How to get onto the Irish Start-Up Entrepreneur Programme

The Start-Up Entrepreneur Programme (STEP) for Ireland


The STEP programme allows non-EEA nationals who commit to establishing a high potential start up business in Ireland to acquire residency in Ireland.


The requirements for the STEP programme are access to funding of €50,000 (though where a proposal has more than one principal, the second and any subsequent principals will also need to prove access to an additional €30,000 each) and a proposal for a high-potential start-up in the innovation economy.

A “high potential start-up” is defined as a venture which:

· introduces a new or innovative product or service to international markets;
· is capable of creating 10 jobs in Ireland and realising €1 million in sales within 3-4 years;
· is led by an experienced management team;
· is headquartered and controlled in Ireland; and
· is less than 6 years old.

Application Process

STEP 1 – Submit STEP application form, business plan and other supporting documents to the STEP evaluation committee.

STEP 2 – If accepted, you will transfer the funds to an institution regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland and provide an affidavit of good character for you and your family.

STEP 3 – Receive your residence permit.

Residence Extension and Naturalisation

STAGE 1 – Once you have received your residence permit you and your family will have permission to reside in Ireland for 2 years.

STAGE 2 – Subject to: (1) the start-up remaining in place; (2) a viability assessment by the evaluation committee; (3) you maintaining good character; and (4) maintaining private medical insurance and not having recourse to public funds; your residence permission will be extended for a further 3 years. Permission can thereafter be renewed in 5-year instalments.

STAGE 3 – The STEP programme does not lead to a preferential pathway to citizenship. However, you will be able to apply for citizenship in the ordinary way which takes 9 years and can be broken down as follows:

· have a period of 12 months continuous residence (with only six weeks spent abroad) immediately prior to your naturalisation application; and
· in the preceding 8 years you must have spent a total of 5 years living in Ireland or 1,460 days (this calculation includes an allowance for leap years).

Tax Regime

One of the key attractions of Ireland as a location for a start-up is their generous tax regime. The key features are as follows:

· a corporate tax rate of 12.5% for active business;
· a 25% R&D tax credit which may be refundable over a three year period;
· an IP regime which provides a tax write-off for broadly defined IP acquisitions;
· an attractive holding company regime, including participation exemption from capital gains tax on the disposal of shares in subsidiaries;
· an effective zero tax rate for foreign dividends (12.5% tax rate on qualifying foreign dividends, with flexible onshore pooling of foreign tax credits);
· an EU-approved stable tax regime with access to extensive treaty network and EU Directives; and
· generous domestic law withholding tax exemptions.

Documents You Will Need

You will need to provide:

· a completed STEP programme application form;
· a comprehensive business plan;
· the most recent audited accounts (if applying in respect of an existing business);
· proof of access to £50,000 in funding:
o if personal funds: you need to provide an original letter from a financial institution regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland; or original personal bank statements covering the period of 3 months before the application from a bank regulated by your home regulator; or a letter from a bank regulated by your home regulator;
o if third party funds (i.e. a loan or angel/venture capital funding): you will need to provide a letter from each financial institution confirming the amount of funds and that you can use the funds for the start-up enterprise;
· you will need to provide a letter from your bank or a financial institution evidencing that the investment funds are capable of being transferred to Ireland;
· evidence of sufficient private medical insurance for you and your dependents; and
· a police certificate from each country in which you have resided for more than 6 months during the 10 year period prior to the application.

If you are successful you will also be required to submit an affidavit (produced by an Irish lawyer) attesting to your good character and that you have no criminal convictions. This affidavit must also cover any dependents if applicable.

Can I Bring My Family Members?

You can make an application for residency for your spouse/partner and children under the age of 18. As long as you fulfil the criteria for residence under the route the residence status will automatically apply to your dependents.

Visa Fees

There is an application fee of €350, which covers you and any dependents. N.B. these are non-refundable in the event of an unsuccessful application.