A new preclearance process for non-EEA de facto partners wishing to join their Irish partners in Ireland was launched by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) on Monday 19 August 2019.

Until now, de facto partners (those who are not married or in a documented civil union) had to move to Ireland before applying for permission to work in Ireland. That application process could take up to a year to complete.  

This was an obvious deterrent for couples, one of whom was an Irish citizen, who wanted to move back to Ireland (sometimes with their family) but could not foresee a financially viable means of doing so if only one person was able to earn an income.

Under the new preclearance system, a non-EEA de facto partner who intends to travel to Ireland for the purposes of joining their Irish partner on or after 1 November 2019 can apply from outside of Ireland for preclearance to live and work in Ireland. This means the couple can have certainty on the position before relocating to Ireland.

Importantly the applicant must be ordinarily resident outside of Ireland when making the application for preclearance. Proof of residence will be requested. The applicant must also remain outside of Ireland while their application is being processed.

If the application is approved the non-EEA de facto partner will be provided with a Preclearance Letter of Approval (similar to that provided in other pre-clearance schemes) which can be presented to an immigration officer at border control when they arrive at the port of entry. The Preclearance Letter of Approval will permit the non-EEA de facto partner entry into Ireland to join their Irish partner. The Preclearance Letter of Approval is valid for only 6 months and a new one must be applied for if not used. Once the non-EEA de facto partner arrives in Ireland and registers with INIS, they will be able to start work in Ireland.

Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan has stated that preclearance will provide greater certainty for people considering or planning on moving back home to Ireland with their non-EEA de facto partner and hopes that it will encourage more people to come home.