Two Saffas in Ireland – How to get to Ireland?

Two Saffas in Ireland – How to get to Ireland?

There are a few ways of legally living and working in Ireland. If you’re lucky enough to be a descendant of an Irish citizen (usually no more than 3 or 4 generations later), you may qualify for citizenship yourself! Otherwise you’ll need to do it the way most people do: apply for a work permit.

I am writing from our personal perspective, which will not cover all the different routes of immigration. Use some of the links provided below to do your own research.

Work Permits

Ideally you want to aim for a scarce skills work permit. There is a list of positions that qualify for this work permit and it presents a couple of benefits over the general work permit. For one, your family (spouse and children) are allowed to join you immediately in Ireland without any waiting period. Another benefit is that your spouse will be allowed to work in Ireland without a work permit; however, this is subject to first obtaining the relevant 1G stamp in your passport from either the Immigration Services or, if you live outside of Dublin, your local Garda station. You will also be issued with a residence permit card that records your personal details and the type of stamp you’ve been issued with. You’ll need to carry this around in your wallet and you must present it to the Gardai whenever you are asked to do so.

You can read more about work permits here. You can learn more about the different immigration stamps here.

I was able to qualify for the scarce skills work permit which gave myself and Maheshini all the benefits listed above. Another benefit we qualify for is the ability to apply for long term residence after 2 years in Ireland. On a normal work permit, this would only be allowed after 5 years.

Flights

There are no direct flights between South Africa and Ireland, at least not at the time of writing. We travelled with KLM from Cape Town to Dublin via Amsterdam. You can also make use of other popular airlines such as Emirates, British Airways, or Air France. Be aware that some of these may require you to obtain a transit visa. KLM / the Netherlands does not have a transit visa requirement for South African citizens.

While the service we received from KLM on our flight was generally good, we won’t be flying with them again due to their handling of our request to bring a pet along on our flight. See “Pets”, below.

A few minutes before boarding our flight to Amsterdam
Maheshini enjoying the roomy business class seat
Breakfast with KLM

Immigration at Dublin Airport

Immigration services at Dublin airport were professional and the process was straightforward. Our documentation was checked thoroughly, but we were well-prepared and had everything ready when asked for it. The immigration officer asked only a few clarifying questions and then advised us on the procedure for longer term stays (i.e., getting your residence permit which allows you to live and work in Ireland as a foreigner). At Dublin airport you will only get a stamp which allows you to stay for 90 days maximum; it is vital to make an appointment with INIS or the Gardai as soon as you can!

The view from Dublin airport, between T1 and T2

Pets

We brought our corgi Snoopy with us to Ireland. She was roughly 3.5 years old at the time of travelling. If you follow all the correct procedures and steps, you will be able to bring your dog over without the need for quarantine upon arrival. There are many rules and procedures to be followed, but if your pet is up-to-date on all vaccines, in good health, and is tested for rabies within a fairly narrow window period about 3 months before your arrival, then it is possible to avoid quarantine. It may also be necessary for your dog to be microchipped and spayed / neutered to be allowed entry. Our dog had all of the above procedures done a couple of years ago already and we did not run into trouble. I strongly suggest speaking to both your vet and your closest state vet about this as there is a lot of paperwork involved. If you do not feel up to it, there are private companies that will help you with this procedure. Their fees are high, but it’s a massive burden off your shoulders. Speak to them at least 4-5 months before your flight to make sure your dog gets the necessary rabies test done within the proper time window.

Snoopy, our corgi

This paragraph will mainly be a rant about the service we received from KLM when it came to our dog. Feel free to skip this paragraph if you’re not interested, but if you are thinking of using KLM for your pet transport then I strongly suggest reading our experience first. Initially, Maheshini and I planned to land in Dublin around 30 or 31 October 2021. We booked our flights in June 2021 and decided to depart from Johannesburg as it was quite a lot cheaper than departing from Cape Town. We then phoned KLM to add our dog to our flight and we were told the following by the KLM staff: due to an animal embargo we could not fly our dog before 01 November and we would have to fly from Cape Town as they do not handle animal exports from Johannesburg. We then shifted our flights (at a fairly significant cost increase) and received confirmation that our dog could travel in the cargo hold. Our flights were booked for 01 November and we could shift our focus and energy to all the other (very stressful) tasks due before emigration. A mere 4 days before our flight, we were contacted by KLM to say our dog could no longer travel due to a “winter embargo” set in place from 01 November. After that KLM was utterly unhelpful. They would not allow us to take our dog in the cabin, their cargo branch refused to help us as private individuals and instead pointed us to pet transport companies. They really dropped us at the last minute despite their own advice that we could not book prior to 01 November. They offered no financial assistance to us after we had to get a private company to help with our dog’s transport and finding alternative airline options at significant extra cost due to the short notice provided. If our dog did not travel within this particular time window, her rabies test would have been invalidated and she would have had to quarantine upon arrival in Ireland. On top of that, shifting our flights to Cape Town (at extra cost) ended up being completely unnecessary as they could not take our dog anyway. Their terrible service and uncaring customer service representatives have cemented my decision not to fly with them again. I would advise against anyone flying with their dog to book with KLM.

A very betrayed Snoopy, being taken away by the private animal transport company. They took very good care of her, but she is very attached to us and our immediate family members, and she was not impressed with the situation.

In the end, Snoopy arrived only about 3 days after we did, transiting via London Heathrow. She also stayed at the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre for a day. We called the HARC and enquired about her well-being; after providing the waybill number they told us that she was a “happy chappy” and doing well! The next day, after a quick check-up by the vet at Dublin airport, we could take her home. It was great to have our little family back together again! I highly recommend watching the video below on the HARC, it certainly put our minds at ease about their facility.

Final Thoughts

Making the move to a different country is a very difficult decision and one of the most stressful things we’ve ever done. It involves months of planning and hard work, which we had to do while also balancing our day jobs. With that being said, emigrating was by far the best decision we’ve ever made and we are very happy in our new home, despite only being here for a couple of months. We are very grateful that we could bring our little dog along with us, as our home would not be complete without her.

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