundless growth and prosperity. This visa allows foreign nationals to come into the country for business purposes. And as such, there are two types of business visas available; the Start-up Entrepreneur Program (STEP) and the Short Stay Business Visa. This guide will tell you more about these visas, their requirements, and how to apply for them. We will also include anything else you may need to know about them. So read to the end and learn more:
The Start-up Entrepreneur Program (STEP)
The Irish Government introduced the Start-up Entrepreneur Program (STEP) in 2012, allowing inventive entrepreneurs to seek permission to establish businesses and live in Ireland full-time. For one to be eligible for this visa, you must have:
- A good character
- An innovative business idea that you plan to establish in the country
- No criminal conviction in any jurisdiction
- A minimum business funding of 50,000 pounds. In cases with more than one business owner, the main owner will have to contribute 50,000 pounds, while others must have 30,000 pounds each.
As for the business ventures, they only qualify if:
- It is a new or innovative product or service targeting the global market,
- It is within the manufacturing or internationally traded services industries,
- It has the potential to generate a minimum of 10 job opportunities for Irish citizens,
- It’s capable of achieving €1 million in sales within three to four years of its introduction,
- A proficient and skilled team leads it,
- It establishes its headquarters and operations in Ireland,
- It was established no more than five years ago,
- It is not intended for retail, catering, personal services, or similar sectors.
What are the conditions of the STEP?
To qualify for the business visa in Ireland under the Start-up Entrepreneur Program (STEP), you must fulfill the following conditions:
- Establish the Business as Specified: The business you plan to set up in Ireland should align with the details and proposals outlined in your visa application. The Irish authorities expect you to follow through with the business plan you presented during the application process.
- Devote Full-Time Efforts to Running the Business: As an entrepreneur granted a business visa under the STEP, the authorities expect to focus entirely on developing and managing your business.
- Refrain from Employment with Other Irish Companies: The Irish Government aims to promote new businesses and job creation through the STEP. Therefore, you are not allowed to hold any other employment within Irish companies while on this visa. Your primary responsibility should be to build and grow your established business.
- Be Self-Sufficient and Not Rely on Public Services: The visa holder should have adequate financial means to sustain themselves and their business without relying on public services or social benefits from the Irish government.
- Maintain a Clean Criminal Record: Applicants for the STEP visa must demonstrate a clean criminal record in any country where they have resided. A history of serious criminal offenses may affect the application’s success.
It is essential to abide by all the visa conditions for the duration of your stay in Ireland. Failure to meet these conditions could lead to the withdrawal of your residency status under the STEP program, potentially resulting in the termination of your business operations in Ireland.
Documents required for the STEP visa
When applying for the STEP, you will need the following documents:
- Business proposal
- Complete application form
- Two-colored passport-sized photographs
- A valid passport, plus those of your dependents if you are bringing them to Ireland
- Proof of business funds, plus evidence that you can transfer them at any time
- Evidence of personal finance
- Recent audited accounts of the business
- The visa fee, which can be in the form of a bankers draft, postal order, or electronic fund transfer to the Justice Department
- Proof of good character both for you and your dependents
How do you apply for the STEP?
When applying for the STEP visa, there are several steps you will have to go through. They include the following:
Application Process – to apply for the STEP, candidates need to prepare their application forms, comprehensive business proposals, and all relevant supporting documentation. These documents are then submitted via email to the Evaluation Committee. The committee reviews the applications to assess their viability, innovation, and potential contribution to the Irish economy.
Business Funds Transfer – before applying for residency, approved candidates are required to transfer €50,000 to a business bank account in Ireland. This then becomes the investment in the proposed business and demonstrates the applicant’s commitment to establishing and developing their venture in Ireland. Providing proof of this fund transfer in the residency application enhances the likelihood of being granted residence permission substantially.
Invitation for Residency Permission – Successful applicants with business proposals deemed promising and meeting the program’s criteria will receive an invitation to apply for Residency Permission under the STEP. This permission allows them to reside and work in Ireland for a specified duration.
Residency Permission – applicants can proceed with their residency application after transferring the required business funds. If their application is approved, they will be granted permission to reside and work in Ireland for two years, along with a multiple-entry visa. This duration allows the entrepreneur to focus on growing their business and positively affecting the Irish economy.
Private Medical Insurance – as part of the STEP conditions, beneficiaries must have private medical insurance coverage during their stay in Ireland. Doing this ensures they have access to necessary healthcare services and do not rely on public healthcare resources.
Family Accompaniment – successful applicants under the STEP can bring their partner and dependent children to Ireland. This allows families to experience Ireland together and enjoy the benefits of living in a vibrant and culturally diverse environment.
