Ireland offers wealthy foreign nationals an opportunity to obtain Irish residency by making approved investments in the Irish economy. The Ireland Immigrant Investor Programme was established back in 2012 by the Irish government and was aimed at allowing non-EU nationals and their immediate family to obtain Irish residency by investing a substantial amount in an Irish enterprise or business, thereby creating new jobs for the locals and developing the country’s economy. Even though this programme doesn’t offer permanent residence to the investors – if all the appropriate conditions are met – the residency permission is extended after every few years, and that goes for an indefinite period. What’s more, the programme doesn’t grant citizenship officially by investment, but the long-term residency in the country will be super helpful when applying for Irish citizenship under the naturalisation rules. Those deemed to be eligible for this programme get the Ireland Investment Visa, also known as a “Golden Visa.”
Why you should consider Ireland as your investment destination?
Ireland has been the fastest-growing economy in Europe on multiple occasions in the last couple of years and it is the 6th best performing, globally. The country is highly open to foreign capital and it has the reputation of protecting investor funds. And unlike other European countries, offering the golden Visa, and driven by only two or three industries. There is a myriad of industries that drives the Irish economy forward, including alcoholic beverages, aircraft rental, medical technologies, pharmaceutics, IT, engineering, among many others. What’s more, the presence of top-notch schools and universities in Ireland means that the country has the youngest and best-educated workforce in Europe.
Also, do we need to mention that its citizens live a high-quality lifestyle and that they are much happier than the Germans, French, and even the Americans? Well, they are! Ireland has breathtaking landscapes and some of the friendliest people in the world, which comes as a bonus to investors. The tax rate is as low as 12.5%, and 6.25% for IT companies. You won’t find such tax rates anywhere else in Europe. So, don’t be surprised when you see Ireland’s residence by investment programme become so popular and the most sought after in Europe. So, if you are super eager to reap all these benefits and fit its residence – and potentially citizenship – into their Nomad Capitalist offshore strategy, Ireland is the place to be.
Available investment options
So, are you interested in becoming an Irish resident? If so, you will need to choose the investment route to take. Please note that only the investments that will be officially approved by the Irish Immigrant Investor Programme will qualify you and your family for residence in Ireland. So, which are the permissible investments under the programme? They are categorised into four options, which are as follows:
Enterprise / Business investment
Under this option, the applicant must invest a minimum of EUR 1 million into a qualifying enterprise in Ireland for at least 3 years. It can be a new business started by the investor or an already established business. You will be required to register the enterprise in Ireland and has to head-quartered in the country just in case you decide to expand it to other nations. The enterprise must also be able to create jobs for the locals and also contribute to the nation’s economic growth.
Prospective immigrants are required to register the business investment in their own names, and not in the name of a trust or corporation. What’s more, they are not allowed to purchase publicly traded shares or real estate, intending to rent to tenants, under this option. If you are proposing a large investment that involves a number of partners, all of whom are applying to this programme, then all the partners have to qualify under the programme independently first. If you feel that you would like to invest in multiple qualifying businesses in the country, it is very possible. You will just need to make sure that the total investment meets the EUR 1 million requirement.
Approved investment fund
For this one, the applicant is required to invest at least EUR 1 million into a qualifying investment fund for a minimum of three years. This fund has to be pre-approved by the immigration office and must be private equity or a venture capital fund mostly focused on SMEs. What’s more, you have to have a minimum target of EUR 20 million on the fund for it to be approved. Any local investment by the fund can only be used to buy equity stakes in registered companies whose shares aren’t publicly traded. In order to ensure that the investor is conducting his business within the jurisdiction, the fund plus the fund managers must be subject to regulation by Ireland’s Central Bank. Under this option, only the funds that are being managed by a fund manager in Ireland are eligible.
For all the investors looking to move to Ireland, they are presented with a pre-approved list of funds. Now, the funds on this list are pre-approved, not based on their potential to generate profits for the investor, but on their potential to create jobs for the locals. However, whether it has been pre-approved or not, INIS doesn’t have the capacity, expertise, or authority to recommend any particular fund. Consequently, INIS doesn’t have a guarantee of how any fund will perform. But you can consult your Irish Immigration lawyer on which fund to choose. Given their knowledge and experience, their advice will certainly be invaluable.
Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)
Under this option, the candidate must invest in an Irish REIT. Basically, a REIT is a listed company that holds rental property in a manner that not only mitigates investor’s risks but also avoids double taxation. It is a lower-risk property investment model where your money is invested in a diversified pool of properties, thereby reducing your exposure to negative equity risks. In addition, REITs give you – the investor – a steady annual income as they are required to distribute most of their profits.
