I took a calculated risk and booked my flight to Ireland without even having a visa. I had one month to gather my papers, squeeze an appointment in at the Irish embassy, and make my dream of getting a job abroad happen. One month later, I boarded my flight to Dublin by myself and that dream became a reality with an Ireland Working Holiday Visa. 

Six months down the road, I settled in Cork and lived that dream. I had a stable 9-5 job working in the international office of an Irish university, the freedom to travel around Ireland and Europe on the weekends, I made friends from all over the world, and I got to experience the Irish pubs and nightlife to the fullest.

Even though I don’t live in Ireland anymore, my year in Ireland was one of the most rewarding and transformative opportunities in my life. It gave me both adventure and real-world experience. And I genuinely want to help others have the same experience.

I began writing this blog post in my head since the moment I started to apply, because I couldn’t find a lot of the information covered in this guide. Especially when it came to figuring out how to LIVE in Ireland.

My story: moving to Ireland

Who can apply for Ireland’s Working Holiday Visa?

Woman standing on the beach of Inis of the Aran Islands tour.
Standing of the beach of the Aran Islands off the coast of Galway.

University students or recent graduates with a U.S passport are eligible to apply for what is called a “working holiday visa” in Ireland. This allows you to live and work in Ireland for up to one year. You must be currently enrolled in school full-time or have graduated in the past year.

So, you can apply up to one year after you graduate college or graduate school. This also gives you a chance to work after graduating to save up some money before applying to head over to work in Ireland.

Americans can also travel throughout Europe and Ireland during the duration of their stay. They do not have to stay or work in Ireland the full 12 months. Participants do not need a job before entering Ireland.

Applying for the working holiday visa is done through your local Irish consulate, either in person or by mail. For example, I am from Minnesota, so I had to apply through the Consulate General of Ireland in Chicago. The processing time takes roughly 4-8 weeks. You can see what is the nearest consulate based on what state you live here.


(Note: Canadians and Australians are also eligible to apply for working holiday visa in Ireland. Please visit the Canadian embassy website or the Australian embassy website for more information on this).

What is the process of applying for the Ireland Working Holiday Visa?

Colorful painted buildings in Kinsale Ireland, with Irish flags and a lucky clover green flag hanging. Kinsale is the start along the Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way.
Streets of Kinsale in Cork County, Ireland.

There are two stages of the application process. These may be dropped off in person or mailed.

Stage 1

  • Signed WHV application found here.
  • Non-refundable fee of around $350 for application.
  • Photocopy of passport.
  • 2 passport photos with name on the back.
  • Resume with two references.
  • University diploma from the past year or proof of current enrollment in school.
  • Original bank statement showing “proof of funds” of at least $4,000.

Stage 2

  • Return airline ticket showing you will be leaving Ireland at some point within 12 months of arriving (may be to another country)
  • Certificate of medical/ travel insurance valid for duration of stay in Ireland
  • Original Passport mailed or sent.

Note that you will have to buy a separate international health insurance plan, as your U.S health insurance will not be valid in Ireland. For example, if you have health insurance through your parents or school in the U.S. that won’t be valid in Ireland. You need to buy a separate international policy that lasts an entire year.

I would recommend calling your current health insurance provider and see if you can add international coverage to your plan. This will most likely be a minimum of $100 a month.

How long does the Working Holiday Visa application process take?

Turquoise water and sandy beach surrounded by a lush, green landscape in Barleycove Beach in West Cork, Ireland. Barleycove Beach is along the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland.

In short, you should give yourself at least a month to prepare all of the above documentation. You may need more time to save up money or get your health insurance situation sorted, as you will need to show all of the above.

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When you do finally hand in all of your paperwork and documentation, you should plan on the process taking at least 6 weeks, if not more. The good news is is that you CAN fast-track your application process by sending all of this information in at once. This means that you can send all the stage 1 and stage 2 documentation at once to speed up the process.

For example, I brought in all documents for stage 1 and 2 in person to the Irish embassy in Chicago. Yes, including my passport, diploma, resume, proof of funds, proof of international insurance, proof of exiting Ireland with a return ticket, application, and everything else. I got an e-mail 6 weeks later that I was approved for both stages, and I was able to pick up my visa before leaving the country.

I know it seems daunting. There are a lot of steps and important documentation involved, but don’t let that intimidate you. It’s very doable if you give yourself sufficient time to prepare and get everything in order.

Which brings me to my next point. Don’t worry about anything other than getting your working holiday authorization before getting to Ireland. Other than booking accommodation, in an airbnb or something on booking, you shouldn’t try to set up your life UNTIL you get to Ireland.

Why is this? There’s tons on housing and job scams on the Internet. Take my advice and just wait until you get to Ireland and sort everything out in person.

I know it seems a bit scary, but you’re going to have to trust the luck of the Irish and figure the rest of that out when you get there.


Pssst… Need help?

If you feel overwhelmed with information, I’ve been there! That’s why I created this e-workbook to organize the entire process for you, plus a couple secrets to set you up for success!

