The Irish Start-up Entrepreneur Visa Programme was introduced by the Irish Government in the year 2012, basically to give investors with innovative business plans to try them in Ireland and also for them to get an opportunity to secure residency status in the country. In doing this, the government hoped to stimulate productive investment in Ireland and to also offer residency, with all its benefits, to dynamic business investors with a proven track record. The residency status extends even to close family members of the investors, including the spouse/partner, and their children who are under the age of 18. As long as the applicant fulfils the criteria for the residence status required under the program, then the status will automatically apply to the family members. This guide explores this visa program in detail, and we will tell you if you are eligible and most importantly, how to apply for the programme.
Why start-up in Ireland?
First of all, not only is the country one of the most open economies in Europe, but it also offers an investor-friendly environment, where start-ups could easily thrive. Being an open economy, the country greatly benefits from the boom in global trade, while at the same time adapting to the changing market conditions. Now, since Ireland started encouraging Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in the country, many cutting-edge investments have been made, putting it on an almost equal footing as the US and other European and Asian major economies that have traditionally received major foreign investments. As a result, Ireland has been transformed into an investment hub. It is enriched by many sources of support for investors, both financially and non-financially. You will have access to a young, vibrant and highly educated, and skilled workforce at your disposal, ready to help you take your business venture to the next level. It is this educated workforce that has really transformed Ireland into the dynamic, knowledge-based economy it is today.
Moreover, the presence of Enterprise Ireland (EI) that is responsible for the growth and development of Irish enterprises, also plays a big role in why Ireland is such an attractive business destination. Working in partnership with all enterprises in Ireland, EI not only helps them to start but also grow, innovate and most importantly, succeed on the global front.
Start-ups that qualify for Irish Visa Programme
First and foremost, for you to be allowed to apply under Start-up Visa Programme, you are required to have access to 50,000 EUR in funding. If you have other partners with whom you are collaborating in the business, the partners are required to prove access to an additional 30,000 EUR each. Remember also, that the proposal you are presenting must be for a high-potential start-up that will contribute to the economic growth in the country.
Of course not all start-ups qualify for the Irish Entrepreneur Visa. So, for a start-up to be eligible, it must meet the following requirements:
- – Must be headquartered in Ireland;
- – Must introduce an innovative or new business plan competitive enough for the international markets;
- – If you are relocating an already existing business, it must be less than 6 years old at the time of application;
- – Must have the potential to create a minimum of 10 jobs in Ireland within 4 years;
- – The business must generate at least one million euros within 4 years, and;
- – Must also be led by experienced managers.
Funding the start-up
As we mentioned above, any entrepreneur looking to start or relocate a business to Ireland must have access to 50,000 EUR, which they will use to fund the business. Now, this money may come from any of the following sources:
- – Your personal savings;
- – A business loan;
- – Venture capital funding;
- – A grant from the Irish government.
If your money is in an Irish bank, you must provide evidence – a letter – of their availability from the bank. But if the funds are outside Ireland, probably in a bank in your home country, what you need to obtain is a letter from that bank stating that the funds are transferable and can be converted into Euros at any time. Remember, if that’s the case, the money needs to be held in that account for at least 3 months prior to the date of the letter. The letter itself must be dated within 1 month prior to your application. Even the bank statements should be dated no longer than 1 month to the date of your application.
If the funds are from a loan, venture capital firm, a state agency, or an investor, you must provide evidence that from each source of the funds, confirming the availability of the funds and that the money will be used for the proposed start-up.
What documents do you need?
When applying for an Irish Start-up Entrepreneur Visa, you will be required to provide the following documents:
- – Proof of comprehensive health insurance;
- – Passport-sized photographs;
- – Original and photocopy of your passport’
- – Original police clearance certificate;
- – Proof of availability of funds for the start-up. If the money is not in Ireland, you have to prove that it can be transferred to the country whenever needed;
- – If it is business relocation, you will need to provide the most recent audited accounts;
- – A business plan.
How to apply for Ireland Start-up Visa?
