A Guide to Finding a Job in Ireland as an American Expat
Ireland and the United States have had close ties to each other for decades and one visit to the Irish coast is enough to see what draws our population to its shores. Americans make up the second largest grouping of tourists who visit the island of Ireland, and as our closest European neighbor, Ireland may seem like an accessible option for those looking to emigrate, especially for work.
If you’re looking for a change of career or greener pastures for your profession, there are additional perks that makes this country attractive place to find a job as an American! Ireland also is a force to be reckoned with when examining the value of a work and life balance. As a country it has one of the highest maternity leave allowances—up to 42 weeks—and 10 public holidays in addition to the country’s average of 20 vacation days for full-time employees.
The Republic of Ireland is a beautiful country for Americans who want to experience Europe without feeling pressured to learn a new language, or be more than a 7 hour flight away from the US. It is the 7th fastest growing population in the EU, and with 17% of its population identifying as being foreign-born, it is no stranger to people who move with a view to stay. That said, finding a job in Ireland as an expat is not as easy as one may hope, and the process to land one will take a lot of patience…and a bit of luck!
Is it hard to find a job in Ireland as an expat?
While not impossible, it can be difficult. To work in Ireland, U.S. citizens will need a work permit. Securing a work permit is a challenging process that will feature lots of back and forth between you, your potential employer, and the immigration office. It is important to learn to be your own advocate; you must be able to explain to Irish companies how you add value to their operations, and what their involvement in the sponsorship process would be if they were to sponsor you as an employee.
You have to constantly remind yourself that you are competing for the same roles as candidates who may not only not need sponsorship, but who could potentially speak more languages than you and already live in the company’s area. With this in mind it is easy to become deterred and disillusioned but this knowledge can also be a source of inspiration to push yourself to invest more effort than your fellow jobseekers.
If you are going to look for sponsorship from Irish companies you need to quickly become an expert in explaining the immigration process to anyone who is willing to listen, using the most easily-digestible terminology. The processes can seem quite complex upon first glance, but as you research further you will inevitably become more familiar with the Irish immigration stamp system; which is used to stratify Ireland’s immigration permissions. Each stamp is accompanied by their own process to gain approval as well as their own eligibility requirements.
Work Permit for Ireland
Ireland’s stamp system has confused many-an-expat since its wider adoption in the early 00’s. Unless you are willing to shell out for Tinder Premium to try your luck at a partnership visa, the following visas would likely be the most relevant for the average American:
- What it is: Typically persons entering into Ireland with a Stamp 1 are entering on the Working Holiday visa. This is the most accessible visa to Americans without any existent ties to Ireland, and is valid for 1 year.
- Who can get it: This visa is only available to persons who are either finishing (or are within 12 months of having graduated from) a program that awards a Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctorate degree. This visa is supposed to be designed for young people who are looking to gain international experience, but it is not designed to be able to be leveraged for additional residency. You can only avail of this program once, and there is currently no way to extend it past 1 year.
- How hard is it to get? Because this visa is supposed to be designed for ‘working holiday’-ers, it is one of the easier options to get if you meet its eligibility criteria. I would recommend using this visa to try and get your foot in the door to companies that would be open to sponsoring you, and for expanding your professional network in Ireland.
- What it is: This visa option is only available to people who want to become accountants, and allows the holder to work for Irish companies during their trainee period. This degree mandates a combination of work-experience and education, as the trainee accounts must take and pass exams in order to continue their studies and their visa status.
- Who can get it: Anyone with a college degree can avail of this visa. This is the best option for those who want to move to Europe and dream of being a qualified accountant.
- How hard is it to get? This visa arose in response to the shortage of qualified accountants in Ireland, which has been an issue for the country since the recession in 2008. Because of the need for trainee accountants, persons applying for this visa do not face the same challenges as persons applying for the general work permit, or the student visa. The biggest hurdle to get this visa would be to receive a full-time contract offer from an accountancy practice or business that is registered with a Professional Accountancy Body. This pathway is further explained in the CPA Ireland website, and contracted trainee vacancies are often listed on the Chartered Accountants Ireland website.
Stamp 2 & Stamp 1G
- What it is: The Stamp 2 is for persons who are doing a degree-awarding program with an Irish university or institution, and Stamp 1G is your allowable residence post-degree. This allowable residence is gifted time you are permitted to reside in Ireland while working full-time, and it does not require an employer to sponsor you.
