I’ve gotten many emails over the past few years of people who come across my blog and want to know “How did you do it?” How, at 22 years of age, did I move from South Louisiana to Dublin, Ireland? Did you do it through a program? Did you have a job? How did you afford it? Was it scary?
Well, folks, I’ll tell you how I did it. I up and moved to Dublin, with no job or place to live, because of a little something known as the Working Holiday Authorisation – an amazing yet little-known program between Ireland and citizens of The US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Hong Kong, Chile, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.
The rules and requirements vary slightly from country to country. For the purpose of this post I’m focusing on the Working Holiday Authorisation offered to people from the United States.
So here we go!
WHAT IS The working holiday authorisation?
To quote the Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs, The Working Holiday Authorisation is “an agreement with other governments that allows young people of both countries to fund an extended holiday through temporary work. It’s designed to let US citizens travel through Ireland for an extended amount of time and to take up employment during their stay.”
So basically, I like to think of it like a gap year. The Working Holiday Authorisation allowed me to move to Ireland after I graduated college with no job lined up, no ties or connections to the country, and basically no plans. And I was able to live there for a year. Exciting, right?
WHO CAN APPLY?
The Working Holiday Authorisation is for US citizens over 18 who are currently enrolled full-time in post-secondary education at an institution inside or outside of the US, or who have graduated from such education in the last 12 months. So basically, you need to be a full-time college/university student or have graduated college/university no more than a year before applying.
WHERE DO I APPLY?
Apply for the Working Holiday Authorisation through the Irish Embassy and Consulate Generals in the US. What state you’re from will determine which Consulate to apply to. Each state is assigned to a certain Consulate depending on region and location. Ireland’s Consulates in the US that process these applications are in Boston, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, and the main Embassy in DC.
I am from Louisiana, so I had to send my application to the Consulate in Chicago. Find out which Consulate to apply to based on where you live here. (Under “How to Apply – US Citizens Only” tab).
Consulate General New York: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, North & South Carolina, Pennsylvania and West Virginia
Consulate General Boston: Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
Consulate General San Francisco: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
Consulate General Chicago: Alabama, Arkansas, North Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin
Embassy of Ireland, Washington DC: District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and Puerto Rico
HOW DO I APPLY?
Once you’ve determined where you need to send your application, it’s time to actually apply.
First, print out the official Application for a Working Holiday Authorisation. Make sure to fill out the application entirely and sign. You’ll need to fill out your intended date of entry and how long you intend to stay. The Working Holiday Authorisation is valid for a year, but some people know that they’ll only be there for a certain amount of time – 3 months, 6 months, etc. Unless you’re entirely sure that you are leaving or have to leave before the year is up for whatever reason, I would suggest saying that you’re intending to stay 1 year. If you decide to leave Ireland early for some reason, it’s not a big deal.
If you have a relative or contact in Ireland, you can include it in the application. If not, no biggie. Like I said, I had absolutely no ties to Ireland via ancestors, relatives, or anything. So I had no contacts. Its OK if you don’t, and it won’t affect your application. It’s also not a big deal if you have no employment arranged before you get there. Again, answering no to those sections of the application won’t affect your acceptance.
Along with the filled out and signed application, you’ll have to turn in some other stuff too:
- A photocopy of your passport, which has to be valid until AT LEAST a year after your planned arrival date into Ireland.
- 2 recent identical passport-sized photos with your name on the back.
- Current résumé, which as to contain at least 2 references.
- Evidence that you are currently in full-time post-secondary education (current transcript or official letter from the university), or have graduated within the last 12 months (diploma or official letter from the university). For this you have to turn in ORIGINAL copies of the documents, but they’ll be returned to you after the application has been reviewed.
- ORIGINAL bank statement showing you have access to at least $4,000
- The relevant non-refundable fee and postage in the form of a money order, cashier’s cheque or bank draft made out to your relevant Embassy/Consulate.
Make sure to send your completed application and documents through certified mail or a courier company. Since it will contain sensitive documents and money you do NOT want it getting lost in the mail. Or, if you happen to live in or near one of the consulate cities, you can drop off the application in person. Just make sure to check your consulate/embassy site to see if you need to make an appointment.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Once the Consulate or Embassy have received your application, it’ll take about 6-8 weeks for your application to be processed. Well, that’s how long they say it’ll be, but I got my approved application back within 3 weeks.
You’ll be notified if your application is approved. Once your application is approved, you’ll need to submit a few more things:
- Proof that you’ve bought a roundtrip flight. This is to ensure that you don’t intend to overstay your visa after the 12 months and remain in Ireland illegally. However, the flight doesn’t have to be from the US to Ireland and back. If you’re planning on traveling elsewhere in Europe after your stay in Ireland, you can submit a ticket from Ireland to another destination.
- Certificate of medical/travel insurance valid for the duration of your trip (based on the dates of your plane tickets).
Turn in those last 2 pieces of documentation. Once they’ve been approved by the Consulate/Embassy, you’ll receive your official Working Holiday Authorisation in the mail. PUT IT IN A SAFE PLACE AND DON’T LOSE IT. You have to “activate” your Working Holiday Authorization, or enter into Ireland with your visa, within 6 months of receiving it.
YAY! You’ve officially got your Working Holiday Authorisation visa! You’re going to Ireland, baby!
WHAT DO I PACK?
When packing for your Working Holiday, remember that you will be in Ireland for an entire year. Which means that you’ll experience every time of weather the little island has to offer. From chilly to rainy to mild to downright FREEZING, you’ll be there for it all.
But remember, you don’t have to bring your whole closet with you. You can buy lots of stuff you need once you get there. You’ll be making many a trip to Penneys when you first arrive, trust me. (I’ll touch on the heaven on earth that is Penneys later). I arrived in Ireland with 1 large suitcase and 1 carry on. Now if I were to pack up all of the stuff I’ve accumulated while I’ve been here, I’d have like 5 suitcases.
But what stuff should you bring? Well, I suggest a winter hat, gloves, a warm coat, a rain jacket, versatile clothes for layering, a good pair of boots, and some shoes that are easy to walk in.
Also, if you have access to an old cell phone that you can unlock through your carrier, I would definitely recommend getting one. “Unlocking” your phone means you can insert a SIM card from any mobile provider and it’ll work. So for example, if you’re an AT&T costumer on a contract plan with an iPhone, that iPhone is locked to AT&T and won’t work if you put another type of SIM card in it. But what WILL work is an old phone you or anyone you know had before upgrading to a new one. Since that one is no longer connected to an active plan and it’s been paid for, you can unlock it and use it with whatever carrier you want. Make sense?
Find out more about how to unlock a phone here. If you don’t have an old phone to unlock and can’t find anyone who does, it’s ok. You can get one in Ireland. This is just an easy way to save some money by using an old phone.
What do you NOT need to bring? Shorts – no one really wears them. Socks and undergarments – if you’re tight for space in your suitcase, just leave them at home and buy some when you get here (in Penneys, of course).
Basically, just think about it like this: You most likely won’t have permanent accommodation before arrival, so you’ll be in a hostel or temporary accommodation. You also won’t have a car. Do you really want to moving around with multiple large suitcases using a taxi or public transport? No, trust me, you do not.
WHAT SHOULD I ARRANGE BEFORE LANDING IN IRELAND?
Like I said before, you most likely won’t be able to find an apartment or permanent residence before you get there. So, you’ll need to book temporary accommodation, like a hostel or Airbnb, for when you get there.
I would suggest Abigail’s Hostel on the Quays. I stayed there for a few nights when I first arrived to Dublin and I loved it. It’s affordable and in a great location with friendly staff and free breakfast. Plus, it’s near the immigration office, which you’ll have to go to (more on that later).
Another option is to do a Homestay. It’s a website kind of like Airbnb except that you live with the homeowners in their actual home. Most of the time you’re just renting a room in someone’s house. This is a good option if you want to arrange something for a few weeks, because it will come out cheaper than a hostel. It’s also a great way to get a more local experience. When I arrived in Dublin, I stayed at Abigail’s Hostel for 3 nights and then went to a Homestay where I would stay for another 2 weeks before I was able to find a permanent place.
