Immigration and Visas – A guide for international students

Will I need a visa to travel to Ireland to study?

If you are a citizen of a country in the EU, the European Economic Area (EEA) or of Switzerland you have free movement in other member states and there are no special requirements to come to Ireland to study.

If you are a national of a country outside this area, you may still be able to come to Ireland without an entry visa if your country is exempted in Schedule 1 of the Immigration Act 2004 (Visas) Order 2014 (SI 473/2014). Please note that this was amended in 2015 by SI 513/2015, removing Malawi from Schedule 1. For citizens of all countries not included on Schedule 1, a visa will be required to travel to Ireland to study.

 

I do not need to apply for an entry visa. What is the procedure for travel?

If you have already bought your course, you should bring your acceptance letter from your school, college or university and show this at immigration at your point of entry in Ireland. Even if you haven’t pre-booked a course, make sure that you tell the immigration officer that you are coming to Ireland as a student so that you receive the correct immigration permission stamp in your passport. (Important: it is not possible to change to student status if you receive a tourist immigration stamp on arrival).

You will also need to register with immigration authorities soon after arrival in Ireland if staying for more than 90 days (or before the date on your passport stamp, if earlier). There are specific requirements to be able to register, including having proof of access to funds to support you during your studies.

 

What if I am a student from a visa required country?

You must apply online for your student visa before you come to Ireland. Supporting information from the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) is available in several languages). Completing the form through the Internet generates a unique reference number which can also be used to track the application. At the end of the online application, you will receive a summary of the supporting documentation required, the fee payable and where it should be submitted to (often the nearest Irish Embassy or Consulate).

 

What documents will be required to support my visa application?

You should refer to the full INIS guidelines relevant to your type of study and any information provided when you apply online.

The following information summarises some of the key requirements.

  • A letter of acceptance from an eligible college or university confirming that you have been accepted on a full-time course of study (at least 15 hours per week).
  • Evidence that full fees have been paid (although it is not expected that you pay more than EUR 7,000 before visa approval).
  • Evidence that you have sufficient funds to support yourself while studying in Ireland. As a student you will not have recourse to State funds and the Irish government requires that you be able to show that you – or your sponsor – have immediate access to at least EUR 7,000, the estimated cost of living in Ireland for a student for one academic year – for each year of your course.
  • Evidence of private medical insurance. » Read More
  • A passport valid for at least 6 months after the completion of your course

IMPORTANT!! When applying for your student entry visa, you will need to show that you have sufficient funds to cover the entire period of your course, without having to rely on income from a part-time job.

If I have been issued with a visa, am I guaranteed entry to Ireland?

The immigration officer who deals with you on arrival can refuse you entry if they are not satisfied with your paperwork or answers to their questions. Be sure to bring all of the documents you have have received from your school or university (e.g. acceptance letter, insurance cover, accommodation details, etc) so that you can show a complete record to the immigration officer.

On approval, you will get a temporary immigration permission stamped into your passport.

 

Do I need to register after I have arrived in Ireland?

If you are not an EU/EAA/Swiss national and will be staying in Ireland to study for more than 90 days, you will have to register at the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) in Dublin or locally if you are living outside the Dublin metropolitan area. You will be issued with a Certificate of Registration (more commonly known as a ‘GNIB Card’ – see below for example) and an extended passport stamp. You will need to bring the following to be issued with the card and stamp:

  • Your passport
  • A letter from the Registrar’s office of your school/university stating that you are a registered student and stating the start date and completion date of your course and that you have paid your fees in full
  • Your student ID card, if applicable – a university or large college will provide you with one when you register as a full-time student, smaller schools and colleges may not issue student cards
  • Your medical insurance policy
  • A bank statement showing that you have EUR 3,000 or more in your bank account (or €500 per month for stays of less than 6 months) –view guidelines
  • A EUR 300 fee (credit/debit card or bank giro available at INIS offices – no cash accepted)

Visit the GNIB section of the Garda website for up-to-date information on registration locations outside Dublin, opening times and methods of payment.

NOTE: GNIB cards and stamps are issued for different lengths of time depending on the type of course being studied. For higher education programmes the normal period until expiry is 12 months; for 25 week English programmes the period until expiry is a maximum of 8 months. (The shorter period for English language students was introduced from 20th January 2016).

 

Is there flexibility to change course or college if things don’t work out?

One of the reasons to take care in choosing your course is because there are immigration restrictions on changing course/college. A change is not normally permitted during the first year of study and a student would need to show exceptional circumstances to receive permission to do so. Also, students are not permitted to move to a course which is a lower level on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ).

 

What do I if I want to travel outside the Republic of Ireland and then return?

If you are from a country listed on Schedule 1, you will not need a re-entry visa to return to Ireland after a trip. However, you should carry proof of your enrolment as a student to show to the immigration officer at point of entry. Be ready to answer questions about your studies and attendance on the course.

If you required a visa to enter Ireland (non-Schedule 1 countries), it important to understand that the visa originally issued to you was to allow you to enter the Republic of Ireland once. If you want to leave for a short while and then return – including visiting Northern Ireland – you must apply for a re-entry visa in advance (at least 3 weeks is advised). Postal application is advised. In-person visits require an appointment to be made online. A single entry visa costs €60; a multiple entry visa costs €100 (with some exemptions for family members of EEA/Swiss nationals). Payment is accepted by bank draft or postal order only – payable to The Department of Justice and Equality. When applying, you should take care to follow the guidelines and all instructions on the application form.

 

My student GNIB card is due to expire. How do I renew it?

The process is similar to original registration, except that bank statements are not normally required. The fee for renewal is EUR 300. The renewal period will be determined after a check on your course attendance. If your college records show that you have less than 85% attendance, you may only be granted a 3 month extension on your visa. This extension is provided in order to give you the chance to get your attendance above 85%. If you manage to do this successfully you will be granted a visa for the remainder of the academic year. If this is the case you will have to pay another €300 at this stage.

 

Where can I get further information?

More information is available from the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service – www.inis.gov.ie

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