Increased flexibility helps to support non-EU business migration to Ireland

21 Jul 2015

Increased flexibility helps to support non-EU business migration to Ireland

A new report published today (Wednesday, 22nd July 2015) by the ESRI explores the measures in place to attract immigrant investors and entrepreneurs from non-EU countries to Ireland. Business Migration to Ireland, by Egle Gusciute, Emma Quinn and Alan Barrett, finds that the Irish immigration system has become increasingly business-friendly in recent years.

Data on business-related visas granted show that:

  • Business-related visas represented the second largest category of visas granted in 2014, accounting for 17% of almost 90,400 visas granted.
  • The number of business-related visas granted has increased by 15% since 2010 (from 13,365 in 2010 to just over 15,400 in 2014).
  • In 2014, India accounted for the majority of visas granted (30 per cent), followed by China (18 per cent) and Russia (13 per cent).
  • The total number of non-EEA business people coming to Ireland is likely to be much higher than these figures suggest. Nationals of states such as the US do not need a visa to travel to Ireland.

Older, more rigid immigration schemes are now supplemented with new programmes, introduced to attract migrant investors and entrepreneurs:

  • Under the Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP), with a minimum investment varying between €500,000 and €2 million, 55 permissions were granted since 2012.
  • Under the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP), which targets high-potential start-ups, 30 permissions were granted in the same period.
  • Although low, take up of the IIP and the STEP is considered to be adequate by the Department of Justice and Equality, as the two programmes aim to attract high worth investments and high-potential start-ups.
  • The number of Business Permissions granted has decreased by 74% since 2012, from 38 to just 10 permissions in 2014. This remains the only scheme available to non-EU nationals proposing to start-up smaller “traditional” businesses.

Other measures have been introduced to increase flexibility in the system:

  • A new Atypical Working Scheme allows for a more flexible business migration route; with over 1,300 permissions issued in the first year, 2014, mainly to Japanese, US and Indian nationals.
  • New legislation has been introduced which provides the State with more clearly defined powers to adapt the system in response to changing economic conditions.
  • There is evidence of increased co-operation between the responsible departments on business migration.  

However certain country-specific challenges such as high living costs and a lack of privately rented accommodation are barriers in attracting business persons. A lack of awareness of the available schemes may also be a challenge.

Commenting on the findings, report author Egle Gusciute noted:

“While older schemes focussed on preventing misuse of business migration channels, the Department of Justice and Equality noted that this has not been a major problem in Ireland.  There are now more options available to non-EU migrants wishing to set-up a business or to invest in Ireland. While the new measures seem to be working in terms of facilitating business people, high living costs and lack of accommodation may deter some entrepreneurs and investors.”

For further Information please contact:

Egle Gusciute, Researcher, The Economic and Social Research Institute 

Email: [email protected], Mobile: +353 87 9788262

Download report

Notes for Editors

  1. Business Migration to Ireland was authored by Egle Gusciute, Emma Quinn and Alan Barrett, and will be published on 22 July 2014, on the ESRI website, The embargo is 00.01, Wednesday, 22 July 2015.
  2. The ESRI acts as the Irish National Contact Point of the European Migration Network (EMN). The aim of EMN is to provide up-to-date, objective, reliable and comparable information on migration and asylum at member state and EU-level (see and
  3. The EMN is co-funded by the European Commission DG Home Affairs and the Irish Department of Justice and Equality.
  4. All EMN studies are compiled according to common specifications and an EU-level synthesis report is subsequently produced. The synthesis report for this study may be accessed at:
  5. Business-related visas represented the second largest category of visas granted (short-term and long-term visas combined), after ‘visit-related’ travel, which accounted for 44% of the total. The vast majority of business-related visas issued are short-term visas. Visa data offers a partial picture as some non-EEA nationals do not require a visa to travel to Ireland, e.g. US nationals.
  6. The Business Permission Scheme facilitates non-EEA nationals coming to Ireland in order to establish business in sectors such as retail, personal services or catering. The Immigrant Investor Programme aims to attract high-worth investments while the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme targets high-potential start-ups.
  7. Atypical Working Scheme facilitates the movement of non-EEA nationals required by a company based in Ireland to undertake ‘atypical’ or short-term work in the State. The purpose of the scheme is to provide a streamlined mechanism to deal with atypical, short-term employment for certain other employment situations which are not governed by the Employment Permits Act or by current administrative procedures. 


ESRI Press Office: 01 863 2000, [email protected]