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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Moving to Ireland? Not So Fast

If you've read my Black Swamp Mysteries or Ryan O'Clery Mysteries series, you know I have a fascination and love of all things Irish. And if you're a follower of this blog, you'll know that I journeyed to Ireland more than once to reconnect with where my ancestors came from (Ballygawley, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland) and what they experienced. Standing on the land they once owned, looking over the hills and valleys that were once theirs, was an experience I won't soon forget.

I, like countless others, fell in love with the mystical, magical Emerald Isle and her people. I have long had a vision of writing novels in a cottage beside the water, walking the shoreline as Mrs. Muir did in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (although she was in England), and becoming immersed in the Irish culture and history.

So I was disappointed to learn that rules changed in 2015 that prevented me from living there.

As of March 2015, Americans wishing to "retire" in Ireland (more on exactly what "retire" means in a moment) must have a government guaranteed pension of 50,000 Euro (currently about $57,000 USD) per person. Being a writer, my income is derived from royalties but under the new rules, book royalties do not count; the premise being that royalties are not a guaranteed source of income. Neither, apparently, is having money in the bank. I suppose with banks failing and nest eggs disappearing with economic fluctuations, they decided not to count savings, either. Internet-based businesses are also ineligible.

In America, immigrants come here to look for employment. In Ireland, you obtain employment before you move there. This is generally done through an American company with a presence in Ireland; someone working for Apple, Google or Pfizer, for example, could be transferred there. The company completes the necessary paperwork and the employee is granted permission to remain for one year at a time, renewable each year. If their employment ceases, they are sometimes given as little as seven days to leave the country.

But if you are not already employed by a company willing and able to relocate you to Ireland, you can not search for employment there. Jobs are for the Irish, not for Americans.

That means if you wish to live there as I did, the only option is to "retire" there, even though I would have continued to earn income through my book royalties. And because I am not retired from the U.S. Government and receiving a guaranteed government pension of at least $57,000 USD per year, I do not qualify to live there.

I am fortunate that I discovered this before making the move. Some moved there prior to the change in policy (see the links below) and were forced to move - often with short notice. I anticipated volatility in a country in Central or South America, where governments can be less stable, but never in a Western European country such as Ireland - especially since the United States has more citizens of Irish descent than the Irish do in Ireland.

Discovering this made me realize that wherever an American goes, they will never be afforded the same rights elsewhere; a home, an automobile, furnishings and belongings left behind in Ireland because one has to leave the country on short notice often leads to all those possessions being forfeited. The Irish Government now owns them.

So my dream of writing my novels in a small cottage by the sea has been dashed. Being the eternal optimist that I am, I can only believe something better is in store for me.

[Pictures are from Ballygawley, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. As of this writing, I've been unable to locate a UK solicitor (equivalent of an attorney) who would assist with immigration and I have decided there's a message there.]

Links for more information: