Working in the EU

EU citizens

If you are a citizen of the European Union (EU), you have the right to live and work in any other EU country. You may need a valid identity card or passport. If your family are not citizens of the EU or EEA, they may need a visa before travelling.

You can be refused entry or your right of residence in another member state can be restricted on grounds of public policy, public security, or public health.

The rights outlined here also broadly apply to non-EU States in the European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and Switzerland.

If you are an Irish Citizen you can live and work in the UK under the Common Travel Area between the two countries. This is still the case following the UK's exit from the EU.

EU Directives on free movement ofworkers

If you are an EU citizen moving to another EU country to take up employment or self-employment or to provide a service, the EU Directives on the free movement of workers cover you. Certain members of your family, whatever their nationality, have the right to accompany you or to join you in your country of employment.

Your ‘qualifying’ family is:

  • Your spouse or civil partner
  • Your child or the child of your spouse under the age of 21
  • Your grandchild or your spouse’s grandchild under the age of 21
  • Your dependent parent, or dependent parent of your spouse
  • Your dependent grandparent, or the dependent grandparent of your spouse
  • Other direct, dependent descendants or direct, dependent relatives in the ascending line (for example, great grandparents or great grandchildren) of either you or your spouse

Children over 21 are generally considered qualifying family members if they are in education or are dependent on you due to an illness or disability. You will have to show that your parents or grandparents (or the parents or grandparents of your spouse) were dependent on you before they came to Ireland.

Other family members do not have an absolute right of residence but may be permitted to live with you in another EU country. Permitted family members include:

  • Your partner
  • Any relative who is part of your household that is not a qualifying family member
  • Any relative who needs your personal care because of illness or disability

Your spouse, civil partner and children also have the right to work in your country of employment. You and your family members have the right to the same social benefits as citizens of the host member state. This includes the right to access education and benefits.

Members of your family who come from a non-EU country may be asked for an entry visa by the country you are working in. This visa is usually granted quite easily and should be free of charge.

Access to employment

You can work under the same conditions as citizens of the country where you are looking for work. You cannot be asked to meet any additional requirements. This means that you can apply for any job vacancy advertised in any EU country, including public sector jobs. However, certain public service posts may be restricted to citizens of a particular country if the job involves safeguarding public order or the interests of the state, for example, the armed forces and police.

Recognition of qualifications in the EU

The EU has set up systems for recognising diplomas and training so you can use your training and skills in another EU country. The basic principle is that if you are qualified to work in your profession in your home country, you are qualified to work in that profession in any other EU country.

Professional qualifications

A system for the recognition of qualifications in most regulated professions is in place across the EU. If you wish to work in a profession that is regulated in the country of employment, (for example, a teacher, lawyer, engineer or psychologist) you must apply for recognition of your qualifications in that country. The authorities have 4 months to reply to you. If they consider that your training is significantly different in terms of duration or content from the training in the host country, you may be asked to get either additional professional experience, or to take a training course or to take an aptitude test.

If you are a doctor, a general nurse, a dentist, a midwife, a vet, a pharmacist or an architect, your national qualifications are in principle recognised automatically.

If your profession is not regulated in the country in which you wish to work, formal recognition of your qualifications is not needed.

Looking for a job in the EU

The EURES network was set up by the European Commission to help European citizens looking for work in another EU/EEA country. EURES has a network of advisers, known as EURES advisers, who can give you general practical information on legislation, social security, living conditions, useful addresses, information on pay levels, taxes, contracts, recruitment practices, and other information.

EURES advisors have access to the EURES job vacancies database with vacancies in the EU/EEA. If you are interested in working or seeking work within the EU/EEA, you should make an appointment with your nearest EURES advisor. Contact your nearest employment services office or Intreo centre for more information.

You can also access the EURES job vacancies database to find a job in another EU country.

If you are unemployed, you have the right to live in another EU country for a "reasonable period" of time in order to look for a job. In the absence of a definition of "reasonable period", most EU countries are now operating a 6-month period, though some EU countries are still operating a 3-month period.

However, no matter how long it takes you to find a job, you cannot be asked to leave the country if you can prove that you are genuinely looking for a job and that you have a real chance of finding one. For example, if you still have interviews or tests to attend.

You can register at employment agencies and centres without being resident in the country in which you wish to work and you will be given the same help to find work as nationals of that country.

Transferring your unemployment benefit

If you are getting unemployment benefit (for example, Jobseeker’s Benefit and Jobseeker’s Benefit Self-Employed), you may continue to get the payment from that same country for up to 13 weeks after you move to another member state. You must have been getting the payment for at least 4 weeks before you can transfer it to another country.

