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Complete guide to the Ireland study visa application

Ireland has seen a rise in student visa applications in recent years. Between the years of 2013 and 2017, there was a 45% increase regarding the number of international students coming to study in Ireland, according to a new report by the European Migration Network.

If you are a foreign student thinking of pursuing your studies in an Irish educational institution, you may need an Ireland Student Visa.

The student visa is one of Ireland’s long stay visas. It allows the holder to travel to Ireland with the purpose of pursuing a full-time educational course for longer than three months.

Who needs an Ireland Student Visa?

You have to apply for an Ireland student visa if:

  • You are from a country whose nationals are subject to Ireland visas.
  • Your course will last for more than 90 days. For stays of less than 90 days, you will need an Irish short stay visa.

Please note that an Ireland Student Visa is just a pre-entry requirement and it does not guarantee that you will be permitted to actually enter Ireland.

What this means is that even though you may receive an Ireland student visa, when you travel to Ireland, you have to appear before the immigration officers at Border Control and request for permission to enter. They are the ones who ultimately decide whether to allow you to enter Ireland or not. If they decide you do not satisfy the requirements, you could be sent back, regardless of your student visa.

EU/EEA/Swiss nationals

If you are from an EU/EEA member state or from Switzerland, you do not have to apply for an Ireland student visa, nor request permission to enter from Border Control. That’s because EU/EEA/Swiss nationals enjoy free movement to other EU/EEA member states for any tourism, study or work-related purposes.

Non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals

Anyone who is not from an EU/EEA member state or Switzerland has to ask for permission to enter from the immigration officers at Ireland Border Control.

However, not everyone has to apply for an Ireland student visa to be allowed to travel in the first place. Some countries have been exempt from Ireland visas, so their citizens only have to request entrance permission from Border Control after they arrive.

See here for a complete list of who needs an Ireland Visa and who is exempt.

Ireland Student Visa eligibility

You can only apply for an Ireland student visa if you fulfill the following eligibility criteria:

  • You have been accepted and are enrolled in an Irish educational institution.
  • You are pursuing a full-time, day-time course which is on the Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP).
    • The ILEP is a mechanism which the Irish government uses to measure which programmes are acceptable for international students to pursue.
  • You have paid the course fees.
    • If your course fee is up to €6,000, then the fee must be paid fully.
    • If the fee is higher than €6,000, then you are required to have paid at least this amount before applying for the Ireland student visa.

Ireland Student Visa requirements

As you are applying for your Ireland student visa, you must have several supporting documents which prove you meet the requirements to receive the visa.

All the documents you submit have to be in English. If they are not, they have to be translated by an official translator and notarized.

All the documents you submit have to be originals – not copies. Only submit copies of the documents if it is specified.

Ireland Student Visa document checklist

The specific required documents for an Ireland student visa include:

  • The signed and dated application form summary, which you print after completing the online application.
  • Two passport-sized pictures, in line with Ireland photo requirements.
  • Your original passport.
  • Copies of any previous passports.
  • Employment details.
  • Proof of accommodation.
  • Details of any previous visas you were refused.
  • A self-addressed, pre-paid envelope where the Irish authorities can return your passport and other original documents.
  • Proof that you can support yourself for the duration of your studies.
    • A minimum of €7,000 per year is required in addition to your course fee.
    • Alternatively, if you have a sponsor in Ireland who will be supporting you, they must be able to prove they are financially capable of funding your stay.
    • You and your sponsor (if you have one) have to submit the following documents:
      • Bank statements, written on headed paper, from the last six months, which:
      • Show all the transactions made on the account.
      • Show the name, address, account number and account type of the owner (you or your sponsor, respectively)
      • Explanations regarding any large or irregular transactions.
  • An Application Letter written by you, in which:
    • You state your reason for traveling to Ireland and include your complete contact information.
    • Detail any family members you have in Ireland or elsewhere in the EU, whether you are staying with them or not.
    • Pledge not to become a burden in the country and to follow the requirements and conditions of the Ireland student visa.
    • If you are pursuing a course which does not relate to your previous education history, give an explanation why.
  • An official Letter of Acceptance from the Irish educational institution, which:
    • States that you are enrolled in the school in a full-time course and you will follow at least 15 weekly hours of organized daytime tuition.
    • Gives details about the course you are enrolled in.
    • States if you have paid the full tuition fee, or if not, how much you have paid.
    • States whether they are paying for your medical insurance.
  • Proof you are academically qualified to pursue the course you are enrolled in, such as:
    • Your diploma/certificate/other qualifications.
    • Exam results.
    • School transcripts.
  • Proof you have paid the college’s tuition fees.
    • Include a copy of the Electronic Transfer of Funds (ETF) to the Irish Bank of your school. The document must clearly include your and your school’s names, addresses, and bank details.
    • As stated above, if your tuition is below €6,000, you must pay the full fee before applying for the Irish student visa. If your tuition is over €6,000, you must pay at least that amount before you can apply for the visa.
  • Proof you meet the English language requirements:
    • You must prove that you can follow and participate in the course you are enrolled in.
    • You must show evidence through an English language certificate, such as TOEFL or IELTS, which has been issued within the last two years. For example, the Ireland student visa IELTS requirements are a minimum score of 0.
  • Additionally, if your course is in Irish, you must show you meet the Irish language requirements.
  • If submitting a savings account, include a letter from the bank ensuring that you/your sponsor are allowed to take out money from the account.
  • Proof you have obtained medical insurance.
    • If your school has included you on a Group Insurance Scheme, they must indicate so in their Letter of Acceptance.
    • If you are getting medical insurance privately, you must make sure it covers at least €25,000 for cases of accidents, disease, and hospitalization.
    • You can be covered by travel medical insurance in your first year, but after that ends, you must get private medical insurance in Ireland.
  • Proof of the reason why you took a break before pursuing your studies, if applicable.
    • For example, if you pause your studies for a year in order to work, give your employment details.

