Probably not far behind employment prospects and cost of living, one of the biggest obstacles to any Irish citizens looking to return to Ireland to live, is whether or not they will immediately satisfy the Habitual Residency Condition. Passing this condition of residency in Ireland is key to receiving many of the social assistance benefits that are available to people who normally reside in Ireland e.g. Child Benefit, Disability Allowance, Jobseekers Allowance, State Pension and more.

The reason I decided to put this article together is I had an email last week from one of our members who was a little uneasy at the prospect of finding a job immediately on their return, and was pretty confident that they wouldn't meet this condition. I can imagine that with neither job nor social assistance, the idea of moving back to Ireland must be extremely daunting for anyone considering relocating home.

What is the Habitual Residency Condition
Strangely, this residency condition is not actually defined in law, so therefore I can't quote exactly what it is, or exactly what is required of you to meet it. However, from everything I've read, my interpretation of it is that you must have a close connection to Ireland, and you must plan to live here for the foreseeable future, and of course, you must be able to prove that. Proving your intention to remain in Ireland may not be as easy as you might think, because the people charged with believing you (the Deciding Officers) do so only with the use of a 'Guide'.

Having said that though, I am living proof that a long-time Irish emigrant, who recently returned to Ireland, can prove that they immediately satisfy the Habitual Residency Condition. On my return last year, I applied, and received, the child benefit assistance for my foreign-born children. In doing so, I had to prove that I was now habitually resident in Ireland. No less than four pages of the child benefit application are dedicated to this residency requirement, and in addition to that I also had to complete a separate Welfare form (HRC1), in which you basically tell the government almost every detail they may ever care to know about you, including your PPS Number, your address, mother's maiden name, marital status, nationality, why you originally left Ireland, employment details, dates you spent abroad, foreign bank details, and on and on. And...after providing all that information, I was duly informed that my application was no good, due to I being the father, and not mother, of my children (this is a story for another day!). Therefore my wife too, had to complete an application form, which was ultimately successful.

What does the Deciding Officer judge your case on?
There are 5 main areas that the Deciding Officer looks at when making their decision on your Habitual Residency application. Personally, I believe that if you are genuinely returning to live in Ireland for the long haul, you shouldn't have much of a problem passing their test.

1. Length and reason of stay in Ireland/abroad
If you can prove you were away on a summer visa or on a fixed-term employment assignment, then you should have no issues with this first test. However, if you can't prove that you've severed your ties with your previous country of residence, you might fail at this first hurdle.

2. Length and purpose of absence from Ireland
Again, just to show you that it can be done, I had stable employment, residency entitlements, and a whole life for many years abroad, but still managed to satisfy this requirement. They judge this stuff purely on a case-by-case basis, so be as prepared as you possibly can, and provide as much information as possible to show you have left your last country of residency for good. I was able to produce "final" bills, shipping invoices, school/doctor registration details in Ireland and more. There's a list of questions you might need to answer and a list of helpful documentation to provide at this link on

3. Your work details
There are a whole bunch of conditions related to your employment in Ireland that can help prove your habitual residency. However, from the guidelines given to the Deciding Officer, it is pretty clear that you do not need employment in Ireland to satisfy the Habitual Residency Condition. Having said that, it also appears that it will be looked on very favourably if you are employable, are looking for work and that you have realistic prospects of finding work.

4. Your main centre of interest
"Main centre of interest" seems to be another loosely used term. A number of things help satisfy this clause including: where your family home is, how you are integrating into Irish life (joining clubs etc), location of bank accounts, lease/mortgage info etc. These must all point to the Republic of Ireland.

5. Future intentions of applicant
If you can't show your long term goal is to reside in Ireland, my recommendation is to not bother wasting your time doing the paperwork. If you don't see your future being in Ireland, the Deciding Officer probably won't either.
There must be literally thousands of Irish people who return home annually from the likes of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, with the hope of jumping back on a plane again as soon as they can get their passport stamped with a new visa. If you're in that category, you're probably going to have a hard time meeting the requirement. If on the other hand, you've dumped your travelling life for good, and can show you're back in Ireland for the long haul, then I'd say you've got a pretty good shot at succeeding.

Disclaimer: Just so we're all clear, and so that nobody comes hunting me down if they fail to meet the condition, this article (and in fact the entire website) is not offered as, and is not to be considered as, legal or professional advice. I am simply providing my own first hand experiences with some of the hurdles involved with moving to Ireland. When there is an authority on a topic I will always direct you to it for the official information, and in this case it is the Irish Department of Social Protection, which you can find online at

Other useful resources for people moving back to Ireland
Sarah Owen from the Crosscare Migrant Project was in touch with the following message:

"While we have seen a reduction in the number of returning Irish emigrants being refused a social assistance payment on these grounds, those we do see tend to be rather complex cases involving a considerable amount of advocacy. I’d be grateful if you could highlight us to anyone you come across who is experiencing difficulty with HRC or who would like to speak to someone about their concerns.
As you may be aware, we provide information & advocacy support to both intending & returning Irish emigrants. With those returning, we provide advocacy & information relating to social assistance/welfare, housing & homelessness, healthcare, and immigration matters relating to family members of Irish citizens."

what a great resource for anyone looking to make the move back to Ireland. Their HRC information can be found at this link.

- Guidelines for Deciding Officers on the determination of Habitual Residence
- Tips for searching for jobs
- DFA Emigrant Support Program

Please join in
If you are a returning Irish emigrant and would like to add to the discussion, please sign in and add your comment below. You'll need to register first if you haven't already. I'd love to hear from others who have been through this process, whether you've been successful or not. If you have something constructive and helpful to add, then we're all ears. Cheers.