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To qualify for many social assistance payments in Ireland, you must meet the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC). As part of this, you need to prove that you are living in Ireland and that you have close ties to the Republic of Ireland—even if you are an Irish citizen. Read on for what you need to know.

Overview

The Habitual Residence Condition (HRC) came into effect from 1 May 2004. You must meet this condition to be eligible for many social assistance payments in the Republic of Ireland, even if you are an Irish citizen.

While the HRC is not defined in Irish law, it generally means that you:

  • have proven close ties with Ireland
  • have been living in Ireland for some time
  • intend to stay in Ireland for the foreseeable future

To satisfy the HRC, you must:

  • Have a right to live in the Republic of Ireland and access social welfare services (all Irish citizens have this right), and
  • Show that you are habitually resident in the Republic of Ireland (this is assessed using five factors)

Five Factors

When deciding if you meet the HRC as part of your social welfare application, the Department of Social Protection looks at five factors:

  1. How long you have lived and intend to continue living in Ireland or in any other country
  2. The length and reason for any absence from Ireland
  3. The nature and pattern of your employment
  4. Your main place of interest (also known as your ‘main centre of interest’)
  5. Your future intentions to live in Ireland as it appears from the evidence

Your main place / centre of interest is usually where your home is, and where you live on a permanent basis. It is based on things like:

  • Whether you own or lease a home here
  • Where your close family members live
  • Whether you belong to social or professional associations here
  • Any other evidence or activities indicating a settled residence in Ireland

You do not necessarily need to satisfy all five factors to meet the HRC – you just need to provide strong evidence that Ireland is your main centre of interest.

Returning and HRC

According to the Department of Social Protection’s Operational Guidelines, ‘returning Irish migrants or those resuming habitual residence can be regarded as being habitually residence immediately on their return to the State.’ This means that if you lived here previously, you could be found habitually resident as soon as you return as long as you can show that you have returned permanently and that your ‘centre of interest’ is once again in Ireland. It is up to you to provide evidence of this to satisfy the Department.

These guidelines state that in certain circumstances a person may have maintained their ‘centre of interest’ in Ireland despite living and/or working abroad – for instance: ‘If a person is working abroad and returns home at regular intervals to visit family or because they have maintained a home here it is possible that their centre of interest is still in Ireland,’ in which case ‘it could be argued that they never ceased to be habitually resident in Ireland.’

Payments to which HRC Applies

The HRC applies to ‘allowance’ payments, including:

  • Basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance
  • Blind Pension
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Child Benefit
  • Disability Allowance
  • Domiciliary Care Allowance
  • Guardian’s Payment (Non-contributory)
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • One-Parent Family Payment
  • State Pension (Non-contributory)
  • Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Non-contributory) Pension

Social Welfare Application

As part of your social welfare application, you will need to complete the HRC1 form. On this form, you will need to provide personal details and if applicable, information on your spouse/civil partner/cohabitant,  children, and other family members. You will also need to detail periods of residence in Ireland and abroad.

We recommend providing documentary evidence to support your application. See the next section for information on this.

Documents to Include in Application

It is your responsibility to provide as much information as possible to show that you are habitually resident in Ireland. This could include documentary evidence proving you have:

  • Given up accommodation abroad (e.g. proof of ending your tenancy or selling your home)
  • Ended a job abroad
  • Terminated any residency-based benefits abroad or transferred these payments, if applicable
  • Travel documents, such as a one-way ticket
  • Transported your belongings back to Ireland (e.g. excess baggage fees, removal or shipping receipts)
  • Proof that your visa for the country you are returning from has expired, if applicable
  • Closed bank accounts abroad
  • Opened a bank account in Ireland
  • Registered to vote in Ireland
  • Any other evidence of intentions to remain in Ireland for good – for instance:
    1. Letters of support from family members confirming your permanent return to Ireland
    2. proof of renting a property in Ireland
    3. Proof of seeking employment in Ireland (both prior to and following your return)
    4. Proof of enrolling your children in school here
    5. Proof of registering with a GP in Ireland
    6. Proof of exchanging your driving licence
    7. Proof of joining any local groups

Application Cover Letter

We recommend that you include a cover letter with your application detailing your circumstances as an Irish citizen returning from abroad. Include information on:

  • Your life in Ireland before you left (e.g. where you lived, worked, went to school/college, etc.)
  • The reason(s) for your departure from Ireland (e.g. to seek employment abroad)
  • Your contact with Ireland while living abroad (e.g. regular visits back to Ireland, family members who remained here)
  • Reason(s) for your return (e.g. wanting to be closer to family in Ireland)
  • Details of family members in Ireland, including those who have returned with you
  • Reasons for family members remaining abroad (e.g. delayed return to facilitate children finishing the school term)
  • How you have cut with the country you are leaving, explaining how the supporting documents relate to this (e.g. “As you can see from the enclosed letter, I have ended my tenancy in London.”)
  • Arrangements you have made to resettle in Ireland long-term (e.g. established living arrangements here)

Appealing a Refusal Due to HRC

If the Department of Social Protection rejects social welfare application due to the HRC, you should be given a written refusal providing reasons for the decision.

You have 21 days from the date of the written refusal in which to submit an appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office, which is based in Dublin. In your appeal letter you should address the reasons given for the refusal and detail why you believe you are habitually resident in Ireland in line with the five factors.

A negative decision on one or more of these factors does not automatically disqualify you from being considered habitually resident. If you feel that you strongly satisfy one or more factors, you can provide further evidence of these in your appeal.

As it can take months for appeals to be processed, we strongly advise you to include detailed information with your initial application to ensure full details are available to the person processing your claim in the first instance.

Additional Information and Support

Some Irish citizens returning to Ireland from abroad can face difficulties satisfying the HRC.

We are here to support you if you need help with your social welfare application or you have been refused a social welfare payment due to the HRC. Contact us for assistance as soon as possible.

You can find more information on the Habitual Residence Condition at gov.ie, including the Operational Guidelines .

HRC: Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to live in Ireland for two years before I can satisfy the HRC?

No. You can be found habitually resident immediately on your return once you provide enough evidence to support your case.

I have never lived in Ireland, but I am an Irish citizen. Does the HRC apply to me?

Yes. Anyone applying for a social assistance payment must satisfy the HRC. It can be more difficult to do this if you have never lived in Ireland, as it will take time to establish your main centre of interest here.

Are there any social welfare payments that the HRC does not apply to?

Yes. The HRC does not apply to social insurance payments, like Jobseeker’s Benefit or a State Pension (Contributory). It also does not apply to Additional Needs Payments, like Exceptional and Urgent Needs Payments.

Page last updated on 12 February, 2024

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