Employment rights for international students

Information for international students studying in Ireland and Northern Ireland about their right to stay and work here after graduating.

If you are an international student studying in Ireland, you may have the right to stay and work in Ireland after you graduate. Your right to work here depends on two things:

1. Where are you from? There are different rules for students and graduates from countries in the European Economic Area and Switzerland and those who come from other countries (also known as non-EU students). There are more restrictions on non-EU students.

2. Where are you studying or working? There are different rules for Northern Ireland (which is in the UK) and the Republic of Ireland.

If you are from the European Economic Area

The European Economic Area (EEA) includes all of the EU plus Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway. Swiss nationals have the same rights as EEA nationals. If you are from one of these countries, you are generally entitled to study and work without restriction in Ireland or the UK (including Northern Ireland). This means you have a right to take up an internship while you are at university, and a right to work after you graduate.

If you are a non-EU student

If you are not from a country in the EEA or Swiss, you are known as a non-EU student. You must obtain a study visa before you come to study in Ireland or the UK (which includes Northern Ireland).

While you are at college in Ireland you are entitled to work up to 20 hours per week in term time, and 40 hours per week in holiday times. If you are at a UK university (this includes Northern Ireland) you can work up to ten hours per week in term time or full time during holidays.

You may be able to stay and work in Ireland after you graduate, but there are some restrictions. If you are a non EU graduate, you can apply for an extension to your study visa for up to six months (up to 12 months in the UK) after you get your exam results, so you can get work experience. In the Republic of Ireland you must apply to the Garda National Immigration Bureau for this.

After this, you will only be able to get employment in specific areas where there are skills shortages. These include information technology, healthcare and financial services. To stay in Ireland long term, you will need to get a ‘Green Card’. These are issued on two conditions:

  • if the job pays over €60,000 a year
  • if the job is in a restricted list of occupations, pays over €30,000 a year and is for at least two years.

Another way of obtaining employment is through the work permit system, but these are difficult to obtain. You can find details on the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation website.

The equivalent to a ‘Green Card’ in the UK is the Tier 1 (Post-study work) category, which allows international graduates to stay to look for work. Details are on the UK government’s Working in the UK website.

Government information

Here are some other useful government websites .

Republic of Ireland

Northern Ireland

Where to get help and advice

You can get advice from your careers service on career options, postgraduate study, and finding a job. Your careers officer will also be able to answer any questions you may have about culture in the workplace. All careers services have ‘drop in ‘ sessions during the day when you do not need an appointment. If you need more time, you can arrange an appointment. Check the website of the careers service at your college or university to find out about the times they are open.

Your university will have many clubs and societies which you can join. Taking part in these will give you an opportunity to make new friends and improve your English, and will give you an insight into Irish life and culture. You can find details of clubs and societies on college websites.

If you want to improve your fluency in the English language, you can find details of approved language schools at The Advisory Council for English Language Schools and MEI-RELSA, an association of English Language Schools. Listings for approved courses in the UK are available from the British Council.