Our Time as Expats in Ireland – Getting There

Disclaimer: This post is about my personal experience as an expat in Ireland and is not a guide on how to emigrate. Rules and policies change all the time so if you want up to date information please refer to the Irish Immigration and Naturalization website.

As mentioned in other posts, I had the amazing opportunity to spend a couple of years working as an expat in Ireland. The company I worked for acquired a small Irish insurer and sent several of us over to help with the transition. Working abroad was one of my top career aspirations, and it was as rewarding as I thought it would be. If you’re thinking about working abroad, I highly recommend you take the plunge.

Getting there wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, though. Even having the support of a large multi-national corporation behind me, there were hoops to jump and challenges to overcome. If you aren’t as lucky to have a company that’s helping you, there are organizations that can assist. My company used Fragomen to help with the process, according to their website they work with both individuals and corporations. If you want to try to find a job in Ireland on your own, the website Relocating to Ireland has some very useful information. In most circumstances you need to have a job offer before you start the immigration and visa process.

Now, about getting that visa. Ireland, as with most countries, wants to prioritize jobs for Irish and EU citizens. That means they only approve work visas for specific circumstances, and it’s a lengthy, multi-step process. I was told that it would take about 6 weeks, the INIS site says 8, and in reality it was 3 months before the visa was approved and 4 months between when I accepted the job and actually moved to Dublin. I envisioned a lonely clerk sitting solo behind a desk in some stone-walled office, reviewing and stamping a single application and then breaking for tea before moving along to the next. If you’d like more detail on work visa requirements you can find them here.

I was told not enter the Republic of Ireland at all while my application was being processed. It was firmly stressed that I take that seriously, that breaking the rule could get my application denied. Because of the delay in the visa process, my job started months before I could actually move, so I began waking up at 2am Boston time to jump on my 9am Dublin time conference calls. I finally ended up flying to Belfast and working there for two weeks just to be in the same time zone and have people drive up from Dublin to meet me. That wasn’t a hardship, Belfast is a fantastic city and worthy of its own post.

My Belfast home, the Culloden Estate and Spa

Finally, after months of waiting it was time for our one way flight! Another hurdle, we were taking our dog Jake. over with us. The quarantine rules have relaxed over the years, but there are very specific steps you need to take in order to avoid those six months of doggy isolation. You can find more details here. Start early! We needed two separate rabies vaccination certificates months apart. We had to send the paperwork to the USDA to be stamped and returned. Your pet needs to be chipped, and upon arrival in Ireland a vet needs to be able to read that chip to prove the animal you’re bringing in matches the paperwork. I guess there’s been a lot of puppy smuggling issues in the past? Of course the chip technology in Europe is different than the technology we had used to chip Jake, so we had to buy and travel with a US chip reader the vet could use upon arrival. Be aware that many airlines require you to use a professional pet relocation service (Aer Lingus did at the time we flew over), which adds to the time and expense. I do want to give a huge shout out to our Aer Lingus captain here, before take off he personally came back to assure us Jake was safe and sound in the cargo hold, resting in a comfortable 68 degrees.

If you are very attached to your pet (and if you’ve gone through the time and expense to bring them with you, I assume you are), beware. Upon arrival we were not allowed to collect our loved one at baggage claim. Jake was taken off of the plane separately, and then directly to the veterinarian facility outside the airport. After landing and wading through immigration and customs, we picked up our car and drove straight to the vet, hoping to see how Jake handled the 6 hour flight. We waited, and after 2 hours had past we started making frantic calls to everyone associated with the airline and the Dublin airport to find what happened. Eventually someone found him, still in his crate tucked away in some obscure section of the cargo area. He arrived at the vet facility no worse for wear, thankfully, bounding out of his crate to meet us as if he’d just had the adventure of a lifetime.

Jake in his new Dublin home

All of us calm and collected, Jake with his head out the window smelling the strange Irish air, we drove off to our new adventure. However the immigration official had only stamped permission for a three month stay into our passports. Next up was the grueling process of registering with the Garda National Immigration Board for permission to stay longer.

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