13 March 2012

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter TD, today formally announced the date of commencement of the two new immigration programmes aimed at stimulating investment and job creation in Ireland. The new initiatives, which were approved by Government in January, will be known as:

1) The Immigrant Investor Programme
2) The Start-up Entrepreneur Programme

Since the initial outline of the programmes, the Minister’s officials have been putting in place the implementation arrangements with the relevant State agencies.

The programmes will be open for applications from 15 April. Application forms will be available for download from 30 March together with detailed guidelines on the application process, including a comprehensive collection of "Frequently Asked Questions".

Announcing the commencement date of the programmes Minister Shatter said "These programmes are all about investment and job creation. Everyone knows that the economic situation is challenging but sometimes that can be a catalyst for new ideas and I am happy that my Department, even though it does not have an overt economic remit, can play its part". 

The Minister went on to say "Ireland still has a bright future and migrant entrepreneurs and investors can play an important role in that future. We are now giving them the opportunity to do just that".

The Minister then outlined the details of the programmes.

1. Immigrant Investor Programme 

Approved participants in the Immigrant Investor Programme and their immediate family members will be granted rights of residence in Ireland. This will allow them to enter the State on multi-entry visas and to remain here for a defined period but with the possibility of ongoing renewal. The intention is that the person involved would over time establish a permanent relationship with Ireland.

Types of Investment
First of all it should be said that each application will be examined on its merits in a qualitative examination by an interdepartmental committee. The investment has to be good for Ireland, good for jobs and in the public interest, the funds invested have to be legally acquired and owned by the investor (i.e. not borrowed). The person has to be of good character.

In order to be considered for the programme the investor must make an investment of the following type:-

a) A once off endowment of a minimum of €500,000 to a public project benefiting the arts, sports, health, culture or education.

Note: The idea is that the person would put significant funds into something tangible and to the benefit of the public. It is not a question of merely contributing to State funds or displacing state investment.

b) A minimum €1,000,000 aggregate investment into new or existing Irish businesses for a minimum of three years. Funding by the investor through the intermediary of a venture capital fund will be considered provided that it can be demonstrated that the net effect is at least equivalent to that of a direct investment.

Note: The investment must contribute to creating or saving jobs. Merely purchasing an asset for speculative purposes would not qualify. A shareholding in an Irish publicly traded company could be considered in exceptional circumstances but a simple share purchase on the open market would not meet the requirements of the scheme.

c) minimum €2,000,000 investment in a special low interest 5 year immigrant investor bond. There will be one interest payment of 5.1% at the end of the 5 year investment period and this is equal to an annual equivalent interest rate of 1% (AER).

The bond will be issued on behalf of Ireland by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA). It will be offered exclusively to participants in this scheme that have been approved by the Department of Justice and Equality. The bond will not be tradeable on any market, will not be transferable and must be held by the participant for the full 5 years until it matures.

d) A minimum €1,000,000 mixed investment consisting of €500k in property and €500K in immigrant investor bonds.

Note: Property investments will be evaluated on their merits by reference to their contribution to the public interest and job creation. In certain circumstances, where the overall investment in property is over €1m and considered to be of particular benefit to the State, a bond investment may not be necessary.

Duration of permission:
Successful applicants would get an initial residence permission for 5 years. This is in two tranches. The first permission will cover two years and there is a review at that point to make sure that the investor is continuing to meet the conditions of the scheme (i.e. the investment has not been withdrawn, they continue to be law abiding and self sufficient). Assuming all is in order a further period of 3 years will be granted. After the 5 years have elapsed the investor would be free to apply for ongoing residence in 5 year tranches.

Residency Requirements:
 The applicant is not required to establish actual residence in Ireland. The programme is about rights of residence that the applicant may exercise as their business and family needs dictate. No minimum residence requirement is set other than the stipulation that the persons concerned should visit Ireland at least once in every 12 month period.

Self Sufficiency:
 Applicants will be required to be self sufficient and to support their families without recourse to State funds.

 Applicants must be of good character and will be required to attest to their bona fides. This will be done via affidavit sworn in this jurisdiction. False, misleading or incomplete information submitted can lead to removal from the State as well as revocation of the immigration permissions.

