Ireland is one of the easiest countries in Europe in which to start a business. If you require a visa to live here, there’s even special programmes to speed up the process for entrepreneurs. If you’re seriously considering bringing an investment to Dublin, here’s an overview of all the legal matters you’ll need to know about.

Regulation

Irish regulators, across different sectors, have a strong reputation for excellence. These include:

  • The Central Bank of Ireland, which is the regulator of all financial services firms in Ireland
  • The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) which boasts an international reputation in regulatory compliance
  • The Irish Data Protection Commission which has a dedicated unit for multinational companies
  • The NSAI, which is Ireland’s standards and certification authority

Ireland also participates in EU regulatory fora and is represented by the relevant national authorities at a European level.

It’s worth noting that there may be regulations that specifically relate to your sector. You can check the Department of Enterprise for guidance on compliance in your sector.

Registering a business in Ireland

Do you need to set up as a sole trader, form a partnership or form a company? See the Companies Registration Office to figure out which legal structure works best for your business plans.

Please note that any company which is incorporated outside Ireland and establishes a branch in the state must be registered with the CRO.

Registering for tax

You are required to register for corporation tax, social insurance and VAT with the Office of the Revenue Commissioners.

Company law requirements

For information on making annual returns and other company law requirements in Ireland, check out this article from CRO and the website for the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement.

Protecting intellectual property

The Intellectual Property Office of Ireland will help you understand what you need to do to protect your innovation and intellectual property.

Employment law

Employers must ensure that their employees receive certain basic employment rights. These rights are governed by detailed employment legislation. If you employ people or plan to set up a business that will employ people, you need to be familiar with your responsibilities.

workers in industrial packaging facility

Employment permits and visas

Generally, citizens of EU member states, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein can relocate to Ireland to set up a business or accept employment without needing a visa or immigration permission. Thanks to the Common Travel Area arrangement between Ireland and the UK, the same goes for British citizens.

Anyone else who wishes to live, work or invest in Ireland will require permission to do so.

When hiring employees, you can check out our guide to Irish immigration visas. Although the IDA is always happy to support companies in securing visa and employment permits where required. The IDA can also help companies apply for ‘trusted partner’ status, which streamlines the application process.

For entrepreneurs who require a visa to start a business in Dublin, there’s a special immigration programme that can help too.

The Startup Entrepreneur Programme

The Start-Up Entrepreneur Programme – or STEP – is designed for people who want to relocate to Ireland to found or grow their startup. It provides for long-term residency permission for the entrepreneur and their family. It even includes a work permit for their spouse.

To qualify for this programme, you need to demonstrate that you have abilities and plans that fulfil a number of criteria. Your startup must be:

  • Innovative and scalable
  • Controlled from Ireland
  • Capable of competing on the global market
  • Capable of generating at least 10 jobs in Ireland within 3-4 years
  • Able to raise €50,000 if one entrepreneur is seeking residency under the programme and €30,000 for each additional entrepreneur who requires a visa

For example, a team of three founders, one each from France (no visa needed), Russia and the US would need to raise €80,000 to qualify.

Unlike the entrepreneur visas in many other countries, there is considerable flexibility as to the sources of this investment. It can come from the founders’ own money, from family and friends or from Irish investors, foreign investors – or any mixture of these sources.

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