Retire in Ireland
Rich, rolling green hills. The mists of the breezy Atlantic. The western and southern regions of Ireland offer an affordable life style for those individuals looking to retire abroad. Ireland is an English-speaking country and, for this reason, has an ease of assimilation very few countries can offer. Quality-of-life factors are only enhanced by Ireland's excellent and accessible health care system.
Galway is a beautiful, prosperous city with a year-round temperate climate. The city provides the ideal blend of history and modern convenience and has recently become a popular retirement destination.
Kilkenny is an extraordinary medieval town that is surrounded by beautiful countryside. A 90-minute ride to Shannon Airport, Kilkenny is a very affordable and accessible retirement destination.
A visa is not required for United States citizens to visit Ireland for a stay of 90 days or less, however, every non European Economic Area citizen must register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau for stays lasting longer than 90 days.
A United States citizen can enter the country to retire; however, you must inform the Immigration Officer when you go through immigration control. The Immigration Officer may ask for further information, such as proof of finances and private medical insurance.
If the United States citizen is granted entry to the country to retire, an individual will be told to register with the local Immigration Officer (GNIB, Burgh Quay, Dublin [2 if living in Dublin or at their local Garda District Headquarters if living outside of Dublin]). It will eventually be the local Immigration Officer that will make the decision to grant permission to remain in the country as a non-economically active migrant.
If a request is granted, you will be issued a Stamp 3 permission to remain. This permission states that you can reside in Ireland but you cannot work in the country.
You are considered a “tax resident” if you reside in Ireland for 183 days or more. You are required to notify your Local Tax Office of residency and they will assist with assessing your tax status.
If you are considered a tax resident, all income must be declared. Foreign pensions are liable to Irish taxes, unless an exception is made under the provisions of the double taxation agreement (which fortunately, Ireland does have with the United States normally). The double taxation agreement ensures that you are not taxed in both countries. You will need to check with your local tax office regarding the specifics of your financial situation in order to fully understand how the double taxation agreement applies to your unique situation.
There are no restrictions on purchased or rented residential property in Ireland. There are no property taxes on principal residencies in Ireland, and first time buyers are exempt from the stamp tax. There is, however, a 200 euro (~270 USD) annual local government tax on non-principal residencies. Upon purchasing a property, fees (registry, VAT, stamp duty, solicitor, mortgage, and arrangement fees) generally run from 6 to 10% of the purchasing total. In order to obtain a new property, it is recommended to find a local real estate agent. Most properties are sold at auction where an appointed solicitor will make bids on behalf of the buyer. However, it is the buyer’s responsibility to check all legal obligations on the property before committing to purchase. A treaty sale is another popular means to purchase property. In this situation a non-binding deposit is made to provide a window to further research the property before fully committing to purchasing the property. Upon purchase, a formal agreement must be made and the deed will be transferred upon final payment. Mortgages are based on the particular lender’s criteria, but most will cover up to 90% of the property over 15 to 30 years.
Dublin and other larger urban cities are generally more expensive than areas in the south and west of the country. The average home price in Dublin is 242,000 euro, whereas in Donegal, home prices usually range from 140,000 to 200,000 euro.
Limerick offers moderate housing prices and has a wide variety of options, which is all the more noteworthy considering it’s one of Ireland’s major cities. A small apartment or terrace-style home can be found in Limerick for 90,000 euro or for roughly 500 euro per month. A two-bedroom apartment or townhouse in Limerick falls between 130,000 and 150,000 euro. Larger homes can be found priced anywhere between 170,000 to 280,000 euro.
Galway is one of the country’s fastest-growing cities, and a typical 1-bedroom costs approximately 130,000 euro while a two bedroom costs 190,000 euro. Larger homes run anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 euro depending on the size and condition of the property.
Cork also provides an affordable standard of living. One-bedroom apartments can be purchased for approximately 150,000 euro and two-bedrooms run between 190,000 and 200,000 euro. Larger houses range from 170,000 to 350,000 depending on the size and condition of the property.
Kilkenny offers 1-bedroom apartments for as low as 110,000 euro, and two-bedroom apartments or townhouses range from 118,000 to 145,000 euro. Homes with three- or four-bedrooms can be purchased for 143,000 euro, and larger houses are generally available for around 233,000 euro.
There are generally no property taxes in Ireland, but there can be 200-euro annual fees for non-principal residences.