If you apply to transfer your benefit it will be paid directly to you. You must still register with the employment services of the country where you have gone to look for work within a week. You may transfer your benefit more than once if you are looking for work in different EU/EEA states, but you cannot exceed the maximum period of 13 weeks.

If you are leaving Ireland to move to Northern Ireland or Britain your Social Welfare Local Office will issue you with the Form U2 (formerly Form E303) which you take to the UK social services. If you are moving to another EU country, the Department of Social Protection will send the U2 form to your new address in that EU country.

Employment rights

All EU nationals working in another EU country have the right to live there. You have the right to the same working conditions as citizens of the country you are working in, including pay, dismissal, hours of work, discrimination, maternity leave and health and safety at work.

Social security

The aim of EU policy is to ensure that you are part of a social security system and that you do not lose your rights, regardless of the member state you decide to work in.

In principle, you are insured for social security purposes in the country you work in. You, and in certain circumstances, your family are entitled to the same social security benefits as citizens of the country in which you work. These rights cover sickness and maternity benefits, disability, old-age and survivor's benefits, benefits for accidents at work, occupational illness, death and unemployment, as well as family allowances. You have to pay the same level of contributions as host country citizens. You cannot be excluded from benefits on grounds of nationality, for reasons of residence, or for any other discriminatory reason.

You can find more information in, Leaving Ireland and your social security entitlements.


If you live and work in another member state, you are likely to become resident for tax purposes there. Each country has its own definition of tax residence. You must comply with the laws of the country you are resident in. You may be liable for taxation in more than one country.

In general, you are subject to income tax in the country you live in, but this may not be the case if you are a posted worker – see 'Posted worker' below. Property is taxed in the country in which it is situated but, again, there are variations.

Tax agreements intended to avoid double taxation (if you get income from different countries) are in place between most of the member states of the EU.

In general, national fiscal rules must respect the fundamental principle of non-discrimination against nationals of another EU country.

Workers posted to another EU country

You are a posted worker when your employer sends you to work temporarily in another EU country. You have certain specific rights as a posted worker. If you are posted for more than a month, your employer must inform you in writing, before you leave, of your pay and working conditions while you are abroad.

You usually remain stay with the social security system of your country of origin. You may pay income tax in that country as well but the situation varies between member states. You can find out more about social security for posted workers or find more information on Posted Workers below.

Freedom to provide services

You may choose to offer your services in another EU country without living there permanently. If you comply with the rules of the profession or trade that apply in your own country, you can offer those services anywhere else in the EU. You can travel to assist clients located in another EU country or you can provide paid services from your country of residence without travelling there.

Cross-border workers

You are a cross-border worker (also known as a frontier worker) if you live in one EU country but work in another EU country, and you go home at least once a week. As a cross-border worker, you must be treated in the same way as an employee who is living in the country of employment as regards the right to apply for jobs, working conditions and social benefits.

You pay social security contributions in the member state where you are employed and you are subject to the legislation of that state even if you live in another member state.

Generally, you get short-term benefits from the country where you last paid insurance and long-term benefits proportionately from all the countries in which you paid insurance.

For cross-border workers, the rule on unemployment benefit is:

  • During partial or intermittent unemployment, you get your benefit from your country of employment
  • During periods of full unemployment, you get your benefit from your country of residence.

You can read about cross-border working between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Posted workers

You are a posted worker if your employer sends you to work in another country on a temporary basis. The period of the posting is a maximum period of 24 months. If you are posted to another EEA state or Switzerland you have certain rights.

Social insurance

If you are posted from Ireland to work in another EU state, you will usually continue to pay your social security contributions in Ireland. You should apply for an A1 (formerly E101) certificate which states that you are insured for social security purposes in Ireland. This will exempt you and your employer from paying social insurance in the country to which you are posted.

At least 4 weeks before you leave, you, or your employer, should apply for the AI certificate. You can download the application form for an A1 (pdf) and it is also available from the PRSI Special Collections Section of the Department of Social Protection (DSP).

When you get the A1 certificate you will continue to pay your PRSI contributions in Ireland. There are further details about PRSI and posted workers on the DSP website.

Health entitlements

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) replaced forms such as the E111 and the E128, making it easier for you to get medical care quickly and easily. It is evidence that you are part of a health insurance scheme administered by another state in the EEA/Switzerland.

An S1 portable document (formerly E106) ensures that you have the same health entitlements in the state to which you are being posted, as are available to nationals of that state. Before you go to another EU state, you should contact the HSE Overseas Section to get an S1.

Further information

For information about your rights in the European Union you can contact:

European Commission Representation in Ireland

Europe House
12-14 Lower Mount Street
Dublin 2
D02 W719

Tel: 01 634 1111
Fax: 01 634 1112
Page edited: 25 October 2023