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The Chicken or the Egg? - A Year in Ireland - Part 1

This blog is a recap of our first year in Ireland from the perspective of very practical things like the immigration process, banking, cars, auto insurance, taxes, etc. All those things you hate, but are necessary for a civil society. I’ll also discuss those things that are “different” that contribute to making Ireland Ireland … and not the UK or the US.

This is my impression from our experiences and is definitely not the last word. For visitors or other immigrants, the experience may be similar or completely different. I hope the Irishmen reading this blog will be amused by the perceptions of someone trying to assimilate into their society and culture.

The Irish and European Union Flag

During the year we have faced the age-old conundrum “Which came first the chicken or the egg?”…

We started our immigration to Ireland with a trip to the Garda office in Dublin. We had imagined this to be a long drawn out process but it turned out to be very easy, mostly because Carol has an Irish passport. As her spouse, I almost automatically qualify for a “stamp-4” that allows me to work or start a business here in Ireland. The whole process was less than 2 hours: a few minutes in line to understand our business, a 15-20 minute wait for the appropriate clerk, 20 minutes with the clerk, 20-30 minute wait, 5 minutes with another clerk to get my US passport stamped with a “stamp-4” visa and sign for a card to go along with it.

I will leave you with a couple of tips from this process:

1. Have a spouse with an Irish passport and have a copy of your marriage license.

2. Don’t do this the day after a transatlantic flight with free/included drinks. The camera doesn’t lie and you will be showing this card to immigration officers for at least a year.

The next step was getting a PPS card, the equivalent of a Social Security Card. OK, what comes first a bank account (that requires a PPS card) or a home address (that requires a bank account)? It helps if you are already employed (my situation) and you can use your work address for your home address … this step took less than an hour.

Galway County Council Building

Now that we had a PPS card we needed a bank account. Remember we are in a country that has been fighting Terrorism much longer than the US, so opening up an account without a proof of residency (a home address) is almost impossible … No opening up accounts under false names to launder money here … After much consultation, since the PPS took my work address as my home address, the bank decided this was OK …. This step took almost a whole afternoon. In addition this had to be an individual account since Carol could not use my work address. I guess there is some logic here, but then again Carol is the one with the Irish passport. Of course since the EU is quite strict about privacy, this meant that for the first two or three months, Carol could only take care of our online banking business while I was working.

On our first day in Ireland we should have figured out that the banks were a little different in Ireland. While standing in the O2 store buying our phone sim cards, an armored car parked in front of the Bank of Ireland location across the street, and out jumped 5 or 6 Gardai (policemen) in camo fatigues with automatic weapons. They strategically positioned themselves around the bank and the armored car. The cash transfer was completed and they all jumped back in and proceeded down the street. A little startling if you don’t know what’s happening.