New Preclearance process to be introduced to help Non-EEA de facto partners of Irish citizens live and work in Ireland

  • New process set to greatly speed up the permission process
  • Applicants will apply from overseas and, if granted, can work in Ireland without delay

19 August 2019

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, is today launching a new streamlined preclearance process to make it easier for Irish emigrants to return home with their Non-EEA de facto partners.

Under the new process, de facto partners of Irish citizens will be allowed to apply for their permission to reside in the country before they travel to Ireland.

Announcing the Preclearance plan, Minister Flanagan said:

"Preclearance will provide greater certainty for people considering or planning on moving back home to Ireland with their non-EEA de facto partner."

Making the point that he wanted to ensure that there is a clear and simple path available for those who want to return to Ireland with their de facto partners, he continued:

"I hope this will encourage more people to come home. In recent times, many of our young and our most highly educated citizens have emigrated. They may have wanted to further their careers, make more money, or simply to experience the wider world. While away, some have met life partners and perhaps even started their own families. We want to show these people that Ireland is ready to welcome them home and that we will provide a clear immigration and labour market pathway for their de facto partners."

The change means that, reflecting the diversity of modern relationships and families, the immigration situation of de facto partners will be more akin to non-EEA spouses and civil partners of Irish citizens.

Under the previous system, the application process for de facto partners could only begin upon their arrival in the State and may have taken up to a year to complete. Now, once preclearance has been granted, applicants can arrive and register with the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) immediately. They will then have access to the labour market straight away.

Noting the benefits of the new measure for the economic independence of de facto partners, Minister Flanagan said:

"By allowing people to obtain preclearance before they arrive we can speed up the process and provide certainty about being able to access the labour market on arrival, once registered with INIS. In the past this could have taken up to a year, which is a long time when you are trying to build a new life in a new country."

The new preclearance process addresses one of the key recommendations of the Indecon Report ‘Addressing Challenges faced by returning Irish emigrants’ and is part of an ongoing INIS customer service improvement plan.

Full details and further information on the revised arrangements, including the criteria for obtaining preclearance, are set-out in the INIS website

Notes for Editors:


What is a De Facto Partner?

For immigration purposes, a person may be considered the De Facto Partner, opposite or same sex, of another person if:

  • they have a mutual commitment to a shared life to the exclusion of all others akin to a marriage or civil partnership in practice though not in law and
  • the relationship between them is genuine and continuing and
  • they live together or do not live separately and apart on a permanent basis and
  • they are not related by family.

This type of immigration permission is for people who have an Irish citizen life partner (the Sponsor) and would like to live with them in Ireland. The permission is conditional on the relationship and if the relationship ends, the permission ends.

Such permission may be granted to both opposite and same sex partners, one of whom is an Irish citizen, and who have been together in a relationship similar to marriage or civil partnership, have been living together for at least two years and have a mutual commitment to a shared life together to the exclusion of all others.


Preclearance for the De Facto Partners of Irish Nationals

Following on from the recent introduction of a number of key initiatives in the immigration area, including the recent change in relation to re-entry visa requirements, today’s announcement continues the ongoing rollout of the INIS Service Improvement Plan 2018-2020. A new, streamlined preclearance procedure will now be available for the non-EEA de facto partners of Irish nationals returning to Ireland. The new process will reduce processing times and provide greater clarity for those seeking to join their Irish partner and to reside and work in Ireland. Applications can be submitted from today’s date, however, to allow a transitional period for those due to arrive in the State in the short term, those arriving in Ireland on or before the 1st November may do so without obtaining a preclearance permission in advance. Visa required nationals must obtain a visa before travel as usual.

From the 1st November 2019 anyone seeking to join their Irish national De Facto Partner in Ireland for a period of greater than 90 days must obtain a preclearance permission before arrival in the State. This applies to both non-visa required and visa required nationals. Prior to arrival in the State, the de facto partner of an Irish national will apply to the Department of Justice and Equality for a preclearance approval letter. Dependent children can be included in the application.

Note: A preclearance letter, along with the relevant visa, if applicable, allows the holder to travel to Ireland only. It does not grant permission to enter the country; an immigration officer at border control can refuse entry even if a preclearance letter has been obtained in advance.

On registering with the immigration service, a Stamp 4 immigration permission will be issued to the applicant. This permission will allow the holder to access the labour market without delay. Previously, an application for recognition of the de facto relationship could only be made on arrival in the State and the de facto partner could not access the labour market pending a decision on their application.

Full details and further information on the revised arrangements, including the criteria for obtaining preclearance , are set-out in the INIS website

Charlie Flanagan TD

Charlie Flanagan TD

Charlie Flanagan TD is Minister for Justice and Equality.



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Published:19 August 2019

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