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Irish immigration permission schemes for migrant entrepreneurs & investors

Concerned that Ireland was not doing enough to attract wealthy non-EEA investors, the Government launched the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP) and the Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP) schemes in 2012.

Both schemes are immigration permission programmes aimed at assisting migrant entrepreneurs and investors from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who are prepared to invest in Ireland for the purposes of saving or creating jobs. While the Irish immigration system is broadly considered as being ‘business friendly’, it was not seen as being sufficiently friendly to high-worth individuals.

All applications are submitted to an Evaluation Committee, comprised of relevant State agencies, such as the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) and Enterprise Ireland. The decision for approval is made by the relevant Minister, whose decision is final and is not subject to a review or appeal. Unsuccessful applicants can, however, make a new application at a later date.

Applications will only be accepted within certain set ‘windows’.


The schemes allow approved principal investors and close family members enter the State on multi-entry visas and reside here for up to five years, with possible further renewal. Notably, Ireland does not need to be the investor’s principal residence, but they must visit Ireland at least once every twelve months. There is a review after two years to ensure the venture continues to comply with the criteria of the schemes.

Close family members can, if so desired, join the principal investor immediately upon successful application. ‘Close’ is limited to spouses/partners and minor children (under the age of 18) for whom the applicant and/or their spouse or partner has legal guardianship. Dependent children between 18 and 24 will be considered in certain circumstances.

At the appropriate time, applicants who have been included under the schemes can consider application for naturalisation as Irish citizens in the normal manner if they wish to do so.

Application criteria

There are certain general criteria broadly applicable to both schemes.

Applicants are required to prove self-sufficiency and the ability to support their families without recourse to State funds. Evidence of private medical insurance must be produced. Applicants must be of ‘good character’ and willing to swear an Affidavit attesting to their bona fides. Furnishing false, misleading or incomplete information can result in removal from the State and revocation of the immigration permission(s).

The source of the funds proposed for the investment must be shown, and it must be established that they were legally acquired, are fully owned by the investors who can freely dispose of them. Compliance with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) legislation is essential.

Residency status under the schemes will be withdrawn where:

  • The acquisition of the status was fraudulent,
  • The holder of the permission is subject of a deportation order,
  • The holder of the permission is convicted of a criminal offence.
  • The applicant fails to meet the conditions of as regards duration of the investment
  • Failure to disclose material ‘good character’ information available to them

Immigrant Investor Programme

The IIP caters for a range of ‘high-worth’ investment options. Broadly speaking, to qualify for the programme, the venture must be ‘good’ for Ireland, jobs and the public interest. The monies invested must be legally acquired and owned by the investors, and cannot be borrowed. There are four currently open categories of investment:

  1. Endowment: €500,000 invested in a public project benefiting the arts, sports, health, culture or education, or €400,000 per investor if it is pooled by at least five individuals;
  2. Enterprise Investment: a €1 million aggregate investment into new or existing Irish businesses for a minimum of three years;
  3. Investment Fund: €1 million invested in an approved investment fund which would invest in Irish businesses and projects;
  4. Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT): a €2 million investment in any Irish REIT listed on the Irish Stock Exchange, which can be spread across a number of Irish REITs

There is a non-refundable application fee of €1,500.

Start-up Entrepreneur Programme

The STEP programme allows an entrepreneur with an ‘innovative’ business idea together with minimum funding of €50,000 to come to Ireland and set up a business here. This business idea must be a ‘High Potential Start-Up’ (HPSU) defined as a start-up ventures that satisfies all of the following:

  1. Introduces a new or innovative product or service to international markets
  2. Is capable of creating ten jobs in Ireland and realising €1 million sales within three to four years of starting up- though no initial job creation targets are set
  3. Led by an experienced management team
  4. Headquartered and controlled in Ireland
  5. And is less than six years old

Applications for the programme are considered on their own merits provided they are part of Ireland’s ‘innovation economy’ and have high potential growth in the future. Funding of €75,000 must already be secured for the business proposal at the time of application.

An application fee of €350 is payable which is not refundable.

General Considerations

As with any business venture or investment, there are a number of factors which must be considered at the outset:

- How will the venture be structured?
- What are the governing company law requirements?
- What are the taxation implications for the investors?
- What protections will there be for investors?
- What business and State supports are available for a business once it has been approved for the above schemes?

Applications under either or both of these schemes is a complex process and the making of an unsuccessful application can be costly. For further information or to make an appointment, please call us on 01 832 7899 or email info(at)

The material contained on this website is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. Any and all information is subject to change without notice. No liability whatsoever is accepted by Barron Morris for any action or omission made in reliance on the information on this site. If you require specific advice on any legal matter then please contact a solicitor.

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