The Start-up Entrepreneur Scheme (STEP) allows non-EEA nationals with a new innovative business concept for a high potential start-up in Ireland to apply for immigration permission based on this idea. Unlike the Immigrant Investor Programme where substantial net worth and investment are required, the financial criteria are much more reasonable under the STEP programme.

In order to qualify for immigration permission under this scheme, an applicant  must have access to €50,000 in order start their business in Ireland.

The primary criteria for the STEP programme are as follows:-

  1. That an applicant has a high potential start-up venture.
  2. That the venture will introduce a new innovative product or service to international markets.
  3. The business is capable of creating ten jobs in Ireland and turning over €1,000,000 in sales within three to four years of establishment.
  4. The business must be led by an experienced management team.
  5. It must be headquartered and controlled in Ireland.
  6. The business must be less than six years old.

The Start-up Entrepreneur Scheme is not intended for retail or general businesses such as hospitality, catering, or other such services.  It is strictly applicable to high potential start-ups in areas such as technology, science, engineering, mathematics, communications.

A detailed business plan must be submitted in support of an application as well as evidence of good character.

The €50,000 monetary requirement can come from an applicant’s own personal financial resources, a business loan, a business angel/venture capital funding, or a grant from an Irish state agency. As part of the application, an applicant must provide evidence that they have access to these funds and that they can be transferred to Ireland.

A completed STEP application form and supporting documentation must be submitted via email to: IIPandSTEPapplications@justice.ie. The application form can be found on the ISD website at the following link:

https://www.irishimmigration.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/STEP-Application-Form.pdf.

A non-refundable processing fee of €350 is charged by the Department of Justice in order to process the application.

After the application is submitted, it is assessed by an evaluation committee and the Minister for Justice and Equality and if the application is approved, an applicant will be advised of the decision granting them permission to reside in the State on a Stamp 4 basis.

Funds will need to be transferred to an Irish bank account before the final letter of approval issues. Private medical insurance is also a requirement, and this can be purchased after entry to the State.

Visa required nationals who are successfully granted STEP permission must apply for an entry visa in order to enter the State.

Successful applicants will be granted residence permission for two years initially and subject to complying with the grant of the initial permission, may be eligible for an extension of their residence permission for a further three years. After this, permission to remain can be renewed in five-year periods.

In order to renew the STEP residence permission after two years, an applicant must prove to the Minister for Justice and Equality that they have:-

  1. Established the business as outlined in their business plan, which has remained in place throughout the two-year period.
  2. Have worked on the business on a full-time basis.
  3. Not have become a financial burden on the Irish State.
  4. Not have been convicted of a criminal offence in any jurisdiction and maintained private health insurance.

The Evaluation Committee will assess the success and feasibility of the business at renewal stage and it is open for the Minister for Justice and Equality to withdraw residency status at any point should the conditions of the initial grant not have been met.

Documentary evidence will be requested at renewal stage by the ISD to verify the above.

Immediate family members such as an applicant’s spouse, civil partner or partner and dependent children aged under eighteen or if in full time permanent education aged between eighteen and twenty four, can be included as dependants in an application and will be granted Stamp 4 permission to remain, the same as the primary applicant.

After five years, an applicant can apply for long term residence and Irish citizenship. In circumstances where strict residency requirements are attached to the grant of Irish citizenship by way of naturalisation, applicants should familiarise themselves with the rules attached to applying for Irish citizenship at the outset of their residency in the State to ensure that they are eligible to apply when the time comes. For further information on the Irish citizenship process, see https://sinnott.ie/irish-citizenship/.

Full information on the Start Up Entrepreneur Scheme is available on the Department of Justice and Equality Website. https://www.irishimmigration.ie/start-up-entrepreneur-programme-step/#howdoiapply

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