What’s inside:

  • Application hacks
  • Job & housing resources
  • Essential steps broken down by month

Where Should I live in Ireland?

Colorful Houses and Streets in Clonakilty Ireland, along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Streets in Clonakilty, Ireland in West Cork County.

So, like most foreigners, I originally wanted to live in Dublin. I liked that it is a big city filled with an abundance of opportunity. But the more I looked into it, it wasn’t going to be feasible for us at all.

So, we decided on Cork, which is the second biggest city in Ireland. Living expenses were much more affordable, but it was still big enough to find employment opportunities.

Here’s a basic breakdown of pros and cons of major cities in Ireland:

Dublin

O'Neil's pub in Dublin, Ireland. Dublin is a popular hub for Americans on the Ireland Working Holiday Visa.
Popular pub in Dublin, Ireland
  • Pros: Best job opportunities in a variety of fields, cheap flights to rest of Europe, active international community and nightlight.
  • Cons: Most expensive part of Ireland, and one of the most expensive cities in Europe. Very difficult to find housing. Lots of commuting.

Cork (where I lived)

Colorful city center of Cork City, Ireland, where I spent one year on a working Holiday Visa in Ireland.
Downtown Cork City
  • Pros: Up-in-coming city with Apple, Amazon, and other tech companies growing. Also universities like UCC. Large international community. Cost of living is much less expensive than Dublin. Great base for many Ireland road trips along the wild Atlantic way.
  • Cons: Housing can be difficult and expensive to find. Bus system is often unreliable. Might not be as many long-term employment opportunities as Dublin.

Galway

Surrounding beaches of Galway Ireland, on the Irish West Coast. This is an ideal spot along the Wild Atlantic Way.
Beaches near Galway Ireland.
  • Pros: Very young and bohemian vibe. Lots of university students, small coffee shops and restaurants.
  • Cons: Town is a bit smaller and employment outside out hospitality can be hard to find.

Killarney

View of Killarney National Park near the Ring of Kerry in Southern Ireland.
View of Killarney National Park.
  • Pros: One of the most scenic areas of Ireland. Less busy. Many hotels and hospitality jobs.
  • Cons: Not sure how easy it is to find housing. Not many jobs outside of tourism.

How do I set up an Irish phone number?

Man playing on the streets of Cork, Ireland. Cork City is a great place in Ireland for live music.
Live music in Cork City Ireland

One of the first things you should do when you get to Ireland is get set up with a local phone number. The reason I recommend doing this first, is that you want to make sure you have an Irish number when applying for housing and jobs. I found that people seem to trust you more as soon as they see you have an Irish number. It shows commitment to living there.

If your phone is unlocked, you can easily buy an Irish chip with a phone plan. I was able to pay off my phone bill in the U.S and then paid to have my iPhone “unlocked”. This way, I could easily put an Irish chip in it to have my own phone number.

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If this isn’t an option, I recommend using your smart phone only for wi-fi, and then buying a cheap phone to make calls in Ireland. You can buy a cheap phone under 50 euros at Tesco with a chip to get an Irish number.

I decided to go with a “pay as you go” mobile top-up sim at Tesco for 25 euros a month. I bought the sim card for around 5 euros. And then each month, I would literally just go to the casher at the grocery store and ask for a 25 euro Tesco top up code.

How do I find housing in Ireland?

One bedroom apartment in Cork City, Ireland for short term rental. This was perfect for us on an Irish Working Holiday Visa.
Our first apartment in Cork City. $1,200 a month for a one bedroom. Very pricey, but split between the two of us it wasn’t so bad.

As I mentioned in my video, you need to tackle things in Ireland one step at a time. The next crucial step is securing housing. I will be honest in that no matter where you go, it can be very difficult. Some listings go up at 9:00 a.m. are unavailable by noon.

You can either book a short-term rental going month to month, or sign a lease for the full year. We committed to a place for the first four months on a short-term lease that we could renew after this period. We ended up paying a lot more for the short-term option. A one bedroom in Cork city for 1,200 EUR a month!

Some people find a short-term rental for the first month on Airbnb while finding a job. After this, they decided to commit to a one-year lease. This is also an option.


How do I register with the local police?

Most of the paperwork for the Working Holiday Visa is done before getting there. But one thing you still have to do upon arrival is registering with the local police, which is called “garda” in Ireland. You have 90 days to register and pay a 300 EUR registration fee.

You’ll also have to follow this up with picking up your I.D. card and getting an official stamp in your passport a week or so after initially registering.

You may want to wait until you get settled in with housing and a job, but don’t forget to do this! I worked in the international office of a university (more on this below), and I saw many foreign students get caught and punished. I also got in trouble at immigration at the airport because I forgot to get the official stamp in my passport when I first registered.

The good news is you really only have to register once during your time in Ireland. If you end up moving within the same city to a different address, I wouldn’t worry about going back in to register your new address. If you end up re-locating to a new city or plan on staying in multiple cities, you should check with the embassy and local garda station in each city to double check.

What type of work is in Ireland for U.S. Citizens?