For you to qualify under this option, candidates must invest at least EUR 2 million in an Irish REIT that’s listed on the Irish Stock Exchange – or have applied for listing and have been given notice of the same – for a minimum period of 3 years. The investors are required to maintain the initial number of shares they purchased for the first three years, regardless of whether their value rises above the 2 million euros requirement or not. After that, the investor may divest a maximum of 50 percent of the shares. A year later, he or she may divest an additional 25 percent, and on the fifth year from the initial date of purchase, he/she may fully divest.
Now, at the time of the application, the investor is not required to identify the specific REIT, he/she intends to invest in so as not to disrupt the natural order of the market. In fact, any REIT that a foreign investor invests in before getting the go-ahead from Immigration Ireland will not count under this option.
Endowment (Donation Option)
Under this option, the applicant must donate a minimum of EUR 500,000 to a registered philanthropic project in sports, health, arts, culture, or education in Ireland. If in a group of at least 5 investors, each of the investors will be required to invest a minimum of EUR 400,000, which all goes to a single project. Given that this is merely a donation of philanthropic nature, you won’t receive any financial return or recoupment on your contribution. Given that this option doesn’t require an investment, you are not limited when it comes to the holding period.
Who is eligible for the Irish Investment Visa?
Obtaining a Golden Visa through the Immigrant Investor Programme is the only route towards citizenship through investments that’s currently available in Ireland. Now, for you to be eligible for this particular visa:
- You must have accumulated a minimum net worth of EUR 2 million, and have done so legally.
- Must be of good character and have no criminal convictions anywhere in the world
- And before the visa is granted, you will have to prove and provide evidence to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) that you have made an adequate investment in the country in accordance with the rules of the programme.
Golden Visa supporting documentation
Documents for Enterprise Investment Option – you will need a comprehensive business plan that outlines the details of the financial investment you are about to make. The plan needs to explain how the business will create and maintain jobs in Ireland. You can get a template plan on the INIS website. And if you are investing in an already existing enterprise, whether Irish or non-Irish being relocated to Ireland, the applicants must provide recent audited accounts of the business.
Documents for REIT option – soon after your application has been approved by the Justice Minister, you will be required to submit a share certificate as well as a letter from your broker, stating the number of REIT shares bought, share price, purchase date, as well as the total investment amount. Unless you submit these documents, you won’t be granted a residence permit.
Documents for the endowment option – you need to provide a detailed statement describing how the donated funds are to be used to benefit the public. You can use the business plan template on the INIS website for this purpose.
In addition to the above track-specific documentation, the following supporting documents are also required for all golden visa applications.
Evidence of net-worth
Under the ‘Golden Visa’ programme, net-worth is one of the most crucial aspects, and a candidate must provide a detailed explanation of their financial activity over the last year or so. And here is how you do it:
- Proof of investments
- Nature of your investment
- Amount invested
- Percentage of acquired equity in any company
- Shareholders name together with their equity percentages
- Source of the funds to be invested
- The registered capital of the business after the investment
- Amounts of any personal investments, share ownership, and any other securities, and any income obtained.
- Proof of income
- You will need to provide any document/evidence that shows your income. Could be earned income, job title, monthly payslips, any inheritance or gifts received.
- Proof of loans
- If there are any loans, you are required to show the amounts and their repayments dates.
Evidence of good character
Ireland is a reputable and safe country that’s only interested in attracting foreign investors with upstanding and well-respected personalities and characters. So, as proof of this, you will have to present the following documents to the Irish Immigration officials:
- Certificate of good conduct issued recently. And if you are bringing family members who are 16 and above to Ireland with you, they must also present such certificates.
- Due diligence statement from a reputable international risk management organisation.
Evidence of availability of funds
For your ‘Golden Visa’ application to be approved, you must prove and supply evidence of the existence of funds to be invested in the country. It can be one of the following documents:
- A letter from a financial institution regulated by CBI (central bank of Ireland)
- If the funds are not in Ireland, provide bank statements to your bank. Ensure that the amount that shows on the account has been available for 3 months before the date of application.
- You can also bring a letter from your bank, dated no more than a month before the Irish Investment Visa application date. This letter confirms the investor’s name, the account balance, proof that the bank is regulated by a certified regulatory authority, as well as the relevant dates.
Moreover, you will be required to prove the source of the funds to be invested, which may fall under one of these categories; deeds of sale, business and/or investment activities, inheritance, and/or divorce settlements. You will need to provide original documents as evidence. Remember, funds from loans don’t count.
Lastly, Ireland Investor Visa applicants have to prove that funds are transferrable and can be converted into euros (if in another currency). The proof has to be submitted in form of a letter from their bank confirming this information.