Travel within Ireland is free on bus and train for Irish residents over the age of 66 and residents over 66 are granted special privileges on some private trains and buses as well. New and used cars can be purchased for roughly the same prices as in the United States, but Ireland has a high tax on car purchases that will increase the total cost of owning a vehicle. Gas is also relatively expensive by U.S. standards and is currently $4.78 USD per gallon.
In order to open a bank account in Ireland, three forms of identification - such as a utility bill, passport, and driver’s license - are required. Many banks in Ireland offer telephone-banking facilities and Internet banking is available with the Bank of Ireland, AIB, Ulster Bank, Permanent TSB Bank, and National Irish Bank. All major Irish banks issue a Laser debit card and ATMs are widely available throughout the country outside of a few rural areas. Bank deposits in Ireland are guaranteed by the Irish government, similar to the FDIC in the United States. Banks will exchange currency for a $35 to $50 fee depending on your relationship with the bank. Some banks offer direct deposit for United States social security checks and the U.S. Social Security Administration should be contacted for details.
Healthcare is provided as an entitlement that is primarily based on residency and economic means. Regardless of nationality, anyone who is granted Irish residency is entitled to either full eligibility (Category 1) or limited eligibility (Category 2) in the health care system. Eligibility is contingent on your personal income, family size, savings, and investments. After an individual is granted eligibility, the HSE will issue a medical card that provides benefits free of charge and lists your primary physician and benefit plan. Eligibility typically covers your spouse or dependents with the same benefits.
Because medical care is not free for those who cannot obtain a card, the Voluntary Health Insurance Board (VHI) provides private health insurance in Ireland. The VHI is a statutory body whose board is appointed by the minister for Health and Children, and it offers insurance policies for approximately 860 euro per person per year. These plans cover major services and most day-to-day needs. In addition, QUINN-healthcare - the second largest provider of voluntary private health insurance - offers plans ranging from approx 500 to 2,000 euro per year per person. Hibernian Aviva - the third largest voluntary private health insurance provider - offers plans from 46 to 203 euro per month; however, some individuals will qualify for an all-inclusive package at only 62.50 euro per month.
Purchasing commercial insurance in the United States with coverage abroad is recommended considering Medicare’s coverage does not extend overseas.
Non-EU/EEA nationals who are not covered by a separate EU agreement can drive in Ireland with a valid license for up to 12 months. After twelve (12) months, you must apply for an Irish license and take a driving test. The applications for license or license exchange are available online on the Oasis government information website, or from local Motor Taxation Offices. Every Irish resident over 66 years old is entitled to free travel within the country with privileges on all public trains (Irish Rail) and buses (Bus Eirann). However, use is limited on commuter buses and trains during peak hours and access can be limited in rural areas.
Cable, Internet Access, & Phone Systems
There are four national television channels that are free of charge for all residents. Wider selections are available through Sky Digital and NTL. For information on broadband in Ireland, the government provides info at www.broadband.com.gov.ie along with an overview of placement and the services offered. The primary Irish broadband providers are (1) Eircom, which operates the largest fixed-line telecommunication firm; (2) BT Ireland; which offers home Internet and home phone; (3) Irish Broadband; (4) UTV; (5) Digiweb, and (6) NTL. In general, there will be a minimum time commitment upon signing up for service. Broadband fees and modem charges depend on providers.
Internet and phone access is available through Eircom for 42 euro per month; BT Ireland for between 47.95 and 66.95 euro per month; UTV for 29 euro per month; Digiweb for 49 euro per month; and wireless Internet is available from Irish Broadband for 55 euro per month. Cable packages are offered by UPC for about 25 to 40 euro per month. Basic phone plans run about 30 euro per month.
Vodaphone and 02 offer 95% of the mobile phone services in Ireland, although Meteor is a third available option. Rates average 30 euro per month depending upon features, and some companies require a minimum of six months of Irish residency before granting eligibility for a mobile phone plan. An individual without residency can join a pay-as-you-go plan until a long-term plan is available to them. Also, Skype is always available and is a great option for long-distance calls.
Currency and Important Considerations
Ireland’s monetary system is the euro.
Many people who have retired to Ireland recommend renting in the region that you are considering before making your final decision. Renting may be a viable option to purchasing, as renting provides you with the ultimate in flexibility.
Additional information regarding moving to Ireland may be obtained by contacting the Embassy of Ireland in Washington, DC.