University Cork College Campus in Cork City, featuring stone buildings with lush green gardens and vines. I worked here while on an Ireland working holiday Visa.
University Cork College, where I ended up working as an international advisor!

For me, this was the most difficult part and took me about two month. I applied to hundreds of jobs online and didn’t hear back from most of them.

So, if possible, I recommend getting in with a recruitment agency, or networking your butt off. Both of these things landed me my job at UCC working as an international academic advisor.

The minimum wage in Ireland starts at 9.25 euros an hour, but I’d expect to be paid anywhere from 10-15 euros an hour. I would say that having at least 1,300 euros a month is enough to live in Ireland, depending on where you live.

In Cork, I was actually able to save about 2,500 euros by the end of my eight months. I’m not sure if I would have been able to do this if I went to Dublin.

What is a PPS Number? How do I open a bank account in Ireland?

Jobs in Ireland for Americans and U.S. Citizens on an Ireland Working Holiday Visa.

Congrats! Now the hard part is almost over. The next thing to do is get your PPS number, which you need for Irish taxes. You can visit this website here.

You won’t be able to get your PPS number until you get a job, so you will have to wait until you have a job to get this. You’ll have to fill out some information online, and then visit the local PPS office. You’ll also then get your PPS card and information in the mail.

Next, you need to open up an Irish bank account in Ireland. Depending on what bank you decide to use, you’ll need to show passport, working holiday visa authorization, your social security number (for U.S tax purposed), and proof of address.

Most banks want to see an “official” letter sent to your address with your name on it. You can either use your official lease agreement, or your PPS number that the office will send to your address.

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I decided to go with AIB Bank since I didn’t hear great things about Bank of Ireland. I was overall pretty happy with my choice, as the staff was very polite and helpful.

Once you have this complete, you’ve completed pretty much ALL of the beaucracy steps! Hooray! Please note that although this does seem like a LOT to do, it is possible. It took me almost two months to get everything together, but it was worth it.

What are Irish people like?

"Deck of Cards" row of colorful houses in Cobh, Ireland. This is a perfect day trip while exploring Cork County.
“Deck of Cards” houses in Cobh (pronounced Cove)

From my experience, I found Ireland to have both elements of European and American culture. Many times I could have sworn I was back in the U.S if it wasn’t for the various Irish phrases that threw me off (wrote a post on that here). I also wrote a list of the 10 things that surprised me most about Ireland. 

People are pretty laid back, but not as relaxed as other parts of Southern Europe. People have a strong work ethic. At the same time, they do not care about social status as much as many Americans do. So, you can expect a lot of eye rolls with any type of humble brag about your lists of accomplishments. Did I mention the Irish also have a hilarious sense of sarcastic humor?

I can attest to the fact that the Irish are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. At the same time, some people can be a bit reserved. Especially living in Cork, it took some time to get an “in” with people. But once I did, I felt at home with the locals.

I will also note that Irish people can be very non-confrontational. They rarely complain and don’t want to cause a fuss. It took me some time to realize that you have to read between the lines with many people, because they may not say what they mean directly. Coming from Chicago and Croatia (where people are very direct), I had to adjust my communication accordingly.

Also, the same goes for customer service. Depending on where in Ireland you are, it can be somewhat of a cultural faux pas to complain. Don’t be surprised if the waitress seems slightly offended when you want to send your burger back because it is under-cooked. I’d recommend just being extra nice if you have any sort of issue, and leaving the “well in America this would never happen!” attitude at home.

Where to find friends in Ireland?

Meeting friends in Cork City at the local pubs.

It really depends on where you go in Ireland, but this step takes time. I’d recommend befriend both international and Irish friends, as there is such a mix in the country. I ended up becoming pretty close with some of my co-workers, and also became friends with a few other Irish friends through friends. Whether it’s going out to the pubs or joining some type of group or club, it’s really like anywhere else in the world in that you just have to put in a little bit of effort.

How to stay longer than one year in Ireland?

Barleycove Beach in Cork, Ireland, with a gorgeous blue water and lush green landscape along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Many Americans that come on the working holiday visa end up wanting to stay longer. Even though I left before my visa expired, I don’t blame them. However, please note that getting a visa sponsorship can be very difficult, but it’s not impossible.

I found that any sort of job in the public sector will most likely not be able to do this. For example, there seemed to be no way for me to do this for my job working at UCC, which is a public university. However, I know a lot of other people who either worked for a medium to large size private company that were sponsorship after a 6-month trial period. It appears that the majority of these opportunity were in Dublin.

I would NOT recommend staying past your visa under any circumstances though, as they do seem pretty strict about it. Ultimately, I think the best way is to network your butt off and make friends. Once you get an “in”, it’s much easier.

Thank you Ireland for all the wonderful memories. Hopefully this post will pass on the favor and help other Americans have the incredible experience I did!

Ireland Visa Workbook


Ready to apply?!

If you’re committed to apply for the Working Holiday Visa, this e-workbook will set you up for success!

What’s inside:

  • Application hacks
  • Job & housing resources
  • Essential steps broken down by month

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