The short-stay business visa in Ireland
A short-stay business visa allows one to travel to the country for up to 90 days for business-related reasons or work that lasts 14 days or less. This, however, is subject to several conditions as described below:
If you have a short-stay business visa for Ireland, you must complete your work within the country within a continuous 14-day period, and you cannot have multiple work periods interrupted by breaks. Working more than once within 90 days is also not allowed. Additionally, you cannot frequently visit or reside in Ireland using this visa. If your work requires more than 14 days or you need to work more than once in the 90 days, you should apply for STEP or the Atypical Working Scheme.
It is essential to adhere to the 90-day limit for each visit to Ireland unless you have exceptional circumstances and receive approval to extend your stay. While multi-entry visas are available, you cannot return to Ireland for work purposes if you have already worked during the same 90-day period. Furthermore, holders of this business visa are not entitled to access public services, including public hospitals, during their stay.
Short-stay visas based on the number of entries
There are two types of short-stay entry visas, which are:
Single-Entry Short-Stay Visa – a single-entry visa allows the holder to enter Ireland only once during the visa’s validity period. Once you enter Ireland with a single-entry visa, you cannot leave and re-enter the country using the same visa. If you exit Ireland, the visa becomes invalid, and you must apply for a new visa if you wish to return.
Multiple-entry visa – this visa category enables unlimited entries and exits from Ireland within the visa’s validity period. It is typically granted to individuals with a history of previous visas or who frequently need short-term visits, such as attending business meetings. However, it is important to note that even if you apply for a multiple-entry visa, the visa officers have the discretion to issue a single-entry visa if they believe you do not meet the necessary criteria.
Eligibility criteria for the visa
Before initiating the visa application process, it is crucial to confirm your eligibility for the visa.
Visa requirements – citizens from the European Union and certain non-visa-required countries can travel to Ireland without obtaining a visa beforehand. However, nationals from countries that require a visa must apply for one from the Irish embassy or consulate in their home country. It is essential to complete the visa application accurately and provide all necessary supporting documents before traveling into the country.
Permissible business activities – to qualify for the short-stay business visa, your planned activities in Ireland must align with the permitted categories. The Irish government is specific about this aspect to ensure visa holders engage in legitimate business endeavors.
Financial requirements – for starters, sufficient financial means to support yourself while in Ireland are a prerequisite set by the Irish government. Although there is no set minimum amount, the visa officer will assess whether you possess adequate funds for your stay. Your bank statement can serve as evidence of your financial capacity. If your accommodation or a business host is covering your expenses during the trip, it is advisable to include a letter detailing the costs they will be responsible for, denominated in Euros.
Intent to depart – lastly, you must demonstrate that you have definite plans to depart Ireland upon completing your trip. This can be proven through evidence of your business or work commitments, property ownership, or dependent family members in your home country.
Required documents during the application process
When applying for a short-stay visa, there are several documents that you will need. They include:
- An application letter that includes your personal and travel details, details of any family members, and a promise to obey the visa conditions, not rely on public services, and leave the country before your permission expires.
- A valid passport
- Travel or medical insurance
- Detailed invitation letter from your Irish host
- Confirmation of accommodation
- A letter outlining your travel plans, indicating your transit through a different country, and explaining the purpose of your business trip to Ireland.
- If you are a resident of a foreign country and not a citizen, you should include a copy of your residence card from that country (if applicable).
- Two passport-sized photographs of yourself, as per the specified requirements.
- Proof of sufficient funds to support you and your family during your stay in Ireland that can be provided through bank statements or other relevant financial documents.
- Evidence indicating your intent to leave Ireland at the end of your business trip, such as pay slips, recent tax returns, or a letter from your employer on their letterhead, confirming details of your business trip and providing their contact information.
How to apply for the short-stay business visa
Here is a step-by-step process on how you can apply for this visa:
Application questionnaire – at the beginning of the visa application process, you will be presented with a series of questions that you must answer truthfully and accurately to ensure a smooth application process. Once you are done with the application questionnaire, you will be directed to a summary page. This page will contain essential details, including a unique application transaction number, a summary sheet summarizing the information provided, and the specific application office where you must submit your documents.
Signing and submitting the summary sheet – after reviewing the application summary sheet, you are required to print it, sign it, and include the date of the application. This serves as a confirmation of the information you have provided and your consent for the visa application. In addition to the signed summary sheet, you must gather all the necessary supporting documents, including your passport, photographs, financial proof, and any other documents specified by the application requirements.
Review process – once you have submitted your application and all the required documents, the Department of Justice and Equality will carefully review your submission. They will assess whether you meet the eligibility criteria for the business visa. Sometimes, the reviewing authority may need to contact international, other government, or Irish government agencies to verify information or obtain additional details relevant to your application.
Decision letter – Following the thorough review process, the Department of Justice and Equality will decide on your business visa application. They will send you a decision letter informing you of the outcome. If your application is approved, the decision letter will contain instructions on how to proceed with obtaining the visa, and if not, the letter may provide reasons for the refusal and outline potential options or remedies.