That brings me to another point. Some people who go to Ireland with the Working Holiday Authorisation know they want to work on a farm in the countryside or have a specific place they want to live that isn’t Dublin. If that’s the case, I would still recommend starting off in Dublin. It’ll be easy to get your taxes, cell phone, and bank all in order in Dublin where it’s all easily accessible.
Another important thing to do before leaving for Ireland is scheduling an appointment at the Garda Naturalisation and Immigration Bureau (GNIB) to register with the immigration office and get an immigration card. You have 90 days once you arrive in Ireland to do this, but I would recommend making an appointment before you leave because sometimes appointment slots are booked for up to 10 weeks. **THIS IS SUPER IMPORTANT SO DO IT**.
So besides having temporary accommodation sorted out, there’s not much else you can have arranged before arrival. It’s nearly impossible to have a job or housing set up beforehand unless you have some sort of connection. But hey, that’s part of the fun!
YAY! I MADE IT TO IRELAND! NOW WHAT?
When you get to the airport, make sure to show the officer at border control your Working Holiday Authorisation document. They’ll stamp your passport and explain to you that you’ll need to go to the immigration office in Dublin to register with the Garda Naturalisation and Immigration Bureau.
Once you get settled into your hostel/accommodation, it’s time to start getting “set up” in Ireland.
The three most important things that you need to get when you get there are
- GNIB Card – I’ve discussed the importance of this above
- PPS Number – the equivalent of a social security number, for tax purposes.
- Bank Account
These 3 things are what you need to apply for a job and find a place to live. However, things can get a little tricky between opening a bank account, getting a PPS number, and applying for a GNIB card. You’ll find that to get one thing you’ll be asked for proof of another thing. It’s just one big complicated circle.
How to get a GNIB Card
As mentioned above, you need to schedule an appointment with the GNIB office and go as soon as you can.
This is super important and a legal requirement so try to get it done ASAP. Bring your proof of health insurance, your original Working Holiday Authorisation document, your passport, and any other documents they mention in your appointment confirmation email. The registration fee is €300. You’ll get a GNIB card, which looks kind of like a drivers license.
Under a Working Holiday Authorisation you are allowed to come and go from Ireland as you please. You can go traveling while living in Ireland, you can visit the US and come back, you can go anywhere you want throughout the year. However, make sure to always have your GNIB card with you when traveling. You’ll have to present this to the officer at border control at the airport any time you’re coming back into Ireland, and you’ll have no trouble getting back in.
How to get a PPS Number
You don’t need to have a PPS number while looking for a job, but you’ll need one once you get a job for tax purposes. You’ll need to register with the Department of Social Protection. In Dublin, you’ll go to the Intreo Centre on Parnell Street. You’ll need to bring proof of identity (passport), a proof of address, and your GNIB card. You’ll also need to bring proof of employment, like a letter from your employer.
How to Open an Irish Bank Account
To open an account in an Irish bank, you’ll first need to decide what bank you want to get set up with. The main Irish banks are Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank, AIB, Permanent TSB, and KBC. They all have different account options and benefits, so you’ll need to see which one works best for you. Then, you’ll need to make an appointment; you can’t just walk in. Here’s a perfect example of that “complicated circle” I mentioned. You’ll need a PPS number and proof of address, which can be a letter from your landlord, or a company like USIT if you’re going through one (see next section). Sometimes the bank will also need to see proof of employment.
I would say to give yourself 1.2-2 weeks find your way through this circle (and you will, because I’m here to help!). I would also suggest to get them in that order listed above. If, when getting your GNIB card, the immigration officer asks you for your PPS number, just politely remind him that in order to get your PPS number, you need a GNIB card.
HOW do i get an irish phone number?
The main mobile providers in Ireland are Three, Meteor, Vodaphone. Go to any of these providers (that have many locations) and get set up for a phone plan. If you didn’t bring an unlocked phone with you, you can buy one there too. Also, they all offer plans that include international minutes, which is great for talking to family back home (but if you have an iPhone, I would suggest FaceTime!)
