Behold, My Top Five Ways to Eventually Live in Ireland:
1) Fall in love with an Irish passport holder (bar none, this is the most frequent occurrence, and probably the sweetest, too).
2) Work for a multinational (preferably in the tech industry) with their European headquarters in Ireland (Hertz, Intel, Google, HP) and aim towards that end of the corporate ladder.
3) Volunteer with a non-profit placing people in Ireland (this is a short-term fix only, but highly increases your chances for #1).
4) As an international student (Trinity, DCU, IBI and other universities/schools all have exchange or study abroad programs).
5) As a full-time Christian worker (with sendings orgs like Cru, Serge, GEM, AoG).
And now, my Top Five Ways to Not Live in Ireland:
1) Busking (Once is not real life; and anyway, he was already Irish.)
2) Waitressing or au pairing or any other under the table sort of employment.
3) Volunteering without a credible sending agency
4) Staying beyond your passport stamp
5) As a Christian worker because you've tried every other way to get here and that's your last best option.
On Saturday, I shared a little bit about how we came to live in Ireland. Sure, it wasn't ideal, but it was the path God set before us, in all its bumpiness, and as Nacho would say, "my life is good, real good."
Work visas are a whole other beast and one I'm not entirely familiar with, but I'll give a go at explaining it as this is the way many assume they will get to Ireland.
Work visas for non-EU nationals are hard to get unless one already works for a multinational company with an Irish office or has a specific skill set needed here. I know people who do receive one (though, as far as I know, one can't arrive in Ireland and then apply for a generic work permit), but it seems to be a rare minority of immigrants (or expats) in Ireland. Work visas also tend to stay with the job, not the person, so when the job goes, you go. However, if you're a meat boner, you're in luck.
On the other hand, coming to Ireland as lay volunteers or ministers of religion (such as ourselves), we don't apply for - nor are we guaranteed - a visa before arriving. We drag our kids across the ocean and show up, tell the border Guard our intentions and show him our documentation (original, notarized letters from our sending org). The guard will stamp our visa for 30 or 60 days, and in that time we will get our ducks in a row and apply for a visa in person at the immigration bureau.
Volunteer visas are also always at the discretion of whomever one may face in immigration that day, and the specific terms of our visa appear to be tweaked often. We've had instances of surprising ease and we've had instances of acute distress. We've had teammates forced to leave and those given a last-minute reprieve. We are facing our own three-year deadline on January 31, 2016. We will try to renew again, as exceptions are sometimes granted, but quite honestly, we have no idea what will happen come February 1.
As a last ditch effort, if Donald Trump succeeds in getting his blessed name on a presidential ticket, we'll apply for political asylum. I'm only half joking.
So when people ask me how they, too, can live in Ireland, I say, "with some difficulty, but it is possible."
I suggest coming over as a tourist first, and staying as long as they'll stamp your passport for (usually 30 days). I do not suggest staying beyond that date as anyone who violates their stamp terms puts every other expat, volunteer or recent immigrant at risk.
I encourage people to get jobs in tech industries or other multinational companies and start working your way towards an Irish placement. Is that even possible? I have no idea.
If you're a (single) student, check out international or exchange programs. A lot of courses are just for a year but with the option for renewal. My sister went this route, spending two glorious years in the North. You must have funding squared away, but an international education can only be a good thing.
If all else fails, spend some time in your local Irish pub. Love happens, people. Love happens.
For those who feel a "calling from God for Ireland," I suggest pursuing sending agencies and other Christian orgs that place people here. There are so many options for internships, short-term workers, and special projects. Yes, you will most likely have to self-fund or raise support, and perhaps go through training beforehand, but coming over under the auspices of a legit organisation is absolutely essential and needed. Our org brings us legitimacy and security, but it also offers us support and care. We need them.
Going it alone is no way to go.
Once you're on board with an agency - or even before - come to Ireland on a vision trip. Even a quick 2-week trip can give you a feel for Irish life beyond our North American perception of Irish culture. It's so much more and deeper than that. Spending some time getting to know the people, the work and the church here is a must before committing to a life here.
So this is nowhere near all-inclusive, but it's the bits and bobs of entering Ireland (from a non-EU standpoint) that I've gathered over the years. If you're aiming to come the work visa route, I suggest visiting my friend Rheagan's blog. She gives some great insight into the processes and the experiences of an expat.
Any and all immigration information can be found on the INIS website or Citizens Information. The Expat Blog is a forum for frequently asked questions and guides for moving to Ireland. It's not always accurate, but may answer some burning questions.
As I wrote to someone this week: true heart desires God has placed within us do come to fruition, but in my experience, it's not always in the exact way (or in the specific time) we thought they would. It is hard, man.
So do your research and be smart.
Travel as much as you can and explore other cultures.
Pray. Wait. And See... You never know what door might open.