If you have 50,000 EUR, all the necessary documents, and have come up with a high-potential start-up business plan, then you can proceed to apply for your visa. Here is a step-by-step process on how to go about it:
Step 1: Fill a Start-up Entrepreneurship Programme form. You can get these forms either online or in an Irish embassy in your country.
Step 2: Submit the application form, alongside the business plan, as well as all the other supporting documents to the evaluation committee. The committee will then consider the application and the business proposals therein and will seek further information from you if need be. It should be noted that the committee only engages with the candidate, and the nominated legal or financial representative. Thereafter, the Evaluation Committee will inform the Minister for Justice whether or not your proposal is acceptable under the Entrepreneurship programme.
One thing should be clear, the mere fact that you have met the financial condition required doesn’t mean that you will be guaranteed of approval. As we stated earlier, you will need to convince the committee that the proposal is genuinely creative and innovative, and has maximum export potential. Remember, the main intent of the Entrepreneurship program is to facilitate start-ups that have the highest potential of succeeding. So, applications on small and medium enterprises in areas such as hospitality or retail won’t be appropriate under this program. This is because such businesses are in plenty in the country, and the probability of such a business succeeding will be very slim.
Step 3: if your application is approved, you will be requested to transfer the start-up funds to Ireland, if it’s not in the country, and you will also need to provide a certificate of good character both for you as well as your family.
Step 4: if everything is in order, you will receive your residence permit, which will allow you and your family to live in Ireland for 2 years. The residence permit can be extended, but for that to happen:
- – The start-up must remain in place;
- – It must pass a viability assessment by the evaluation committee;
- – You must maintain a good character;
- – You must maintain your private medical insurance;
- – You must also not have recourse to public funds.
Once you meet these requirements, your permit will be extended for a further 3 years. After that, the permit can be renewed in 5-year instalments.
Moreover, after 9 years in the country, you will be able now to apply for citizenship. But to be approved, you must:
- – Have been in the country for a period of 12 months continuously immediately prior to your citizenship application;
- – Have been in the country for 5 years in the last 8 years. This means that you spent 1460 days in Ireland in the last 8 years.
Any applications under the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme must be accompanied by a 350 EUR application fee, which is payable to the Department of Justice. The fee covers you and the family members who will be living with you in Ireland. Please note that the application is not refundable in the event of unsuccessful applications.
Irish tax regime
One of the reasons that make Ireland such a great destination for your start-up is its tax regime. It’s actually one of the most generous tax regimes in Europe. Here are some of the key features:
- – A 12.5% corporate tax for active businesses;
- – An R&D tax credit of 25% which is refunded after 3 years;
- – IP regime that writes off tax for broadly defined IP acquisitions;
- – An attractive holding company regime, where disposal of shares in subsidiaries is exempted from capital gains tax;
- – Zero tax rate for foreign dividends – 12.5% tax rate on qualifying foreign dividends that comes with flexible onshore pooling for foreign tax credits;
- – A stable tax regime that’s approved by the EU with access to extensive treaty directives;
- – And lastly, generous exemptions on withholding tax.
Withdrawal or loss of status
Your residency status under the Start-Up Entrepreneur Programme shall be withdrawn, both from you and your family members, if:
- – The acquisition of the status was fraudulent in the first place;
- – The status holder is the subject of a deportation order;
- – The status holder is being convicted of a serious criminal offense.
What’s more, given that many start-up ventures do fail, in the event that yours fails, your residence status will be subject to review and you might need to seek permission to remain in the country on a different basis. This could be a further application under the entrepreneur programme, or an application for a green card or an employment permit. Remember though that such applications will be subjected to the immigration rules that are in place at that particular time.
Once you submit your application to the Evaluation Committee, two things can happen, they could either approve your application, or they might reject it. Rejection could be because you haven’t met the needed requirements. When that happens, the decision is not subject to review or appeal. However, this doesn’t stop you from making a new application at a later date. When your application is rejected, the Immigration Service will communicate the reasons for the rejection in writing.
For more information about the Start-Up Entrepreneur Visa Programme in Ireland, you can get in touch with our immigration solicitors today. We will discuss ways in which we can help you with your application for the residence permit, which will certainly increase your chances of getting approval.