Ireland’s Social Security System: A Guide for Expats
Are you planning a move to Ireland in the near future? If so, it’s always good to know how social security in Ireland will work for you as an expat. Also known as the ‘social welfare system’, the social security system in Ireland provides financial support and assistance to eligible individuals and families.
When it comes to social security, Ireland has a long-established system. Permanent residents in Ireland deemed eligible may also be able to avail of benefits relating to healthcare and education — it’s just a case of knowing which entitlements you meet the criteria for and which ones you might be eligible for in the future.
To help you understand more about the Irish social security system and recognise if you meet the requirements, our team of tax advisors is here with the information you need.
Whether you’re already living in Ireland or are currently planning your move, here’s what you need to know about the Irish social welfare system as an expat.
What is the social security system in Ireland?
Social security or ‘social welfare’ in Ireland is essentially a system that aims to ensure a certain level of financial security and well-being for all residents of the State. The system is funded through taxes and contributions from employers and employees and is administered by the Department of Social Protection.
Generally, the government releases funding announcements for social assistance payments each year in the annual budget. To read Ireland’s budget for 2023, see here.
How is social welfare in Ireland categorised?
For social welfare payments, the system is divided into three distinct categories. These categories are:
- Social insurance payments
Social insurance payments or PRSI (Pay Related Social Insurance) payments are a type of contribution made by employers and employees to fund various social welfare payments and services. These social insurance contributions are taken from an employee’s total earnings and go towards financing a range of social welfare benefits, including:
- Illness benefit
- Jobseeker’s Allowance (means tested)
- Maternity benefit and paternity benefit
- State Pension (contributory)
- Invalidity Pension
- Carer’s Benefit
- Other financial aid programs
- Means-tested payments
For those who don’t have enough PRSI contributions to qualify for social insurance-based payments, means-tested payments exist to assess your entitlement.
Usually, based on an individual’s financial situation, these benefits will only be granted after factors such as income, assets, savings, and expenses have been taken into account.
Means-tested payments in Ireland can apply to benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, Disability Allowance, Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), and more.
- Universal payments
Universal payments refer to social welfare benefits accessible to all qualifying individuals, regardless of their financial status. They aim to offer a minimum level of financial assistance to those who need it.
Some examples of universal payments include State Pensions and Child Benefits. Even though these payments are not influenced by an individual’s income, assets, or savings, the government is still responsible for setting the amount for these payments.
Note: Some eligibility conditions may apply to these benefits, such as having dependants or reaching retirement age.
What is an expat’s eligibility for social security benefits?
To be eligible for social security benefits in Ireland, there are several conditions you must meet.
Just some of these conditions include:
You must be considered a resident of Ireland
Social assistance in Ireland is exclusively provided to individuals recognized as “habitual residents” in the country. Being deemed habitually resident in Ireland implies that you have already been residing in Ireland for a certain period and have plans to continue living here.
You must have a valid PPS number
To avail of social welfare payments in Ireland as an expat, you must also have a valid PPS (Personal Public Service) number. PPS numbers are used to identify you in the social security system and are essential for any application for benefits.
For tips on how to obtain an Irish PPS number, read our blog on how to get a PPS number when moving to Ireland.
You must meet the individual criteria for each benefit
Even if you meet the previous two conditions, you must still meet specific eligibility criteria for each benefit. For example, to receive Disability Allowance, you must have a long-term illness or disability affecting your ability to work. To receive a Jobseeker’s Allowance, you must be actively seeking work and be available for employment.
Generally, as an expat, benefits that aren’t connected with your PRSI contributions will be subject to means-testing. In this case, your individual circumstances as an expat will be taken into account.
Applying for Benefits
To apply for social security benefits in Ireland, you must complete an application form and provide supporting documentation. You can apply online via the Department of Social Protection’s website or in person at your local Intreo centre.
Tip: Before applying for social security benefits as an expat, it’s always a good idea to speak with a consultant who can guide you on the right steps to take and optimise your benefits wherever possible. While individual departments are valuable when processing your application, it’s not their job to advise you on the best avenues to take as an expat in Ireland.
What type of social assistance in Ireland is relevant to expats?
The type of social assistance relevant to you as an expat will largely depend on your personal circumstances and your employment or living status while in the State.
That said, the Irish social security system provides a wide range of benefits and services to residents. Some of the main ones expats should know about include:
If you are an unemployed expat actively seeking work in Ireland, you may be eligible for the Jobseeker’s Allowance. The amount received for this benefit will depend on factors such as your age (you must be aged 18 or over and under 66), family status, and previous earnings/ PRSI contributions.
This benefit is available to those with a long-term illness or disability that affects their ability to work. The amount you receive is based on your personal circumstances, such as your age, family status, and level of disability (proof of disability will be required).
If you’re an expat moving to Ireland permanently to look after a sick or elderly relative, the Carer’s Allowance might be relevant to you. Available to individuals who provide full-time care to someone incapable of caring for themselves, this benefit provides some financial income for your efforts.
That said, it’s good to know that this benefit is strongly means-tested, and whether or not you can earn additional income while receiving this benefit will also depend on your circumstances.
Note: If you are applying for a carer’s allowance, you will need to provide evidence of your caring responsibilities and the level of care required.
As an expat with children under the age of 18 living in Ireland, you may be entitled to Child Benefit. While most permanent residents of Ireland who meet the criteria are eligible for this payment, the amount you receive is based on the number of children you have.
Note: To claim for a child dependant, you’ll need to provide your child’s birth certificate and proof of your relationship to the child.
Housing Assistance Payment
If you are an expat renting a home in Ireland and have a low income, it might be possible to avail of the Housing Assistance Payment. The amount you receive will vary, with factors such as income, the size of your family, and existing family benefits being evaluated.
What other social welfare benefits should expats be aware of?
The Irish social security system also offers other services, such as healthcare, education, and training. Medical cards, for example, are available to those who meet specific eligibility criteria and provide free or reduced-cost healthcare.
Some other relevant benefits can include:
- Family income supplement
- Back-to-school allowance
- Fuel allowance
- Free travel (for pensioners, people with disabilities, and carers)
How Expat Taxes can help ensure your life in Ireland offers stability
Understanding the Irish social security system and your social protection is critical for expats moving to Ireland. Without knowing your entitlements, living in Ireland as an expat can feel uncertain and even cause unnecessary stress.
To help, our team of tax advisers and consultants are here to ensure you can navigate life in Ireland more effectively and focus on the more enjoyable aspects of your new life in Ireland.
To learn more about our services, view our services or book a consultation with a member of our expert team. We’re here to support your move to Ireland in whatever way we can, so be sure to reach out.
DISCLAIMER The material in this article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or taxation advice. Specific legal and taxation advice should be sought before acting or refraining to act. All information and taxation rules are subject to change without notice. No liability whatsoever is accepted by Expats Taxes for any action taken in reliance on the information in this article or any of the articles in our blog series.
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