- Who can get it: If you are looking to get another degree, this is likely the best option for you. This is particularly true of master’s degrees, which only take 1 year full-time to complete. Persons in education are also allowed to work up to 20 hours per week to supplement their income during studies.
- How hard is it to get? If you can afford the international fees for Irish universities, this visa is easily attainable.
- What it is: Stamp 4s are issued to people who are able to secure a job via two types of permits: Critical Skills Permits or the General Employment Permit. This is also the visa you would receive if you were receiving an intra-company transfer to Ireland from your existing role.
- Who can get it: If you are able to secure a job offer from a company willing to sponsor you, you are able to apply for this visa.
- How hard is it to get? Depending on your field, this route can be the most difficult as it is the least prescribed. If you do not qualify for any of the alternative work visas above, the Stamp 4 is likely your best option to relocate to Ireland if you plan to work. It encompasses a wide array of job titles and industries, but in order to be able to qualify the employer would have to:
- Pay you a salary of at least €30,000 (unless otherwise stated)
- Provide a full description of the proposed employment and the skills required for the job to the Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment (DETE).
- Pay the DETE a €1,000 fee
- Complete a labour market test to show proof no EU applicants could compare to your capability.
How to Find a Job in Ireland as an expat
It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of scoping out a new job given the obstacles presented to potential expats. Thankfully, many of the websites used in the U.S. to job search are also utilized in Ireland. LinkedIn and Indeed are used by many Irish companies to fill vacancies. There are many sites that are also specific to Ireland, such as Irish Jobs which features many jobs by county and ActiveLink which features jobs in the non-profit and charity sector.
It would also be useful to connect with Irish recruiters on LinkedIn, as well as make every attempt to avail of any connection you may have to a person based in Ireland with a position of leadership in a company. If you are in a position to do so, it is also worthwhile to take a trip to Ireland on a tourist visa; which gives you 90 days to scope out potential employers and establish potential professional connections.
When looking to move to Ireland on a Stamp 4, one list that should be consulted frequently is the ineligible skills list. This list contains jobs that an employer is NOT permitted to sponsor, even if they are having trouble filling their vacancies. Anything that is not on the ineligible list is fair game for non-EU applicants, and your application could even potentially be fast-tracked if you are applying for a job that falls under Ireland’s Critical Skills categorization.
The Top Jobs in Demand in Ireland for Expats
A list to bookmark for anyone looking to move to Ireland would be the Critical Skills Occupations List. The primary difference between the Critical Skills Permit and the General Employment Permit is the lack of a need for a labour market test by the employer, as the job has already been deemed high-demand by the State. This list is updated regularly dependent on the emergent needs of the Irish workforce.
Jobs in healthcare such as nursing and speech language therapists are consistently featured on the list, particularly in the wake of COVID-19. Historically healthcare professionals were not compensated comparatively to other nearby countries, and many leave Ireland for higher paying jobs in other countries once they finish their schooling. This has led to a shortage that has subsequently left healthcare professionals on the Critical Skills List for many years.
IT is also a large field that is heavily listed given current shortages and the sheer number of companies that have chosen Ireland for their European headquarters location. Programmers and IT project managers are particularly sought after for their skills by these multinational corporations, given the current shortage of talent stemming from historically lacking IT education in Irish institutions
As referenced above, those interested in pursuing accounting have a fast-track to residency if they are willing to sit the numerous exams necessary to achieve Chartered Accountant status in Ireland. Many companies and organizations across Ireland are struggling to staff their finance departments, and will subsequently pay for their contracted trainee to take the exams in exchange for their retention as an employee.
Jobs in Ireland for expats
Moving to a new country for work is a scary and immensely overwhelming process. It encompasses a lot of heartbreak over potential roles, and a lot of rejection from companies and organizations that don’t understand what experiences expats can bring to the table.
Americans looking to relocate to Ireland will face a lot of obstacles; but Irish residency is not an unattainable pipe dream given you are in it for the long haul. Expect rejections, but keep applying. Learn what visa would be relevant for you and be able to rattle off the requirements with your eyes closed. Ireland’s workforce is on the rise and on the road to recovery as it emerges from the pandemic; there is no reason it couldn’t be you among its numbers.