Ireland Student Visa Application Process

Before you apply for the Ireland Student Visa

Before you can submit your student visa application, you must first be enrolled in an Irish educational institution, pay the necessary fees, and enter an English language test to prove you meet the language requirements.

That’s because you must submit the documents proving you meet these requirements along with your Ireland student visa application.

Applying for the Student Visa

The application process for an Ireland student visa is divided into two parts: the online application and the submission of documents.

When applying online, you have to fill in an application form via AVATS, the Irish visa application facility. After completing the application form, you will receive a summary of the form, which you have to print. You will also be informed about where you can submit the required documents. There is no determined location since it changes based on the country you are from.

The Ireland student visa processing time is around eight weeks. Different factors, such as the time of year or if you have any missing documents could delay it, so plan accordingly.

If your visa is refused, you can make an Ireland student visa refusal appeal.

Border Control

If you receive the Ireland student visa, you are free to travel to Ireland. Once you land at the airport/seaport, you have to go through Border Control, where the immigration officer decides whether to grant you permission to enter the country.

You have to convince the immigration officers you are fit to enter, so bring your acceptance letter, proof of financial means, medical insurance, along with your passport, visa, and copies of other documents you submitted for your Ireland student visa application.

After you enter Ireland: Registering and getting a residence permit

If the immigration officers at Border Control decide to allow you entrance, they will put a stamp on your passport. The stamp states the number of days you are allowed to stay in Ireland.

You must register with the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) before those days run out. The GNIB will give you an Ireland residence permit/GNIB card which allows you to stay in Ireland long-term. You will receive the Ireland Stamp 2 or 2A, which is the stamp awarded to full-time international students.

Duration and renewal of an Ireland Student Visa

The expiry date for your residence permit is stated on your residence permit card. You can renew your residence permit yearly or twice yearly for a maximum of seven or eight years.

The type of Ireland student visa extension you can get is based on the level of your studies as per the  National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ).

If you are pursuing studies up to NFQ Level 8, you can extend your residence permit every year for a maximum of 7 years.

If you are pursuing studies up to NFQ Level 9 and above, you can extend your residence permit every two years for a maximum of 8 years.

The Ireland NFQ levels are as follows:

  • NFQ Level 7 – Ordinary Bachelor Degree (3 years)
  • NFQ Level 8 – Honours Bachelor Degree (3-4 years) and Higher Diploma (1 year)
  • NFQ Level 9 – Postgraduate Diploma (1 year) and a Masters Degree (1-2 years)
  • NFQ Level 10 – Doctoral Degree (appx. 4 years)

Can I Work With an Ireland Student Visa?

If you are in Ireland as an international, full-time student, and you receive a Stamp 2 or 2A, you can work in Ireland without having to obtain a separate work permit.

However, there are restrictions.

  • You must meet the eligibility criteria as set out above.
  • You must be enrolled in a program which will result in you obtaining one of the qualifications set out in the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ).
  • Your course lasts at least 1 year.
  • During the school year, you can only work a maximum of 20 hours a week (part-time).
  • You can work full-time (up to 40 hours a week) only during the holidays.
    • This includes the months of June, July, August and September as well as from 15th December to 15th January.

Can You Turn an Ireland Student visa to Permanent Residency?

After you graduate in an Irish educational institution, you may be eligible to apply for the Irish Third Level Graduate Scheme. This Scheme allows recent graduates to remain in Ireland for an additional year so they can look for work or apply for an Ireland work permit.

If you find a job in Ireland and receive an Irish work permit, you may be eligible for permanent residency after five years, in some cases, after two years.

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