In some Irish expat communities around the world, it is referred to as “the $64,000 question” or sometimes just “the question”. “‘Will you go home?”

It is the eternal should-I-stay-or-should-I-go debate that rattles around even the most enthusiastic emigrant’s mind from time to time, usually getting louder when elderly parents get sick, the realities of raising children with no family support sink in, or the death of a loved one highlights how difficult it is to live far from home.

Often it can be for “pull” reasons rather than “push” – a decent job offer, or simply a good trip home with old friends – that might inspire a cheeky check of in the airport, wondering “how much would it cost me to move back?”

The answer is different for everyone, depending on personal circumstances, but here are some money matters to consider before making the big move.


Having spoken to more than 10 people who recently made the return journey, it seems, unsurprisingly, that finding somewhere to live is the biggest bugbear of returning émigrés.

While those returning might think they’ve lived through the worst of eye-wateringly expensive cities such as Sydney, Toronto and Singapore and think they can handle Ireland, many are still left unprepared by Ireland’s supply issue – where house prices, interest rates and mortgage restrictions have dominated the headlines over the last couple of years.

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“I thought since we had survived in Sydney’s insane rental market, we would find Cork easy. We were shocked. Prices are an issue, but there’s just nothing available no matter what you can pay,” said Jen*, a 38-year-old property manager who returned home in 2022 after eight years abroad.

Eventually, she found a place by word of mouth rather than through traditional advertising routes such as, something that might be trickier for those who haven’t re-established their social and professional networks in Ireland.

In terms of what you can expect to pay, the latest year-on-year report has Dublin rentals averaging €2,324 per month, Galway city at €1,796, and Cork city at €1,768.

Looking for a place to live has become an extreme sport with desperate applicants sometimes offering deal-sweeteners to landlords, like a number of rental payments upfront or bidding over the asking price to secure a place.

If living with family isn’t an option, most returners will probably find themselves in the rental market even if they intend to buy, thanks to regulations and delays around purchasing a house.

Renters will require a lump sum that will cover a few months’ rent and a deposit (usually set at one month’s rent), along with having copies of your payslips abroad, rental references and bank details. Make sure you store these in a safe place before you shut down old work emails or bank accounts abroad in advance of the big move.

If a job has brought you back, ask your employer for help with accommodation, because they will tend to be aware of the housing situation and the difficulty it causes in recruiting staff. The options range from accommodation in corporate housing to a relocation allowance or simply allowing of flexible working arrangements.

Claire O’Brien took up a role with University of Limerick last year but had trouble finding a place to stay.

“I started looking for rental properties in January 2022 and my employers had to let me work remotely from the UK until September as we could not find anywhere until then,” she said. “The housing shortage here means they have to be accommodating to keep staff.”

When trying to buy a home with her partner, they discovered “the mortgage application process for people returning to Ireland isn’t great”. Usually banks require the applicant to have lived in Ireland for at least six months and to have been working in Ireland for 12 months before they will entertain an application. head of communications Daragh Cassidy says that while expats can apply for a mortgage before they return to try to shorten the process, they might only be able to avail of buy-to-let loans that come with less favourable conditions and higher mortgage rates.

For expats who have chosen to work in tax-free or low-tax destinations with the aim of saving a large deposit, Cassidy warns that banks will still go through foreign accounts with a fine tooth comb to detect bad money habits.

Most banks require six months of financial statements. Cassidy advises keeping foreign accounts active during the mortgage process in case the bank asks for any information.

Returnees shouldn’t depend on the Help to Buy scheme if they haven’t been an Irish tax resident for a while. “It’s a tax refund scheme, not a gift. You have to have paid enough income tax in Ireland to get it back, but if you’ve been in Australia for years and have only paid income tax there, you won’t be able to avail,” he said

And if you have owned a property abroad, that will also count you out of some schemes aimed at first-time buyers.

Picking the right age to return is also important if a returnee is seeking a mortgage to live out their retirement dream at home. Several expats The Irish Times spoke to expressed frustration at returning to Ireland in their 50s and 60s with flawless credit records only to be refused even a small mortgage due to their age or the repayments being much higher thanks to a severely shortened loan term.

Mandatory mortgage protection insurance also impacts upon ageing applicants, Cassidy notes. “In Ireland, you need to have mortgage protection to draw down [a mortgage] and, as you get older, little ailments creep in.


Finding a place to live is one thing, but finding a way to get around is next. Be prepared for car prices to be higher than when you left, especially if you were relying on picking up a cheap little banger to get you started. found a nearly 70 per cent jump in used car price inflation from the onset of Covid-19 until the end of 2022.

Thinking of bringing your car to Ireland because it was significantly cheaper to buy? You’ll need to put aside money to have it shipped for a start. This can be between €1,000 and €2000 from the US, or anywhere upwards of €2,500 from Australia.

Then there’s usually 23 per cent VAT plus a customs charge plus VRT but, under transfer-of-residence arrangements, you should be able to claim relief from these assuming you have owned the vehicle for at least six months.

Car insurance is another common complaint among returners who sometimes can find themselves paying higher premiums with insurers who have reset no claims bonuses. Again, timing here is key – a no claims bonus should be valid if the person returns after less than two years abroad, but long-termers are out of luck.

However, one returnee who spoke to The Irish Times found they were able to have their foreign driving record taken into account, so this factor is clearly at the discretion of the insurer.

According to Citizens Advice, thanks to an accord between the Government and insurance providers, a no claims history from “the EEA, the UK, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, South Africa and the USA” should be taken into account.

Returnees are advised to have their no claims discount statement, an additional letter or other form from the last insurer stating the dates and type of cover, and a no claims driving history, plus records of your previous driving experience in Ireland.

Social Welfare

Often returnees count themselves out of benefits they could be entitled to, believing they don’t have enough PRSI contributions “in the bank”.

However, depending on the country you’re coming home from, you may be able to transfer contributions, so it’s best to get in contact with your local Intreo or Social Welfare branch office when you arrive.

You may qualify for Child Benefit fairly soon after arrival, but like some other social welfare payments, the applicant is required to satisfy the habitual residence condition. This is done by filling out a HRC1 form and submitting it with any application for social welfare.

There isn’t a minimum amount of time the applicant has to live in Ireland before they apply. However, the Department of Social Protection will require residents to show that their “main centre of interest is Ireland”. They may look at your living arrangements in Ireland, termination of foreign leases and shipment of belongings in the application.


Bringing everything you’ve made a life with back home might be tempting, especially if you have fallen in love with certain pieces of furniture. However, bear in mind that renting a 20ft container can cost upwards of €900 with a reputable company if shipping from Australia and parts of America, with the price fluctuating depending on market conditions and availability.

Then there’s the customs duty which, if you avail of the non-commercial rate, is 2.3 per cent of the goods’ value. And if you’re outside of the EU you might get hit with VAT on some items. Tradesmen, in particular, should beware, as trade tools are ineligible for customs or VAT relief.

Returnees who shipped over entire sets of pots and bedding told The Irish Times they regretted hauling over items they could easily have repurchased here. To that end, consider selling any bulky items such as televisions, lawnmowers and furniture on Facebook Marketplace before you leave.

With careful planning, returnees can mitigate some of the money headaches caused by coming back to Ireland. However, no amount of preparation can defeat larger issues such as the housing crisis and inflation. These need to be factored in even if returners are coming home for the love of the country rather than the money.

Online resources for people looking to return home to Ireland

Citizens Advice – Returning to Ireland

Safe Home Ireland

Social media groups such as Irish Expats Returning to Ireland Facebook Page