Help the Global Irish Retire to Ireland

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Ireland has for many generations been a draw for foreign visitation.  The great beauty of the country and the warmth of its people make it not only a great tourist destination but also a desirable place to live, especially for those of the Irish Diaspora which numbers in the broadest terms more than 70 million people worldwide.  According to Article 2 of the Irish Constitution: “The Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.”

It is entirely sensible for any nation to control its borders and the flow of people crossing into and through it.  Current immigration policies in Ireland do not grant non-EU nationals the absolute right to live in Ireland.  This policy is understandable and reasonable.

However, new rules instituted by the Irish Ministry for Justice & Equality have eliminated the ability of retirees, including many in the Global Irish Diaspora, to qualify for long-term residency status.  In addition, new rules require that retirees show very high annual income (€50,000 per person and €100,000 per couple) and cash reserve requirements (up to €200,000).  These new rules have resulted in a number of retirees being forced to leave Ireland under threat of deportation.  Also, many future retirees who purchased homes in Ireland in anticipation of moving back to their ancestral lands, are now being forced to reconsider their plans.

A recent article on IrishCentral noted that one-third of Irish Americans would like to retire in Ireland and purchase homes, mostly in rural areas of Ireland that remain under recessionary pressures exhibited by stagnant population growth and low housing prices.  It is now feared that Brexit will further exacerbate this problem.  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?

Ireland has other immigration programmes that allow rich foreigners to gain permanent residency and citizenship by investing as little as €50,000 in an Irish business. These programmes have no income requirements and investors only have to live one day per year in Ireland.  However, Global Irish retirees of proven independent means are not given the same consideration regardless of how much they may invest to purchase a home, pay in taxes or spend as a consumer in local Irish businesses.

This petition is directed to the Irish Minister for Justice and Equality who we hope will consider the following changes to current immigration policy for retirees:

1. Establish a separate and distinct immigration category for retirees that recognises the positive contributions such persons make to the Irish State, its economy and its culture.  Give special consideration to retirees who are members of the broad Irish Diaspora.

2. Publish an official policy document on immigration for retirees in order to clearly detail the qualifying criteria, methodology and rationale for such policies.  Include guidelines related to family reunification for retirees’ dependent family members.

3. Establish an immigration status that allows retirees to qualify for long-term residency and a path to citizenship similar to current programmes in place for rich entrepreneurs.  Allow time spent as a retiree in Ireland to count towards the requirements for citizenship.

4. Establish an immigration policy that takes into full account all of a retiree’s financial assets such as savings, owned property and other investments in addition to income.  Provide clear and detailed information on qualifying and non-qualifying (if any) types of income as well as the methodologies used in evaluating other financial assets.

5. Reduce the income requirements for retirees to figures more in line with wages and costs related to retirement living in Ireland.   Eliminate the multiple counting of income requirements for families (e.g. €100,000 per married couple per year) living under the same roof.

6. Apply all of the above rule changes to anyone requesting to retire to Ireland, not just those already living in Ireland.

Ultimately, Ireland must decide if retirees make a positive contribution to the Irish economy.  If so, Ireland should establish immigration rules that welcome such persons.  If retirees are welcome in Ireland, many retirees will come.  If retirees are not welcome, or if the rules make it too difficult for retirees to reasonably qualify or fully understand the policies, retirees will not come and alternatively will seek to retire to other countries such as Portugal or Spain that have more reasonable immigration programmes.

In particular, the relationship between the Irish State and its broad Diaspora wishing to “come home” and retire to the land of their forefathers should be given special consideration.  But this relationship needs to be a two-way street.  No one is looking for charity.  The current situation appears to be a lose-lose scenario for both sides. Let’s try to work together and create a win-win scenario for all!



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