For applicants who are 18 years or younger, their parent or legal guardian must handle the application process. They are also responsible for submitting supporting documents like the applicant’s birth certificate and a consent letter written by the parent or legal guardian.
What are the costs for the business visa applications?
The application fee for the Start-up Entrepreneur Program is €350, which includes the principal visa applicant and all accompanying dependent family members.
When making the payment, foreign nationals have two options:
- Electronic Fund Transfer: The fee can be paid electronically to the Department of Justice and Equality’s account at the Bank of Ireland. The reference should include the applicant’s passport number when making the transfer.
- Postal Order or Banker’s Draft: Alternatively, applicants can pay using a postal order or banker’s draft made payable to the Secretary-General of the Department of Justice & Equality.
As for the short-stay business visa, the processing fee varies depending on whether it is a single-entry or multiple-entry visa.
A Single entry Short stay ‘C’ Business visa costs 60 pounds, while a multiple-entry Short stay ‘C’ Business visa costs €100. Please note that additional consular fees and other charges may apply, and these can vary among different consular offices.
Certain countries’ citizens are exempt from paying visa fees altogether. The list of countries includes Bosnia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Peru, Indonesia, Uganda, Jamaica, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Kyrgyzstan, Zambia, Montenegro, Morocco, Serbia, Sri Lanka, and Tunisia. Applicants from these countries do not need to pay visa fees for their short-stay business visa application to Ireland.
What about the processing time for the visas
The STEP visa process may take several weeks from the initial submission of your application until you receive a decision on whether you are invited to apply for residence. On the other hand, the application for residence is processed much more quickly. If your residence application is approved, you will be issued an Irish visa valid for two years, allowing you to travel and reside in the country during that period. However, in the event of rejection, you will be notified through a letter of refusal from the Irish Naturalization and Immigration Service explaining the reasons for the refusal.
It is essential to note that for STEP applications, there is no option to request a review or appeal if your application is rejected. The decisions made regarding STEP applications are considered final. Nevertheless, you can re-apply if you wish to do so after receiving a refusal.
As for short-stay business visa applications, they are processed within a timeframe of approximately eight weeks. If your business visa application is approved, your passport will be stamped with the visa, and all original documents that were submitted during the application process, such as birth or death certificates, will be returned to you. Additionally, upon request, other supporting documents can also be returned to you.
In the unfortunate event of your business visa application being denied, you will receive your original documents and a refusal letter outlining the reasons for the rejection. The good news is that you have the option to appeal the denial at no additional cost. To proceed with an appeal, you must submit it within two months from the date stated on the refusal letter.
Frequently asked questions
Does an Irish business visa allow me to enter Ireland automatically?
Possessing an Irish business visa does not guarantee automatic entry into Ireland. The visa solely permits you to travel to the country, but entry clearance is determined by the border control officials at the port of entry. They will assess your documents and responses to their inquiries before granting you entry. Upon arriving at a port of entry, you are required to present specific documents, including your passport with the business visa, evidence of your planned activities in Ireland, and financial information to the immigration officials. They will conduct an interview and may ask you questions related to your visit. If the immigration officer is satisfied with your documentation and responses, they will stamp your passport, granting you official permission to enter Ireland and specifying the duration of your permitted stay. However, if the immigration officer is not satisfied, you will be refused entry into the country. It is crucial to have all necessary documents ready and be prepared to answer questions truthfully to ensure a smooth entry process.
How Many Times Can I Visit Ireland with a Business Visa?
If you are granted a single-entry Ireland Business Visa, you are permitted to enter the country only once. Once you leave, you cannot re-enter, even if you have unused days remaining on your visa. On the other hand, with a multiple-entry Ireland Business Visa, you have the flexibility to enter and leave the country multiple times as long as your visa remains valid. This type of visa is typically granted for specific circumstances, such as frequent business travel for attending meetings or if you have a history of holding Ireland visas in the past.
It is important to note that the decision to grant a multiple-entry visa is at the discretion of the officers handling your Ireland business visa application. Even if you request a multiple-entry visa, they may choose to issue a single-entry visa based on their assessment of your application.
Can I Extend my Ireland Business Visa?
In general, extensions for Ireland business visas (and other short-stay visas) are not typically granted, except in exceptional circumstances, such as situations involving illness. The decision to allow an extension is at the discretion of the Irish Naturalization & Immigration Service, and each case is evaluated individually.
In conclusion, Ireland’s Business Visa Program opens doors to endless opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors. With a thriving economy, supportive policies, and a vibrant culture, Ireland offers a promising landscape for global business ventures. Embrace this chance to join a nation that celebrates innovation and diversity, and let Ireland be the launchpad for your entrepreneurial dreams. Welcome to a world of possibilities!