However, since I’m all about saving a dolla, I want to pass my infinite wisdom onto you so that you too can save money. If you have an unlocked phone, I suggest going with 48 as your carrier. They have no physical stores and are a lesser-known carrier. You pick your plan and sign up online, and then they send you your SIM card in the mail. From that point on, it charges your account every month. I find it to be the most affordable for the basics (minutes, texting, and data) and haven’t had any problems.
WOW, THIS IS A LOT OF INFO. IS THERE A PROGRAM/COMPANY THAT CAN HELP WITH ALL OF THIS?
Yes, there is! It’s not necessary to have signed up with a “host” company, and they will not apply for the Working Holiday Authorisation on your behalf. What they WILL do, though, is try to answer questions about the application AND help you once you actually arrive in Ireland.
I signed up with USIT to assist me with my move to Ireland. Now that I’ve done it, it’s easy for me to look back and say that I could’ve done it on my own. That I could’ve figured out how to register with the tax office, print out resumes, and find housing with no help from an outside source.
However, I’m not completely sure that that’s the case. For me, USIT was great for providing a home base in Dublin’s city centre when I landed and took off running. It was so nice to have a place where I could ask for advice, print out resumes for free, look at boards with job and apartment listings updated daily, and just have a place where I could get my sh*t together. They also offered an orientation right when you land. This helps get you familiar with the process of going to the immigration office, applying for a PPS number, and other technical stuff.
It’s easy for me to look back and say that I could’ve done it alone, but in reality, USIT definitely helped. It was a place I could go to and and get my life in order during the first couple of weeks when I was running like a chicken with my head cut off.
However, I’m sure many of you badasses could totally rock up to Ireland by yourself and figure it out! Especially with having this oh so handy guide to help you along the way! If I would’ve had a guide this amazing, I think I could’ve done it alone! Just saying………
Where can i browse jobs and housing?
Finding housing in Dublin is a fight to the death. Like straight outta The Hunger Games. Don’t be surprised when you go to a viewing and there’s 30 other people there. And also don’t be surprised if it takes you some time to find something. There seems to be SO many people looking for accommodation in Dublin and shortage of places available.
The best website to search for housing is DAFT.ie. There, you can search for whole places to rent, or single rooms in houses (I find it’s easier to find a house looking for a roommate versus finding a whole house for rent). Be ready to apply for lots of places and get rejected lots of times before eventually finding something! I’m not going to lie, the rental market in Dublin is TOUGH. Expect to pay between €500-600 on rent, and you’ll need to put down a month’s rent as deposit.
As for jobs, Jobs.ie or IrishJobs.ie are great and have the most listings and nicest sites. There’s also Indeed, Monster, and Recruit Ireland. I would also recommend signing up for various recruitment agencies, because lots of big companies go through those agencies for hiring. I actually got my job through a recruitment agency! And of course, the classic technique of going around town and dropping off your resume is always a good idea (works more for retail/hospitality/restaurant jobs mores than office jobs).
Anyhting else I should know?
I can’t speak for the rest of Ireland, but I am an expert when it comes to Dublin life. Here are a few miscellaneous tips and tricks for making your life in Dublin just a little bit easier.
There are 3 different types of Public Transport in Dublin City and surrounding suburbs – Bus, DART, and LUAS
- Dublin Bus
Dublin’s public bus system covers the most area but is also the slowest and least reliable of the three. With unpredictable traffic delays they are often delayed, especially in the city centre. But for a lot of suburban areas, it is the only public transportation option. Every Dubliner should have the Dublin Bus app installed on their phone. This shows real-time information for every stop. An essential for anyone using Dublin bus!
The DART, or Dublin Area Rapid Transit, travels north and south from the city centre along Dublin Bay, on the east side of Dublin. It’s not particularly expensive and other than being crucial public transportation for some commuters, it’s also a great way to see some amazing bay-side villages and suburbs surrounding Dublin. DART trains can be as frequent as every 15 minutes in peak times and they are rarely delayed. Another necessary app to have when living in Dublin is the Irish Rail app, to get real-time information for the DART and regional trains!
The Luas is Dublin’s light rail/tram system. There are currently 2 lines, with a 3rd one currently being built which should be finished at the end of this year! The new Yellow line will connect the current Red and Green lines and service areas of the city which are currently only serviced by bus.
