Non-EU, non-EEA and non-Swiss citizens are subject to immigration control in Ireland, even if they are joining a de facto partner, civil partner or spouse. Family reunification is allowed, although the exact immigration route varies depending on the sponsor's citizenship.

Can I bring my non-Irish partner to live with me in Ireland?

Citizens of EU member states, EEA member states and Switzerland are able to live and work in Ireland without restriction. Passport holders from these countries can enter Ireland and join their partner or spouse for without getting a visa, employment permit or any other kind of immigration permission.

The rules are more complicated for non-EU, non-EEA and non-Swiss citizens. In these situations, the applicant must be joining a spouse or partner who has legal permission to reside in Ireland. This person is known as the sponsor. A sponsor must be one of the following:

  • An Irish citizen
  • Another EU/EEA citizen
  • A non-EU/EEA national, residing lawfully in Ireland through an employment permit
  • A foreign national living in Ireland on a Stamp 4 or Stamp 5 permission
  • A researcher under a Hosting Agreement
  • A PhD student, studying in an Irish accredited program
  • A minister of religion who holds an immigration Stamp 3

Anyone who falls into one of the above categories can bring their non-Irish partner to live with them in Ireland.

Sponsor residency and financial requirements

However, the sponsor must fulfil certain requirements first. For example, Irish nationals must have earned at least €40,000 over the past three years.

The following sponsors must have a gross income in each of the previous two years in excess of that applied by the Department of Social Protection in assessing eligibility for Family Income Supplement:

  • Non-Critical Employment Permit Holders
  • All Stamp 4 holders not covered by other more favourable arrangements
  • Ministers of religion

The above are known as category B sponsors. Spouses, civil partners and de facto partners of category B sponsors must wait for 12 months before applying for family reunification. Everyone else can apply immediately. This includes the spouses, civil partners and de facto partners of the following category A sponsors:

  • Irish/EEA citizen
  • Critical Skills Employment Permit Holder
  • Investor
  • Business Permit Holder
  • Entrepreneur
  • Researcher under a Hosting Agreement
  • Intra Corporate Transferee
  • Scholarship students under an INIS-approved Scholarship Program
  • PhD students
  • Full time non-locum doctors

Can I live in Ireland if I marry an Irish citizen?

The rules also vary depending on whether the applicant and the sponsor are married, or whether they are cohabiting – known as being 'de facto' partners.

Marriage does not necessarily put the applicant in a more favourable position, even if this marriage is to an Irish national. Irish citizens have no automatic legal entitlement to bring their spouses or civil partners to reside with them in the State.

However, a marriage union does remove certain requirements. For example, there is no minimum duration for the marriage or civil union. This differs to de facto partners, who must show that they have been living together in a 'marriage-like' relationship for at least two years.

How long does it take to become an Irish citizen through marriage?

Marriage to an Irish national also paves the way to Irish citizenship by naturalisation. The marriage must have lasted at least three years, and the non-Irish spouse must have lived on the island of Ireland for a minimum of three years out of the previous five. A spousal visa is needed until these requirements have been met.

What is a de-facto partner?

If the applicant and the sponsor are not married, they must instead show that they meet the criteria of de facto partners. In Ireland, a person may be considered the de facto partner of another person if:

  • They have a mutual commitment to a shared life to the exclusion of all others akin to a marriage or civil partnership in practice though not in law; and
  • The relationship between them is genuine and continuing; and
  • They live together or do not live separately and apart on a permanent basis; and
  • They are not related by family

Evidence must be provided that the applicant and the sponsor have been cohabiting for a minimum period of two years.

Non-EU spouse visa Ireland

If the sponsor and the applicant meet the requirements, then it is necessary to determine the right immigration route. There is no 'one size fits all' spousal visa in Ireland. Instead, it depends on whether the sponsor is:

  • An Irish citizen
  • A citizen of the EU/EEA or Switzerland (but not an Irish national)
  • A non-EU/EEA or Swiss citizen
  • A person who has been granted refugee status in Ireland

How do I get a spousal visa in Ireland?

A non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizen who is:

Living outside of Ireland but wants to join their Irish husband, wife or civil partner in Ireland – must get a long stay (join family) D visa, if he/she is from a visa-required country. It is then necessary to register with a local immigration officer following arrival in Ireland.

Living in Ireland and wants to remain living with their Irish husband, wife or civil partner – must attend their local Garda National Immigration Bureau and request that their immigration status is updated. If the applicant is in Ireland without currently having the right to reside, it is necessary to apply for permission to remain in the State on the basis of marriage/civil partnership to an Irish national.

Hoping to join their Irish de facto partner in Ireland – must apply for preclearance before travelling to Ireland. If the applicant is from a visa-required country, then a long stay join partner D reside visa must also be obtained. Once the applicant has arrived in Ireland, both the applicant and the sponsor must register with immigration.

Hoping to join their EU/EEA/Swiss (non-Irish) spouse, civil partner or de facto partner in Ireland – can do so under EU Treaty Rights. The relevant EU Treaty Rights application forms must be completed and submitted to the EU Treaty Rights Division of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS).

Hoping to join their non-EU/EEA/Swiss spouse, civil partner or de facto partner who is lawfully residing in Ireland – must get a long stay (join family) D visa, if he/she is from a visa-required country. It is then necessary to register with a local immigration officer following arrival in Ireland. Certain categories of people need to get preclearance before applying for a visa or travelling to Ireland, as outlined below.

Hoping to join their spouse or civil partner who has been granted refugee status in Ireland – must ask the sponsor to apply for Family Reunification. If this is approved, the applicant can then apply for a long stay D visa.

Who needs preclearance?

Certain categories of people must get preclearance before travelling to Ireland. This includes:

  • De facto partners of Critical Skills Employment Permit holders/Researchers on Hosting Agreements
  • Lay volunteers
  • Ministers of religion
  • De facto partners of Irish nationals
  • Spouses and de facto partners of UK citizens

Those who are from visa-required countries must get preclearance first, after which they can apply for a long stay visa. Only then is travel to Ireland permitted.

Ireland spouse visa checklist

The exact documents that must be provided depend on the immigration permission that is being sought. The documents required for a join family visa include:

  • Two recent colour passport sized photographs
  • Current passport and a full copy of all previous passports
  • A signed letter of application
  • Information regarding the sponsor's status/eligibility to sponsor
  • Evidence of the relationship
  • Evidence of the sponsor's earnings (if required)
  • Evidence of dependency (if required)
  • Proof of medical/travel insurance

How long does it take to get a spousal visa in Ireland?

It takes between six and 12 months for a join family visa to be processed in Ireland.

Can you work on a spouse visa Ireland?

The conditions of the spousal visa depend on the status of the sponsor. Once in Ireland, the applicant is automatically eligible to work if their sponsor is an Irish citizen, or the holder of a Critical Skills Employment Permit. Everyone else must apply for an employment permit to access the Irish labour market.

The duration of the spousal visa is also dependent on the continuation of the relationship, and the sponsor's immigration status in Ireland. If the relationship breaks down, or the sponsor is no longer legally entitled to reside in Ireland, then the spousal visa may no longer be valid.

Other options

Those who are not eligible to apply for a spousal visa in Ireland may instead apply for a visa/work permit under their own right. A Critical Skills Employment Permit is particularly favourable, as the permit-holder is granted Stamp 4 permission after two years. Only certain occupations are eligible for a Critical Skills Employment Permit, such as health professionals, ICT professionals and engineers.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.