Proof of relationship with accompanying family members
For a family member to be included under the Ireland investment visa application, the applicant must provide evidence, proving their relationship.
Children – children under the age of 18 years can be included in the application and as long as the applicant has legal guardianship over them, they will be issued EU residency by investment. For those aged 18 to 24, and are completely dependent on the applicant, financially, they will be considered for an Irish residence permit, provided that they are not married and have no civil or common-law partner.
Spouse – a spouse, a common-law partner, or a civil partner is also considered in a golden visa application in Ireland. But evidence of the marriage/partnership has to be produced first, either a marriage certificate or civil partnership certificate. And in the case of a common-law partner, the applicant has to provide evidence of cohabitation of at least two continuous years prior to the date of the application to prove the legitimacy of the relationship.
The step-by-step golden visa application guide
Once you are certain that you are eligible and have all the supporting documents, here is how you will actually obtain Irish residency and retain it;
- Submit your application
After ascertaining your eligibility for Irish residency by investment, the next step is to actually fill out and submit your application. This step involves a lot of paperwork, as it’s where you have to provide proof of net worth, source of the funds as well as proof of good character to the immigration officials. The application fee is EUR 1500, and it’s non-refundable. It, however, covers not just the main applicant, but also all the family members (if applicable). Given that there is a lot that needs to be done in this step and a lot of paperwork that you will need to sort out, it is recommended that you seek assistance from an immigration lawyer.
- Get approved
The approval process takes a little bit more time, around three months or so. Your application is decided upon based on the following factors;
- Your personal profile
- The number of jobs likely to be created
- The proposed commercial viability of the project.
- Its impact on the Irish economy
The delay in this step could be due to everything the evaluation committee has to do when considering your application, including asking for further information or clarifications that they deem necessary to make a decision. Your immigration lawyer will inform you about all this, and might even show you a few ways in which you can speed up the process a bit. If your application is rejected, you should know that the decision can’t be appealed, and all you are left to do is to make another application at a later date.
- Invest and become a resident
If your application is approved, you will receive a pre-approval letter, which gives you the go-ahead signal that you can proceed to make your investment. You are required to make your investment within a 90-day time frame, and then submit the proof that you’ve invested the minimum amount that’s required. You may be asked for an Affidavit of good character for both you and your family members in Ireland. Once everything is in order and has been approved, you and your family will be granted a 2-year residency, which is of course renewable every time. This status allows you not only to live and work, but also to study, and own a business in Ireland.
- Extending your residence
Under the Irish Golden Visa, the investor doesn’t have to live in Ireland. However, you are required to travel into the country at least once a year for you to retain your residence status. Once the first two years of residence are up, you will be needed to apply for an extension of the permit. After the renewal, the permit will be issued for 3 years. Please note that the fact that your business turns out to be successful doesn’t mean that your permit will automatically be renewed, you will need to renew it manually, and must also maintain your financial stability as well as your good character.
Also, you are required to be in possession of your investment, and you will only be allowed to divest after five years and still maintain your residence. You can keep renewing your residence permit indefinitely, on the road towards Irish citizenship someday.
- Naturalised Irish citizenship
Even though the Ireland immigrant investor programme is technically a residence programme, the investor becomes eligible to apply for Irish citizenship after five years. According to the law in Ireland, an applicant applying for citizenship must be present physically and a tax resident in the country for a year before lodging the application. Plus, they must be present in Ireland for four of the preceding eight years. So, as an investor, if you manage to remain in the country for all this period, you will be able to obtain citizenship, not only for yourself, but for your family as well. And after that, you will have access to almost 180 countries, visa-free. Just make sure that after you get citizenship, you don’t spend too much time outside the country without notifying the relevant agencies, otherwise, your citizenship risks being revoked.
Comparing Immigrant Investor Programmes
The Golden Visa programme is not only offered in Ireland, but it’s also offered in countries like the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and Australia. But even with the net-worth requirement, the actual cost for the programme in Ireland is actually very reasonable. If you make the right investment, you stand to gain so much, in terms of money, residency, and most importantly citizenship, which gives you access to other European countries. With the Brexit effects still being felt across Europe, most investors are opting for Ireland’s Golden Visa instead of the UK Tier 1 Investor Visa. Just the fact that Ireland is a crucial part of the European Union and doesn’t have any plans of leaving anytime soon is inviting many foreign investors. Irish investor citizenship may not be instant, but the nation’s reputation, stability, and growing economy make it remarkably attractive.
Ireland Immigrant Investor visa application can be complex, which is why it is highly recommended that you hire immigration lawyers to help you with your application. With our knowledge and experience, the application process will be much smoother and more efficient.