Key Contracts: Patrick Walshe – Partner

Irish businesses were faced with countless challenges as a result of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the Irish Government remains focussed on supporting business to weather the storm as well as to enable new enterprises to succeed in Ireland and globally. In 2020, the Government supported thousands of businesses and provided €10 million in seed and venture capital.

Start-Up Entrepreneur Programme

One mechanism through which the Irish State seeks to stimulate investment in Ireland is the Start-Up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP), which is a relatively straightforward way for non-EEA entrepreneurs and business founders in the start-up space to gain the right to live in Ireland and establish their business.

To apply for STEP, there are two key requirements:

  • The applicant must have secured funding of at least €50,000 for the proposed start-up.
  • The proposed business must be considered a High Potential Start-up (HPSU).

To satisfy the Evaluation Committee that the proposed business is a HPSU, your business plan should clearly establish that the business will:

  • Introduce a new or innovative product or service to international markets.
  • Be capable of creating 10 jobs in Ireland and realising €1 million in sales within three to four years of starting up.
  • Be led by an experienced management team.
  • Be headquartered and controlled in Ireland.
  • Be less than six years old.

Short of citizenship, STEP offers one of the most secure and practically useful levels of immigration status available to foreign nationals in Ireland.

Among other things, family members of successful STEP applicants can avail of immediate family reunification with their own right to work, study or establish their own business in Ireland.

Immigrant Investor Programme

It is also open to investors or entrepreneurs to apply under the Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP) in respect of qualifying enterprises.

While this application is slightly more complex, the rights that come with IIP status will be of great benefit to eligible entrepreneurs or start-up investors.

Successful IIP applicants do not have to reside principally in Ireland to maintain their permission (which is a requirement under STEP); they need only travel to Ireland one day per year to maintain their permission.

In addition, the investor/entrepreneur does not have to have an operational role in the enterprise, which is also a requirement of STEP. The holder of IIP permission is able to take up work or establish other businesses immediately on registration; STEP permission holders, by contrast, are required to continue to work in the enterprise which formed part of the application to maintain their permission.

There is therefore an option for the hands-on, operational entrepreneur and an option for the investor or someone involved more on a part-time or advisory basis.

IIP applicants may include their family in their application as well. If successful, their family may take up residence on the same conditions as the investor.

Only applicants who intend to invest at least €1 million in their own enterprise (and can also demonstrate a net worth of €2 million) are eligible.

Citizenship and long-term residence

In addition, and usefully, time spent residing in Ireland on the basis of either permission will count towards the residence requirement for Irish citizenship by naturalisation.

The Irish passport is a powerful passport currently as it, generally speaking, grants the holder access to the EU and the UK. Further, Irish passport holders can travel to 190 countries without the need for a visa.