In recent years, Ireland has rapidly become one of the most desirable countries for business owners to immigrate to within the European Economic Area (EEA), thanks in part to its forgiving tax regime. However, the government felt that it was not doing enough to draw in non-EEA investors, and introduced the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP) in 2012 to attempt to rectify this.
The scheme opens up an avenue for non-EEA entrepreneurs with viable start-ups to gain residency in Ireland, provided they can show €75,000 in minimum funding and their business idea is deemed high potential. While STEP does allow for a great deal of entrepreneurial freedom, retail, catering, personal services, or any other related businesses are excluded from the program.
The guidelines in place to determine a High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) are as follows:
- The venture is introducing a new or innovative product or service to international markets.
- It has the potential to create 10 jobs in Ireland and achieve €1 million in sales within 3-4 years of starting up.
- An experienced management team must lead it.
- The venture’s headquarters must be in Ireland.
- It must be less than 6 years old.
Successful applicants will be granted an initial residency period of 2 years, which can then be renewed for an additional 3 years. Immediate family members such as a spouse or children (under 18) can also be nominated for the same residency status and will be maintained for as long as the applicant meets the required criteria. After 5 years, applicants and nominated family members can apply for long-term residence and will obtain a multiple entry visa for as long as this status is maintained.
STEP and *related schemes for non-EEA nationals* provide an exciting opportunity for entrepreneurs with innovative ideas while also stimulating economic growth in Ireland. However, those eager to apply should bear in mind that they can only do so during the following dates for 2018:
- 10 January 2018 – 24 January 2018
- 14 March 2018 – 28 March 2018
- 9 May 2018 – 23 May 2018
- 15 August 2018 – 29 August 2018
- 10 October 2018 – 24 October 2018
Those further interested can read the Irish government’s full guidelines for the STEP program here.