Provenance of the Funds:
 The applicant must be able to show the source of the funds proposed for the investment, that the funds were legally acquired, are fully owned by them and are theirs to dispose of as they wish. All funds must be fully compliant with Anti Money Laundering Legislation.

This is definitively not a "passports for sale" scheme. The programme deliberately makes no concessions in this area. Investors can qualify for naturalisation on the same basis as other foreign nationals living in Ireland. The minimum period will be 5 years residence as it is for other applicants.

The programme makes no provisions in the area of taxation. Taxation will continue to be governed by the applicable taxation laws and international treaties and the programme does not alter that regime in any way.

2. The Start-up Entrepreneur Programme 

Target group:
The Start-up Entrepreneur Programme is aimed at people of good character with entrepreneurial ability and some financial backing who wish to start a business in the innovation area.

The Start-up Entrepreneur Programme provides that migrants with a good business idea in the innovation economy and funding of €75k can be given residency in this State for the purposes of developing their business. No initial job creation targets will be set as it is recognised that such businesses can take some time to get off the ground.

What Types of Business?
This is an important issue. The intention of the programme is to support high potential start-ups. The scheme is not intended for retail, personal services, catering or other businesses of this nature. The Department’s existing immigration channel referred to as the "Business Permission Scheme" remains available to this sort of enterprise. While each application will have to be considered on its merits the sort of business intended for this programme are those that are part of the innovation economy, in areas of high potential growth in the future. The State agencies will play a key role in evaluating the suitability of proposed business proposals for the programme.

Duration and Nature of Immigration Permission
: Successful applicants would get an initial residence permission for 2 years to develop the business. After that time their case would be reviewed depending on progress. All going well permission would be renewed thereafter. However if the business has failed and the applicant has no prospect of launching another venture or finding another basis to remain in the State then a different outcome would be likely.

Participants can be joined by immediate family provided that they can show that their family can be fully maintained without recourse to State funds.

Self Sufficiency:
 Applicants will be required to be self sufficient and to support their families without recourse to State funds.

3. Evaluation Process 

All applications for both programmes will be considered by an Evaluation Committee comprised of representatives of IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, the following Government Departments; Finance; Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Foreign Affairs and Trade; Health; other Government Departments as the need arises and the Minister’s own Department of Justice. Applicants must be of good character and be able to support themselves while in Ireland. Applicants will be required to attest to their bona fides on affidavit sworn here. False, misleading or incomplete information submitted can lead to removal from the State as well as revocation of the immigration permissions. An Annual Report will be published on the operation of the Programmes and they will also be reviewed to ensure that they continue to meet their objectives.

The Evaluation Committee will operate to a strict code in its operations. In respect of an individual application the Committee will deal only with the applicant him/herself or with the applicant’s duly authorised legal or financial representative. There is no role in this scheme for brokerage, agency or third party intervention. The evaluation committee will not entertain any correspondence from such third parties.

Application Procedures:
 All applications for either the Immigrant Investor Programme or Start-up Entrepreneur Programme will be made on an application form and will have to be accompanied by an application fee of €750. However the Minister indicated that the fee may be waived on the advice of the evaluation committee in respect of certain entrepreneurship applications where a State agency is a stakeholder in the project.

As to likely uptake, the Minister said

"I look forward to getting the first set of recommendations from the evaluation committee by early summer. It is impossible of course to predict the level of interest in these programmes and, as I said before, I am making no predictions. Let’s wait and see. However I do believe that when you add the specific incentives in these programmes to all of the other benefits that come with living in Ireland there should be significant attractions for participants. We have a strong pro business culture that people will find rewarding. By global standards we live in a country that is safe and tolerant. Education standards are high and we enjoy a climate and clean air environment that many would envy. " 

In conclusion, the Minister thanked his Government colleagues and the various State agencies for their assistance in developing the programmes and looked forward to their ongoing support in their operation.

A dedicated e-mail address for queries (but not applications) about the investor and entrepreneur schemes has been set up at investmentandstartup@justice.ie 

Any bonds referred to in the above announcement have not been, and will not be, registered under the U.S. Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the "Securities Act"), and, subject to certain exceptions, may not be offered or sold within the United States (as those terms are defined in Regulation S under the Securities Act).