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Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The STEP is an advantageous and 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.  It is suitable for people with entrepreneurial ability and good financial backing who wish to start a business in the innovation area or to bring such a recently established business to Ireland. The STEP offers one of the most secure and generous levels of immigration status available to foreign nationals in Ireland short of citizenship.  Unlike many immigration routes into Ireland, 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.

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.

From experience, we have seen that key to a successful STEP application is a well presented business plan setting out a clear and evidenced vision for the innovative start-up proposal.  In applying for STEP it is important that any prospective company must demonstrate a genuinely innovative idea that is capable not only of creating jobs in Ireland, but also of having significant potential for generating exports.  Companies engaged in manufacturing, hi-tech, design or internationally traded services are especially suitable to this programme.

An application to the STEP can be made by one or more main founders or decision makers in the business (this usually covers the CFO, CFO, CTO, CIO).  It is not intended to cover investors who will not have an operational role in the business (the Immigrant Investor Programme may be more suitable to such investors).  For the second and each subsequent person who seeks STEP permission for the same business, the requirement for a €50,000 investment is reduced to €30,000.

2018 application windows

Those wishing to apply for STEP should be aware that applications will only be accepted during the following time periods:

  • 10 January 2018 – 24 January 2018
  • 14 March 2018 – 28 March 2018
  • 09 May 2018 – 23 May 2018
  • 15 August 2018 – 29 August 2018
  • 10 October 2018 – 24 October 2018

The Evaluation Committee meet after each round of applications to assess the applications and decisions are usually issued approximately 4 months after they are lodged with INIS.

If you intend to apply for STEP, it is never too early to start preparing your application and supporting documents. In particular, there are relatively stringent requirements to prove the source of the intended financial investment and to confirm that the monies can be successfully transferred to Ireland.

Philip Lee can assist with applications for STEP while guiding applicants through each stage of the process. Notably, in addition to the STEP, there are other immigration options available for companies and individuals wishing to reside in Ireland which can be explored. If you would like further information regarding the immigration options most appropriate to your requirements, please feel free to get in touch with any member of our immigration group.