- Dublin Bike
Biking is slowly but surely becoming more popular in Dublin, although the city still has a lot of work to do in terms of cycle lanes. The Coca-Cola Dublin Bikes are a self-service bike rental system. You’ll find stations scattered across the city centre. For €20 a year you get an annual membership, which allows you to use Dublin Bikes. Basically, you can pick up a bike at a station and drop it off at any other station. However, the catch is that only the 1st 30 minutes is free with the annual membership, so you have to drop the bike back off after half an hour. It’s great for getting to and from work
I would recommend getting a Leap Card once you move to Dublin. The Leap Card is a travel card that works for all methods of public transportation. Just top it up at a machine or newsagent and scan it on any bus, train, or Luas instead of having to worry about having exact change. Plus, the fares are slightly cheaper when using a Leap Card! Even if you know you’ll be using it irregularly, it’s your best friend when it starts raining and you need to unexpectedly jump on a bus. (And yes I’m speaking from experience…)
10% is average. If you pay with credit card, let them know how much to run your card for with tip included.
Where to go for What
Although you’ll learn this after living in Dublin for a bit, I feel like it’s always helpful to know names of stores so that you know where to go for certain things.
First off, I wouldn’t be able to have a whole section on Dublin life without mentioning Penneys, a Dublin staple. Penenys is heaven. You can buy clothes, shoes, accessories, and homeware there and it’s all VERY cheap. Need workout clothes? Penneys. Need stockings? Penneys. Need a suitcase? Penneys. Need nail polish? Penneys. Need clothes hangers? Penneys. Just trust me when I say Penneys will be your best friend when you first get to Dublin and need to buy random bits and bobs while getting settled in.
- Grocery Stores – Aldi and Lidl are the cheapest. Mid-range would be Tesco and Dunnes. High-end would be Marks and Spencer’s (it’s amazing).
- Convenience Stores and Newsagents – Spar, Centra, and Londis are where you would go to top up your Leap Card, buy snacks and magazines, get a sandwich, etc.
- Mobile Phone companies – Like I mentioned, the phone companies are Three, Meteor, and Vodaphone.
- Shopping Streets – In the city centre, Grafton Street is the main shopping street on the Southside, and Henry Street on the Northside. They both have clothing stores like H&M, Zara, River Island, Dunnes, and other jewelry and shoe stores. (Fun fact: Henry Street has 2 Penneys and Grafton Street has ZERO).
- Shopping centers/malls – In Dublin’s City Centre: St. Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, Jervis Centre, Ilac Centre. A little bit outside of the city centre: Dundrum Town Centre, Blanchardstown Centre, Swords Pavilion Shopping Centre.
- Sports Arenas – Sports are huge in Ireland! Go to Croke Park for Gaelic football and Hurling games, and the Aviva Stadium for Rugby and football (soccer) matches.
Most shops are open from 9 or 10am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday, and from 12 to 6pm on Sunday, although grocery stores stay open later.
Irish Pronunciation and Slang
I find Irish-English SO fascinating. When I first moved here, I had a lot of trouble understanding certain accents. Now, I’ve gotten so used to them and hardly notice them! For being such a small country, Ireland has so many accents. Getting used to the many accents is one thing, but getting used to the Irish slang is another! A while back I shared a Guide to Irish Slang for Americans, which should help you out with some basic stuff. But Irish names…..now that’s another story. Names like Aoife, Caoimhe, Oisin, Aoibhinn, Eoin, Blathnaid, Fionnuala, Tadhg, and Padraig to name a few. Ridiculous names, right? I still don’t know how to pronounce half of the names I see written down. But that’s been one of the fun learning experiences I’ve had since I’ve been here.
I hope this has been helpful to anyone who is thinking about moving to Ireland with the Working Holiday Authorisation! I’ve absolutely loved living in Dublin and I encourage anyone who can to TAKE THE LEAP and move abroad! I can guarantee that you will not regret it!
If I’ve forgotten to mention something in this post, or if you still have any other questions about the Working Holiday Authorisation or life in Dublin in general, please feel free to leave it in the comment section below and I’ll do my best to answer!